Wednesday, June 5, 2013

TGA's 10 Year Story

The following story was published this week in TGA's newsletter and on our website.  Hope you enjoy.

My name is Steve Tanner and I’ve been with TGA since the company was launched in 2003, hired first as an overnight camp counselor, then as a coach, then as the first full-time employee, and now as COO and one of two equity partners. 

To kick off our 10 year anniversary celebration, I wanted to tell the story of how TGA came to be what it is today through my eyes.  But the story of TGA goes back much further than 10 years, beginning in the early 90s like so many other entrepreneurial journeys with the simple notion of “I wish _____ existed because it would be awesome and I’d be all over it.”

This was the thought Joshua Jacobs had as a teenager growing up in Los Angeles.  Josh was a competitive and accomplished junior golfer – AJGA, college, the whole nine yards.  But he found junior golf to be so SERIOUS.  He went to a variety of overnight camps as a teenager and had a good experience but never did what he was truly passionate about – play golf.  If only there was an overnight golf camp that traveled to great courses but focused first and foremost on making friends and having fun.

After graduating from Emory University, Josh’s early career path took him to New York City where he worked for an AV company and lived in Hoboken, NJ.  It was from his apartment that he watched the atrocity of 9/11 unfold across the Hudson River.  Like all of us, the tragedy made him reflect on what was important.  More than anything, he missed his family back in Los Angeles so he packed his bags and moved home.  

In reflection, all of us involved with TGA hope that the daily impact our organization has on kids and communities across America has become one of the many stars that shines today in the darkness of that time in 2001.

Wondering what to do next with his career, Josh sat down with his family – which includes several generations of accomplished entrepreneurs – and was encouraged to follow his dreams.  With the support and mentorship from his grandfather Lee Warner and father Michael Jacobs, Josh thought back on his idea for an overnight golf camp and decided to take the plunge of trying to create as an adult that which he wished for as a kid. 

Teen Golf Adventures, LLC was incorporated, camps were scheduled for the summer of 2003, a few kids signed up, and the company was officially in business.  That first summer went well all things considered, but as it wore down Josh found himself thinking about how he was going to generate revenue over the next nine months until it was summer again.

The answer came in the form of the after school golf enrichment program that has been the catalyst for bringing TGA to a 10 year anniversary and introducing 225,000 kids to golf and tennis.  But, ironically, it was conceived almost by accident.  One evening in early fall, Josh found his elementary-aged sister reviewing her options for after school enrichment programs for the upcoming school year.  He asked, “is golf an option?” to which she responded, “nope” … and the light bulb turned on.  Golf at schools would solve so many of the problems that keep kids from trying the sport – transportation, information, cost … it just made so much sense.  Josh bought some clubs, put together a curriculum, got six schools in West Los Angeles to agree to offer a program, and off he went.

The program grew quickly, from 6 schools in the fall session of 2003 to 13 in the winter and 18 in the spring season.  Enrollment was great.  Demand grew.  Summer day camps came in 2004, along with a multi-level program and more and more schools.  But it wasn’t for almost two years that anyone understood the magnitude of what Josh had created.  That happened when people started calling the office to ask how they could start the program in their region of the country.

We started by licensing the curriculum and trademarks but quickly learned that we needed to provide business support as well, so we filed our first Uniform Franchise Disclosure Document in 2006 and became a franchisor.  Our market evolved from Los Angeles to the U.S. and now to the international community.  First-of-their-kind training programs, curriculums, student handbooks and software systems were developed.  Golf’s sister sport, tennis, became an opportunity and then a reality.  A 501c3 Not-for-Profit was birthed.  So much has happened in the past 10 years, it’s too long of a story to tell but also too much of a blur to really tell correctly.  But the vision has always remained the same – make golf and tennis accessible for all kids and provide a fun, positive experience that instills a passion for the sport within each student and then provides opportunities for them to pursue that passion.

And this is what gets us so excited about where we’re at and where we’re headed as an organization.  TGA is a family of entrepreneurs and we’re not great at reminiscing or sitting still, so we currently have our foot on the accelerator doing things like:
  • Building a management team for the TGA Sports Foundation after receiving a generous grant from a TGA vendor, with the goal being to exponentially increase financial aid and scholarships offered to under-resourced kids.
  • Preparing to open new international markets in 2013 while YTD new franchise openings in the U.S. have been double any previous year.
  • Securing and activating major industry partnerships that will change the way the company looks when we celebrate our 15 year anniversary.
  • Continuing to expand our HQ team, soon to be more than double what it was two years ago, with awesomely talented and passionate individuals like Nate Wright, LeeAnn O’Donnell, Bradley Fontaine and Patrick Yarrow giving everything they have to the organization every day.
We continue to push harder and further because we have a unified vision – the belief that we have successfully pioneered a critically important model that breaks tennis and golf’s traditional barriers, can reasonably be scaled to every school and child in America (and beyond), and is something that has proven to add significant value to our students, parents, schools and partner golf and tennis facilities, as well as the industries and communities we serve.

While ten years is a milestone, we are far from satisfied.  Still, less than 4% of kids in the U.S. play golf and tennis.  That is unacceptable.   And we are doing everything we can to break down the barriers and solve the problems quicker and better than ever before.  Ten years from now when we celebrate our 20 year anniversary, we fully expect to have 10x the impact we’ve had so far.  Please hold us accountable to this goal.

But today, we’re pausing for a moment to celebrate the journey that brought us here as it has been paved by thousands of amazing and dedicated individuals, most importantly our instructors and franchisees.  TGA has reached the point where it is above any individual or team – it is the brainchild and creation of everyone who has contributed in their own way, big or small, to making the organization what it is today – 70 franchises, 225,000 kids empowered, thousands of jobs created, 2,500 schools impacted, and much more.  For that, I speak for everyone at TGA HQ when I say THANK YOU!

I’d like to close by recapping the journey our three favorite letters, TGA, have taken over the past 10 years.  In many ways, their evolution tells the company story on their own:

2003: TGA = Teen Golf Adventures
An overnight golf camp for teenagers.

2004-2006: TGA = Total Golf Adventures
Shift to after school programs for kids primarily 5-10 years old.

2007-2011: TGA = TGA Premier Junior Golf
Making TGA nothing more than an acronym because “Total Golf Adventures” made us sound more like a travel company than a school-based junior golf organization.

2011: TGA = Tennis & Golf Adventures
Marking our expansion into tennis.

2012-Present: TGA = “Teach Grow Achieve”
Coming to a clear understanding of TGA’s identity as a youth enrichment organization that marries athletics with academics, and applying an appropriate meaning to “TGA” that we believe will last for decades worth of anniversaries.

Thank you for listening to my version of the TGA story and offering your continued support to our organization.  Cheers to a great past, a brighter future and always remembering to KEEP SWINGING!  

No comments:

Post a Comment