Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Sarah Wolfer and I am the CEO and Founder of Girl Boss Sports. I have been playing soccer since I was 4 years old and coaching soccer since I was 14. I played collegiately and semi-professionally and have coached at all levels from ages 2-22 including at the collegiate level. Most recently I switched sports and have begun playing professional tackle football with the Oregon Ravens who are part of the Women’s National Football Conference. I am also a licensed mental health therapist part-time as I build up my business.
Being an athlete and a coach in the sports industry taught me that there are many disruptions that need to happen to make it more inclusive and equal for girls and women. With the national focus on equality for women in sports, I realized that now is the time to push for change. As such, I founded Girl Boss Sports in December of 2018 with two goals in mind:
1) To increase the number of women sports coaches as there are simply too few of us. For example, here in the US, only 21% of soccer coaches are women (and globally it is only 7%).
2) We want to keep girls in sports as they are dropping out at twice the rate of boys by the age of 14, and by the age of 17, half of all girls who were previously playing sports have dropped out. This second goal is important to us because Ernst and Young did a study of female C-suite executives and found that 96% of them reported playing sports during their teenage years (and half played at the university level). This shows there is a clear correlation between participation in sports and success later in life, so by working toward these two goals we aren’t only helping to create better female athletes… we are also helping to shape the future women leaders across ALL industries - and THAT is what Girl Boss Sports is all about.
Since starting Girl Boss Sports, I have hired over 20 women to become soccer coaches in the Greater Seattle area - this clearly shows that the common myth that “there are no women interested in or qualified to coach” is in fact false. In addition, we have brought in an average of $4700 of revenue per month over the last 6 months, partnered with over 10 other companies or organizations to work toward the same 2 goals mentioned above, and have worked with hundreds of athletes and teams in the Greater Seattle area.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
As an athlete and coach myself, I have experienced many situations that left me feeling dismayed at the state of affairs for women and girls involved in sports. I recall one such instance where I was playing at a very competitive level and the head coach screamed at me from 2 inches away with every expletive he could think of in front of our entire team because I asked him a question about the drill that was being done. I still vividly remember the spittle flying out of his mouth and hitting me in the face and not knowing what to do. The powerlessness I felt at that moment, coupled with the lack of appropriate response by the system when I reported him left me feeling hopeless for my future in sports. I ended up quitting soccer and refused to touch a ball for an entire year.
On the coaching side - as someone with 16 years of experience now, there are still instances in which I am treated differently than my male counterparts. One such example was when I was on the sideline waiting for the referee to come over and check my team prior to the start of the game. I was dressed in my coaching attire, had the whistle around my neck, the clipboard in my hand, and the player cards ready to be presented when the referee walked over to our sideline. He made eye contact with me and then proceeded to walk over the dad who happened to be on our side tying his daughter’s shoe and assumed that he was the coach.
Take time for yourself! Being an entrepreneur is hard work and you can’t do it to the best of your ability if you haven’t taken time for yourself to rest and rejuvenate. Self-care is integral to success.
Unfortunately, there are countless other examples of experiences I have had both as a female coach and athlete, and the statistics mentioned previously showed me this was an issue both objectively and subjectively. I was also coaching private soccer lessons already and had some clients travel over an hour to work with me, just so they could have a female coach. That is when I realized that this was a need that was greater than I could take care of independently and decided to create Girl Boss Sports. At the time, however, I was a full-time manager of several programs in the community mental health world and began Girl Boss Sports as a side hustle alongside my full-time job. I am now a part-time mental health therapist in the private practice setting with a schedule that fortunately fits well with my duties as CEO of my company.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Initially, I came up with the idea to create a regionalized system of female soccer coaches throughout the Greater Seattle area to ensure that if an athlete wanted to work with a female soccer coach, there would be someone ready and available relatively close to their home. After going through the setup of the business as an LLC through Washington state, I immediately began recruiting women to become soccer coaches with my company. I posted ads, reached out to local universities and colleges to recruit their athletes, and used my network of friends in the soccer world to find candidates to interview and ultimately hire. Luckily, I was able to use my experience from the social services world as a hiring manager for 6 years to work through this process. Since that time, I hired over 20 women from northern Seattle, down into Kitsap County with everything in-between covered.
