BBC Radio Wales interviews A-Star Sports – listed No.27 in the Startups 100
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BBC Radio Wales interviews A-Star Sports – listed No.27 in the Startups 100

November 29, 2019

Now you got to like taking risks really if
you’re going to set up your own business, especially when the economy’s behaving unpredictably.
Basically, you have to be pretty convinced that your ideas are good enough to shine through
and actually thrive. Well, last week the Startups 100 list was revealed, it’s a run down of
the best new businesses in the UK and amongst them were four Welsh firms. Well, joining us now is Ian Willis from,
the company which compiled the list. Hello Ian! Hi Sarah, it’s Ian Wallis by the way. Did I not say that? It’s my brain and… Willis! That’s fine. It’s my brain and mouth not working together!
So tell us about – how long have you been going and what do you do? It’s a website that supports people that are
thinking about starting a business or are in the process of starting or running or growing
a business. We’ve been going for the last 15 years and we provide as comprehensive as
possible an array of guides, advice guides, tips, inspiration through profiles and news
for people that are starting a business. Whatever sector they’re in, is it? Absolutely. Yes, it’s from people that are
starting up at home and tradespeople and it could be a franchise, buying a franchise,
or it could be a large technology company that’s looking to raise two million. It really
is the full gammett. Right. and do you help them raise money, then
as well? Or give them just the advice? You don’t do crowd funding or something like that? We don’t. We don’t get involved in promoting
crowd funded companies, we report when they have raised finance and so we profile companies
so that will promote them, which gives them more of a profile but no we don;t help them
directly in terms of raising the finance. OK well, we have two of the people who are
on your list of top 100 with us – Bethan Stevens and Gary Bassett. Hello to both of you. Hi Sarah! Now I’m going to make you both blush to find
out exactly what it is that’s wonderful about your businesses that got you on there. So,
Ian, how do you compile this list? How do you get on there? Sure, it’s – in terms of the methodology – we
look at hundreds and hundreds of companies and we solicit entries from them so we get
full entries with a lot of detail where they provide their financials, the companies background,
the year that they started. They have to have started in the last three years. We look at
the number of employees they have, where they raised finance, so a number of things that
we look at. And then once we have all that information, we score them. Our methodology
is based on reality rather than projected future success. What they’re actually doing… Exactly, so for example, turnover, net profit,
employee numbers – they’re important for us so they get a higher weighting when it comes
to the scoring we use. OK – do you have to have a certain turnover
to be able to be in your list? Not to enter. There’s no threshold that we
require. We’re also looking for innovative companies, so some of those companies are
very early stages and may have raised finance, which is an indicator of future success. So
we do score that, too. But, it helps if they’ve got a reasonable turnover. The average for
this year, for those who disclosed their turnover, was almost a million. Right, OK. That’s a lot in three years, isn’t
it? A heck of a lot! OK, well let’s hear from our lovely Welsh
examples. BEthan Stevens – you have a restaurant, don’t you? In Menai Bridge on Anglesey and
Gary Basste – you run a company called A-Star Sports in Flintshire. What do you do? What does A-Star Sports do? We’re a private sports coaching company so
we’re actually running on the franchise model. We take it…perhaps where we’re different
to others that do sports coaching is that we’re not selling to schools, which is perhaps
the market which his chased a lot at the moment. We work directly with families and guradians
in the communities so we sell weekly classes, birthday parties and holiday clubs. So I’ve
just dashed from a holiday club today with a relatively peaceful forty odd children running
around when Ieft. So that’s what marks you out as different.
Beth – there’s an awful lot of restaurants around. What’s special about yours? I think it’s more to do with the concept that
we’ve got going here in Menai Bridge. It’s a menu surprise that we provide. So we buy
the most local produce that we can get and we produce the menu on the day. It consists
of about six courses and it’s, you know, if any of the customers have special dietary
requirements we work around those. OK. So. when someone turns up, they don’t knwo
what they’re going to get? No, they don’t. And people like that, do they? I though people
were more conservative. They like to know what they’re going to get in a restaurant. Well I suppose in most restaurants you choose
from a menu and that’s part of our success, that we offer something different, a different
