Striking Out On Her Own

With a background in human resources Niamh O'Connor is perfectly equipped to deal with people. A franchisee running her own Little Kickers franchise, little people between the age of 2 and 5, however, are her speciality. The Stillorgan, Co Dublin-based mother of two has been running her successful franchise for several months while at the same time recruiting new franchisees as part of the company's nationwide expansion plan. With over 7,000 kids in the UK now signed up, Little Kickers is one of the fastest growing children's franchises in the UK.

The company aims to teach fundamental football techniques and elementary life skills in a vibrant, group play environment. "It's not just about soccer. It's also about counting, colour, coordination, balance, fitness and interaction with other kids. So it's about both the physical and cognitive development the child," says Niamh O'Connor. Not so long ago, she was working in the human resources department of a large London-based investment bank having previously spent time working for IDA Ireland.

"In August 2002 I got made redundant from a London investment bank which was great as I got a decent redundancy payment to tide me over for a while. Then my husband got offered a job in Australia and we ended up there for a year. When we eventually got back to Ireland I decided that I wanted to do something for myself. I suppose I always had an idea that I would like to work for myself at the back of my mind but I just never got around to doing anything about it," she says. "Having kids can work against you if you want to go out and set up a business so it was important for me that any business I became involved with allowed me the time an space for my family. And Little Kickers did just that." She says that she came across Little Kickers when she lived in London. "It was set up by two women, Sara Field and Christine Stanchus who were looking for soccer classes for their kids but they couldn't find anything suitable. So off they went and put together their own programme and it really took off and they started to franchise it a couple of years ago.

They have been great to work with and I have no reservations in recommending it as a business opportunity to anyone." At the moment Little Kickers has just two franchisees in Ireland, including Niamh O'Connor, so the potential to grow the business in Ireland is substantial. "We reckon that the market could probably sustain somewhere in the order of twenty five, maybe a little more," she says.

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