How to Build a Youth Ultimate Organization (Part 2)

Three steps to getting your first customers in the program.

Ari Nitikman and Danie Proby of Elevate Ultimate have cultivated tremendously successful youth ultimate programming. Now they want to share the lessons they’ve learned in building a youth ultimate organization from the ground up.

Ultiworld was compensated for providing this content.

Welcome to part two of our series on how to start your own youth ultimate organization. If you haven’t read part one in the series, be sure to start here.

Previously, we looked at the four general steps needed to start and grow your own youth ultimate organization. In this article, we’re going to focus on step three: starting small and getting your first ten paying customers (and the challenges you might face).

We (Danie and Ari) officially agreed to partner and start Elevate Ultimate in September 2016, and set a goal to run our first paid program starting January 2017. This gave us four months to get real paying customers in the door. We ended up getting 40 high school and 13 elementary athletes in our initial Winter Academy using the following three strategies:

  1. Competitive analysis and differentiation
  2. Target low hanging fruit
  3. Affordable marketing

Competitive Analysis and Differentiation

The first challenge that you may encounter is that there is already another organization offering youth ultimate in town. However, just because there is doesn’t mean you can’t start your own. In fact, if they’re doing well, this could be great news because it shows evidence that the market likes ultimate. If you need more reassurance, just go to your local grocery store and look at the bread or cereal aisle. There are hundreds of brands all selling pretty much the same thing: simple carbs with added sugar. If there can be hundreds of carb options, there can be more than one youth ultimate program.

Ask yourself these questions to figure out the best way forward:

  • What parts of youth ultimate does the other organization focus on? Outreach, such school clinics? Young kids? High performance high school athletes? Everything? (That last one is a sign that there is room for another organization.)
  • What does the other organization do well, and what do they do poorly? Do their coaches have great energy but they’re following and teaching a boring curriculum? Do they have lots of kids but a confusing website and lack online presence?
  • How could you position your organization to fill what the other organization lacks?

When we started, there was another ultimate organization that focused on providing high school club team options from June through August. They did a great job of recruiting enough coaches, but quality varied greatly from team to team, telling us that there was no set curriculum or coaching standards. With this in mind, we positioned ourselves as an organization that would provide training options for elementary and high school students from September through June, and focused on creating a standard curriculum so that quality would stay the same no matter what location parents signed up for.

Target Low Hanging Fruit

Now that you understand where your organization is positioned in the market, the challenge you’ll face is getting real parents and kids to pay and commit to your program.

Build up your confidence by going after the low hanging fruit. Happen to know a teacher at an elementary school? Tell them about your upcoming programs. Know a parent that plays ultimate with two kids? You guessed it: tell them about your upcoming programs. Even if they are customers of the competitor, explain how you’re differentiating yourself and they might either be persuaded, or know a friend that would be a better fit for your program. But don’t overlook how tapping into your own network can help fill your pipeline.

Affordable Marketing

The low hanging fruit will hopefully get you your first three to five registrations. Now the challenge is to get the next ten to fill out the rest of your program. Assuming you don’t have a massive marketing budget, you’ll need to focus on starting small with cost-effective advertising.

Start by cold emailing and calling local schools in your area and get in touch with the principal or athletic director. Explain who you are and why you think ultimate would be great for their students. Offer to come and do some clinics for free in exchange for the opportunity to hand out brochures and be featured in the school’s monthly newsletter to parents. As a bonus, ask if they’d be interested in hosting an afterschool ultimate club run by you.

Find and join local Reddit and parent Facebook groups. Interact and add value wherever possible to existing posts. Once you’ve added value a few times, post in the group and promote your upcoming programs.

Lastly, knock on doors, talk to parents in parks, and give out brochures. This works better if you have a partner that is a bright-eyed bushy-tailed high school ultimate player. I know this sounds crazy, but not only does it work, it’s very effective. From April until June, 2021, we paid some high school ultimate players $15 per hour to walk around busy parks on weekends telling parents about upcoming ultimate summer camps. They also told the parents that if they gave us their email, we’d enter them into a contest to win a free camp. Over only four weekends, we got 81 emails and 15 sign ups.

If you do a competitive analysis and differentiate yourself accordingly, find the low hanging fruit, and commit to inexpensive and efficient marketing activities, we have no doubt you’ll be able to get your own youth ultimate program off the ground with paying customers. The question is: are you ready and willing to put in the work?

If all of these steps sound great, but you don’t want to recreate the wheel in terms of building your own curriculum, coming up with your own door knocking scripts, or creating effective cold email templates for schools, just copy Elevate’s proven systems instead!

Check out our website and make sure to download the free business report which includes:

  • Elevate’s vision, mission, and values
  • Our business model
  • What parents have to say about us
  • What resources are included in the license
  • Costs to consider when starting a youth ultimate organization
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