This came with several startup costs including the legal side of launching the business as well as ordering soccer coaching equipment for each and every coach. I also had to order scheduling software, learn the ins and outs of hiring employees in Washington state, order business insurance, and learn the marketing side as quickly as possible. I then realized I needed more clients and social media followers so I created a social media contest offering a free soccer lesson. I used this as an opportunity to have a friend come out and take photos of the free lesson to be used in marketing materials.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once we had this first lesson completed, I began using these photos for the official launch of my website and social media. I created the website from scratch on my own after extensive research from books and listening to podcasts on the topic. I then also worked on the social media aspects which were new territory to me as well, with the same methods of launching the website. Fortunately, in this day and age, there are countless resources on each of these areas that helped me successfully launch both of those, though my early social media days were hit and miss as I learned more about it. My social media quickly grew to over 1000 followers and the website has gotten positive feedback from clients and staff. I have now very recently brought on marketing staff who are in the process of taking both the website and social media over to even better represent everything we stand for.
After these steps were completed, I began reaching out to local soccer clubs, schools, and organizations in the sports industry describing what we offered and asking for a meeting. Several entities responded and I was able to meet with senior leaders of these companies and organizations to describe the need I had seen for girls and women in sports. Many of these organizations agreed and had seen similar issues and wanted to work alongside my company to make a change. I quickly realized that my regionalized system of private coaches would only be one small arm of what Girl Boss Sports would do.
In the early days of building Girl Boss Sports, I financed all the startup costs through the funds received from the lessons I was holding. Every cent that I brought in with a soccer lesson went back to the business in order to scale it to the point where I could successfully hire 20 women. Then 6 months into the business, I entered a business contest for the Pacific Northwest region called the Impact Pitch contest that was put on by the Business Impact NW.
After 3-4 months of working through the many rounds of that contest, I ultimately made it to the finals and was able to pitch Girl Boss Sports to a live audience and judging panel. I ended up winning $2000 for the “Best LGBTQ+ Owned Business” and was even able to keep the giant check they presented me with (which now hangs in my home office). I also made many contacts through that contest and learned SO much from that experience that I will always be grateful for it. Being a part of this helped me find my voice in front of an audience that large and it gave me the opportunity to share with the world the things that are most important to me - women supporting women, leadership, and sports!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launching Girl Boss Sports, I have found that adopting the motto of “collaboration over competition” has been the most efficient way to attract and retain customers. What I mean by that is I have been willing to partner with other companies or organizations within the same industry that I could have chosen to see as competitors but instead have seen as potential partners, sponsors, or allies. As such, we collaborate together on various projects, we assist each other with marketing efforts for big events, and we provide referrals for one another.
One of the greatest partnerships we have established thus far is with the Seattle Youth Soccer Association. Within their system, there are 14,000 athletes that we now have access to working with and who hear about our services. In addition, every year SYSA puts on a clinic for interested soccer clubs in the region with primarily volunteer coaches who want to learn coaching basics.
This year, SYSA contracted through Girl Boss Sports and we brought in 16 women soccer coaches to be the official coach trainers of this project. We ended up working with 65 soccer teams, 6 soccer clubs, held 305 sessions, and worked with over 500 athletes! Each and every one of those players, coaches, teams, and clubs were given information about Girl Boss Sports and were provided with an opportunity to see us in action. Through this project, we were paid close to $16,000 over the course of 6 weeks and we have plans to continue to partner closely with SYSA in years to come. Being listed on our partners’ websites - such as with the SYSA - has also proven to be helpful to push traffic towards our website.
We have also partnered with several other soccer clubs, schools, and organizations in the area including Southlake Soccer Club, Seattle United, Forest Ridge, Queen City Futsal, Street Soccer Seattle, GOALS Haiti, West Coast Goalkeeping, and Bespoke Treatments. With these partners, we have taken on projects such as 2 summer camps in 2020, skill clinics, futsal classes/ drop-ins, a mental skills training class for female athletes, a conference to show female athletes the many avenues that sports can take them, and much more. Partnering with other entities who are working toward the same two goals that we are, has proven to be helpful not only for our bottom line but it is also making a greater impact on the entire community, not just those involved with Girl Boss Sports.
