Green Light Sports Performance Founder Connor Green spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about the pros and cons of launching his startup during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NAN PRICE: How did you develop the busines concept for Green Light Sports Performance?
CONNOR GREEN: I’ve been a track and field and cross country coach for the past 10 years. During the last four years working with the general population at a local fitness facility, I realized how much I love working with youth athletes. I also realized I wanted more control over my schedule. I know it’s not always possible, but as an entrepreneur, you can control the structure of your own schedule a lot more, which I find very appealing. Also, I wanted to start my own company to get the message out there about what it is that my student athletes enjoy most about my coaching. I want to be able to share that with as many people as possible.
NAN: You launched in June of 2020. Did you reach out to any local mentors or organizations as you were starting out?
CONNOR: My father was an entrepreneur and I learned a lot through his experiences. One thing my he passed down is the concept of research, research, research. So, I did my research and reached out to the Small Business Administration for help with my business plan and to ensure I was going through all the proper sources to help with things like my LLC filing. I wanted to have all my ducks in a row starting out.
Two other people who helped me tremendously during the development process were Dave Pavia, Owner of The Speed Center in Prospect, and Kim Zengerle, Owner of Ignite Fitness in West Hartford. Their help and feedback about the nitty-gritty of starting a business was critical.
NAN: What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve gone through in terms of launching?
CONNOR: I’m in a very fortunate situation where, because of the connections I’ve made over the past 10 years in my coaching roles in different towns, I’m already technically a town employee. So, the process for utilizing fields was a little more manageable. I still keep to the same standards as any outside sources, but I don’t have that much overhead. I don’t have a facility that I have to worry about. I’m just paying rent for field time, whatever equipment I need, and, obviously, there are the insurance costs.
NAN: In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business, especially as you’re just starting out?
CONNOR: COVID-19 put the athletic world in a unique position. Those with facilities have very strict procedures they need to follow for athletes and members, but with my operations being mainly outdoors, the precautions needed to operate at a high level are less daunting for a new business starting out.
Safety is my goal for my athletes, both in their performances and when interacting in smaller groups, so I need to ensure everything complies when it comes to how I run my training sessions. I’m very fortune to have the set up that I do. Being a town employee/coach put me in a position to get the best out of my situation. My name was already out there, so it helped a lot with engaging with local athletes.
NAN: How are you marketing?
CONNOR: If we’re going to talk about challenges, that’s been one of my biggest—not in the sense that getting word out is the issue. It’s more that marketing is an area that’s very uncommon to me. My background is in exercise science and athlete development, so I’ve had to put on new hat to market and promote myself.
I’ve been utilizing social media and sending weekly email blasts to local coaches, athletic directors, and parental organizations to ensure that I’m not just blindly distributing information. I’m not looking to engage with every single person I possibly can. I want to make sure they’re the right fit.
NAN: Speaking of being the right fit, what sets you apart from other coaches or fitness facilities?
CONNOR: Part of the whole marketing thing is, I have to get kids interested but I also have to get their parents to understand what it is I’m doing. There will always be people who are hyper competitive, whether they’re athletes or they’re the parents of athletes. That’s great if you want your student athlete to get a full scholarship and you want them to be an Olympic athlete someday. If that’s the goal, I can totally help.
But I’m really trying to help kids understand what it is to fail, to learn from that failure, and to grow from it. I want to provide training services in an environment where it’s not going to then add stress onto their day, their season, or their year. Because, over the past 10 years of coaching, I’ve noticed that kids hate failing. They hate failing at school. They hate failing at practice. It becomes detrimental and I want them to feel like they’re in a safe environment that’s going to help.
I want them to know failing is okay. It’s okay to do badly on a drill or at practice or in a game because it gives you the opportunity to learn, to reflect, and to utilize the proper skills to look back at a situation and develop a better plan for the next one.
We utilize a three-part process that’s unique to Green Light Sports Performance. The red light is our plan to learn and achieve; the yellow light is our practice, which is where there are opportunities to try, fail, and find out what works; and the green light is when we’ve gone through those steps and it’s time to perform.
That’s the message I’m trying to get across. It’s a little challenging finding those right people, but all the people I’m currently working with are full believers in my process.