eating experience. And, you know, we work a lot from the food. There’s a lot of thought
that goes into the menu, so the menu’s decided for them and it’s a cullinary journey OK and in a way, Gary, you’re doing a similar
thing in your field, aren’t you? In that you’re offering something different from what most
people are offering? Yes – I mean, I think there are quite a few
out of school hour activities but they tend to be single sport or one activity. We’ve
actually got a programme that’s been heavily researched and reviewed by experts in child
behaviour and management as well as sports people, so we come from a more engagement
and behaviour persepective and we’ve developed a programme that children can come to and
develop with us from the age of two right through to the end of primary school rather
than a sort of twelve week programme or a fifteen week programme. Is that expensive? Must be, isn’t it? No – the way we’ve designed it is so that
it’s very. very affordable for the parents that we work with. High quality coaching,
between sort of 10 to a dozen, maybe up to a maximum of 14 children depending on the
venue. And it’s different around the country. We’ve not got businesses in England, Scotland,
Wales obviously and, hopefully soon, Northern Ireland. But, you know, if I take my local
area – Istill run one of the local franchises – a class for one hour with that small group,
you’re talking £5.50 a week, Right. And, birthday parties, we’re probably less
than most magicians and things like that. OK, because I mean that’s the thing. We all
know don’t we that on average we’ve all got less money than we had five years ago. So
it’s quite a brave kind of venture for you, Gary. Yes – I mean, I’ve been…I gave up my corporate
life a number of years ago. What were you doing before, come on… I was a Human Rsources Director. I actually
worked for LEGO for sort of nine, ten years and then companies like Johnson and Johnson
and AMEC. So, total departure! I did do a lot of corporate coaching but… Yeah – and Bethan, when money’s tight you
might not out so much to restaurants and certainly might not go to one where you’re not sure
what you’re going to get. Have you found it a struggle to find enough people in your area
with money in their pocket? Well, we are quite small. I mean it’s quite
an intimate restaurant but we don’t struggle for customers to be honest with you. We’re
lucky enough to have a waiting list on most weekends, so I think people are thinking they’ve
got a lot less money but are being a lot more careful with it. That’s where we come in really
because if you’re consistent people will return time and time again. How much does a six course menu with you cost? It’s £43.70 per head. 43…that’s without wine, is it? That’s without the wine, yes. OK. And how many tables have you got? We have seven tables in total so it’s normally
about 18 covers of an evening. Wow. OK. Ian – listening to Bethan and Gary
talking about their businesses, it’s interesting isn’t it the threads that go between them?
They’re both doing something a wee bit different. They’re both offering quality service. That
is interesting because some people might think that the way you survive when the economy
is fragile is to just make it cheaper. I there’s…it works at both ends of the scale,
so there are lots of people that are looking to buy cheaper options but the quality often
wins out. So, people are…they’ll, as Bethan said, they’ll save their money up for an experience.
I guess with Sosban it’s a culinary experience and, if you’re looking for coaching for your
children, you know, quality is highly important so I think ultimately people will pay for
quality. OK, let’s look to the future with you both.
I mean, Gary what’s your plan? You said already this is a franchise so do you want to spin
it out further or sell the concept or do something else? What are you going to do? That’s exaclty what we’re doing. I mean, we’ve
tried to…and this is why we liked it when we first came across Startups in that it wasn’t
purely about just who’s got the biggest turnover. In that we knew in the first few years that
wouldn’t be us, it was all about building an infrastructure to grow. We’ve mapped the
whole country and know there are potentially 240 territories based on the number of children
in our age range and wealth factors and things like that. So we’ve sort of a fairly modest
couple of years of growth in terms of the number of franchises to get the snowball rolling. Let’s just check that. If you’re going to
go into all those territories, as you call them, would there be a risk to you or… because
of the way you franchise it, there’s wouldn’t be a risk for you? You’d hope…and this is partly why we went do

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  1. Co-founder Gary Bassett's recent interview on BBC Radio Wales is now available on our YouTube channel – tune in and find out more about A-Star Sports' recent listing in the Startups 100 (No. 27):

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