As for marketing efforts beyond these partnerships, many of these were hit and miss. Early on, I incorrectly paid for ads in a local mom's group and should have canceled that membership after not seeing any traffic whatsoever for several months, however, I continued to try to market to this group for much longer than necessary. Once I realized I needed to niche the market down even smaller than simply “moms” to “parents of soccer players” and then even smaller to “parents of female soccer players” is when we began to really see success from our marketing efforts. I also played around with targeted Facebook ads and had some success with this, but saw the greatest success overall from partnering with other entities in the community. I am very excited about bringing on marketing staff to the team in the coming weeks as this person will be able to push our goals even further with their extensive experience in the field. Finally, with the addition of an “Administrative Wizard” becoming a part of the team, we will now have the ability to create and market to our email list with regular newsletters, updates, and services.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I am very excited about what the future holds for Girl Boss Sports. This year, I have been able to add general legal counsel, marketing, and administrative help to the behind the scenes stuff which will allow me to work on the vision of the organization and create additional opportunities for the coaching staff and athletes we work with. With the very recent addition of the Administrative Wizard - Mandi Marquardt - I have already seen a jump in productivity for myself and the company at large and it is SO incredible to be surrounded by women like her who are equally as passionate as I am about working toward our mission at Girl Boss Sports.
Secondly, with the addition of General Legal Counsel with Lisa Martinez, I have a right-hand woman who I can bounce ideas off of and someone who can hold me accountable to the mission and vision of Girl Boss Sports.
Next, with my own move to the Oregon Ravens football team this coming season (I formerly played for a Seattle area team), I will be spending 3 days per week in the Portland area and will be working to expand Girl Boss Sports to that region. This area looks promising due to my own personal networks in the soccer community there, as well as the passion for soccer in that community. We also have upcoming plans to expand into other sports - such as basketball - here in the Greater Seattle area early in 2020. These additions have very little startup costs and with the systems already in place, 2020 is set to be a huge year for Girl Boss Sports.
We also have been in conversations with several other organizations and companies throughout the region who are interested in partnering with us on additional projects. These are set to be announced soon and will greatly increase revenue for Girl Boss Sports, but more importantly, it will make a greater impact on the community with a larger reach. The graphic below shows our projections of the upcoming 3 years based only on the current services we are providing - not including additional partnerships that have yet to be announced. As such, these are modest estimates of what the future will hold here at Girl Boss Sports.
As for long term goals at Girl Boss Sports - the sky really is the limit for us. We would love to see this company become a national brand and ultimately even take it globally. It is clear we have something unique here with what we are offering female athletes and female coaches, and it’s time that everyone across the nation and the world has access to it. Girls and women in sports deserve to be treated equally, and we are taking a few small steps toward that larger goal every day.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest thing that I have learned since starting this business is that being resourceful is one of the greatest strengths that an entrepreneur can have. I have seen firsthand that my ability to quickly perform a google search when I need help learning something related to my business has been integral to my level of efficiency and success. Whether it was learning how to do basic social media posts, creating a website from scratch on Wordpress with zero experience in this area, or the legal requirements of forming a business in WA state, there was always a resource that explained how to do it. I have run into other entrepreneurs throughout my journey who are either too afraid to search for the answer on their own, or they simply don’t realize that the information is usually readily available given the right search words.
I also learned that being an entrepreneur comes with many risks but is also EXTREMELY rewarding. I love being able to create my own schedule and dictate the work that I am doing on any given day. I understand now that it takes a lot of courage to leap into the unknown world of “womanpreneurship” but it is a step I am incredibly thankful that I was able to take. I have had friends and family and acquaintances tell me that my idea won’t work or that it is too risky to be a business owner - but I understand that it is them speaking from a place of their own limiting beliefs, and their beliefs don’t need to limit me.
I have also learned the importance of asking for help when I need it. I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness or showing the world I was incapable of. I have since learned, through therapy and the work of Brene Brown, that seeking help is actually a sign of strength and courage. My 2019 value was “courage” and I am proud to say that I lived that to the best of my ability and I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings for myself and for my company, Girl Boss Sports.
Finally, I have seen the power that habits and routines have on my ability to get things done efficiently and with high quality. I have developed routines throughout my day that push me to always do my best to achieve my goals. Some of these include the basics -
I strive to always sleep at least 8 hours per night. It is a common myth that some people just don’t “need” that much sleep, but research has shown that almost everyone needs 8 hours to function optimally. This is step 1 for me to achieve the rest of my goals, and without this one, I tend to struggle with the remaining routines, the rest of the day.
