Who says work can’t be fun? After several years of working in the Seattle area, Eric and David Leaman returned home to Boise to start Gameday Sports. Both brothers had worked for a for-profit adult recreation sports company while living in Seattle and they felt compelled to start their own venture in the Treasure Valley. They observed firsthand the pleasure that adults gained as a result of participating in noncompetitive sports in a social setting. The Leaman’s saw the value of social networking among young professionals that takes place while engaged in fun filled activities.
Having grown up in Boise, the Leaman’s were well aware of the potential challenges of Idaho demographics. “We had our doubts at first because people in Idaho get married and have kids early; they don’t have a lot of young professionals,” said Eric. “Unlike Seattle, Boise is cautions in adopting something new, but when they do, they are all over it.”
In spite of some concerns about the viability of the new venture, Eric and David decided to press forward and invested their personal savings of $4,000 to open their doors in January of 2012. In order to attract participants to their first bowling league, Eric went to local businesses and handed out fliers. The night of their inaugural league, Gameday had only two teams registered, and with some serious arm-twisting, they were able to field three.
“Although we felt we did due diligence in our planning phase, it became obvious early on that we would need to readjust our expectations,’ recalled Eric. With spring coming and the addition of sports leagues for bocce ball, dodgeball, cornhole, flag-football and volleyball, Gameday’s participants began to grow.
Of course Eric and David relied on social media to reach their target audience of those between 21 and 35, but it was word of mouth and returning participants that fueled their growth. “We committed our focus to ensuring that current players were having fun, because we knew they would bring their friends,” said Eric. “By the end of our first year, we had 460 players.”
Shortly after starting Gameday, the Leaman brothers needed a location to operate their business and store their equipment. It didn’t take long for them to land at The Greenhouse, a business incubator cosponsored by the Idaho Small Business Development Center. Besides a great location to operate a business, tenants receive mentoring from a host of business experts.
“Counselors from the Idaho Small Business Development Center have assisted us in all aspects of developing Gameday including business and technical planning, regulatory assistance, and business management,” said Eric. “We also utilized SCORE resources.”
In 2013, Gameday’s participation exploded with over 2,400 players. This growth has allowed Eric to fine tune his processes and learn how to better manage growth. “We feel like we are getting a better handle on how our business model can work effectively. We have a great time coming to work and seeing people having fun. Their stress melts away once they toss their first dodgeball, and we end up having as much fun as they do,’ said Eric. “Although this industry has been around for quite a while in large cities, there are some managerial opportunities going forward. We will continue to provide our services locally with the hope of supporting other sports leagues nationwide.”
And who said you can’t have fun at work?