In 2019 I became a vegetarian - I watched the movie Game Changers on Netflix which shows the impact that meat and meat products have on our bodies. As an athlete myself, I now understand the importance of healthy fuel that keeps me going all day.
I love starting my day with a nice cup of coffee and a good book or podcast. The saying “you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with” doesn’t only have to apply to people you are physically present with or know in the real world. I like to fill my head with the words of wisdom and inspiration of great minds who have come before me.
I exercise almost every day as I am in preseason now for football with the Ravens. This is also hugely beneficial for my mental health as well and in each of my breaks throughout the day, I stop and do 10 pushups, squats, or other exercises to get my brain flowing optimally again. You can easily add this into your own routine by doing a couple of exercises on commercial breaks or between meetings.
I get my coffee ready the night before and set the timer - though this sounds really simple, this was life-changing for me. I am much more likely to avoid the snooze button if I know there is already a hot cup of coffee waiting for me in the kitchen.
Each of these habits took me time to develop and maintain in my life and I am not always perfect at them. I have found that these are the fundamentals of my success and to my company’s success and I would recommend other entrepreneurs look into their daily routines to identify the potential for even greater success. Reading “High-Performance Habits” by Brendon Burchard is a great place to start if you’re looking at which habits will do you the best.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use several tools at Girl Boss Sports to help it run as efficiently as possible. I use Square for the payroll of my employees, and they even file my quarterly taxes for me! It has been very easy to use, and when I first started I did free trials of a couple of other services and found that this was the best option for the number of staff I have and for convenience and pricing.
I then use Acuity Scheduling for clients to book lessons, sign waivers and organize each coach’s individual schedule. The price was hard to beat for the number of staff I have, and the features that I wanted. It is clear and easy to use, and I have been able to train two other staff on how to use it in 5 minutes or less.
I then use HelloSign for document sharing and signing amongst my staff. This was also relatively easy to use, but the price was a little more than I would have liked. However, it is very convenient and user-friendly so I have continued to use this service.
For my website, I use WordPress which has proven to be easy to use even for a novice website creator like myself. I have also been able to quickly show my marketing staff the ins and outs of what I created and they’re set to expand on it from there.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite author is Brene Brown and she has been hugely influential for me personally and professionally. Her books (including Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and Dare to Lead) discuss the concepts of vulnerability, courage, and taking risks in life - all of which I am passionate about. One quote she has in many of her books and has been impactful for me is the following by Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I also am in the middle of reading High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard which is teaching me valuable lessons about habits of the most successful people on the planet and how to go about implementing those in my own life. Many of those habits I already mentioned above, but this is an invaluable resource if you are ready to take your business and life to the next level.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own business is something you have always dreamed of, I say GO OUT AND DO IT! It is so empowering to take those leaps forward in life and to be in alignment with who you are, your values, and what you want to do. Don’t forget that there are plenty of resources out there to help. You can join a networking group, listen to podcasts, read books, and peruse the internet for the best tips and tricks to get it up and running. I remember spending so long playing with the idea of starting my own company before I actually took the leap and did it. I had it built up in my head that it was going to be near impossible to actually start a company, but I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of knowledge and information that is available at my fingertips to make it happen.
Secondly, I suggest collaborating instead of competing whenever possible. Of course, I still have competition with some of the services we provide at Girl Boss Sports, but much of that has been eliminated by seeking mutually beneficial opportunities with potential partners. Remember, this isn’t pie - there is plenty to go around if you maintain the mindset of abundance. I strongly value women supporting women (and people supporting people), and adopting this mentality has been so beneficial for my bottom line and how I view the world of business.
Finally, take time for yourself! Being an entrepreneur is hard work and you can’t do it to the best of your ability if you haven’t taken time for yourself to rest and rejuvenate. Self-care is integral to my success and level of happiness and it should be a regular part of your routine, both preventatively and as an intervention. Drink your water, eat your veggies, get enough sleep, and get that heart-rate up!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am looking to hire additional sports coaches (mostly soccer coaches in Seattle and Portland and soon basketball as well). I am also looking for a bookkeeper with experience in the sports industry and who has values that are in alignment with the two goals of Girl Boss Sports. I would also be open to taking on interns or volunteers with other skills and abilities - so reach out if you have an idea that could make a greater impact for female athletes and coaches in the Pacific Northwest!
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