Leann Emery, founder of Cutting Edge Softball Inc. in San Jose, says Silicon Valley Score counselors, Charlie Askanas and Dick Greenberg, had a major influence on her development of an effective business plan. “I had a vision of what I wanted to do, but Charlie and Dick helped me to put it on paper and develop it into a working document.” she explains.
Leann was a scholarship softball pitcher at San Jose State just as the program was emerging from its status as a club sport to become a top twenty NCAA intercollegiate team. She graduated from San Jose State with a BS degree in Human Performance and Sports Psychology and then earned an MS degree from Saint Mary’s College in Sports Administration. After college, while working on her own skills as a pitching coach, she bought into a franchise business that focused on motor development skills for children. She became an assistant coach for San Jose City College. She also worked with pitchers at several high schools, as well as recreational leagues and travel teams. Leann’s first pitching student received a scholarship to Michigan State University, her third student to Stanford University and others began to follow to Universities such as Texas A&M, Ball State, Santa Clara, Brown and Penn State.
With her confidence as an instructor and as a small business owner, in 2005 Leann started Cutting Edge Softball Inc. with the business objective to “raise the level of fast-pitch softball in the Bay Area by bringing the highest and most current level of softball instruction down to beginning and intermediate level players”. In the first six months of business, she began offering pitching and hitting clinics for local recreational leagues as well as private lessons for individuals. She also started a four day Summer Softball Camp that included a collegiate coaching staff and a special guest appearance from Olympian Jessica Mendoza. Sixty players attended the four day event. From 2005 to the present, Cutting Edge has run 5 camps with a total attendance of over 400 players.
During the first two years, Cutting Edge Softball rented lanes from a local team that used a warehouse for practice. However, in order to grow her business, Leann realized that she needed her own indoor facility with batting and pitching cages that her students could use and that other teams might rent year round. She also knew that she needed a business plan before proceeding with her idea.
Leann had heard of Score from a friend and in the spring of 2007 she set up an appointment with Score counselors to review her plan. “When I met with Charlie and Dick the first time, they quickly pointed out that I didn’t have enough market analysis in my plan to justify what I wanted to do,” she says. “For instance, they suggested that I find out the size of my target market,” she adds. After doing the “homework” from her counseling session, Leann discovered that there are about 4000 girls playing softball that live within a ten-mile radius of her home. “I met with Score counselors about a dozen times and each time they helped me refine my plan by getting me to consider things that I otherwise would have overlooked,” she says. Leann continues, “They helped me make financial projections that gave me the confidence I needed to proceed with the expansion.”
Leann opened her new, indoor, Cutting Edge Softball facility in the fall of 2007. It is a 3,000 square foot building with three batting/pitching cages that also open to form one larger practice space. The new facility has enabled Leann to not only provide lessons but also to sell equipment such as gloves, helmets, and Louisville Slugger bats. It also provides practice space for local travel and recreational teams as well as collegiate teams such as Fresno State and Tennessee State that visit the Bay Area. Cutting Edge Softball has three other instructors in addition to Leann. All have Division I softball playing or high level coaching experience. “We have a great staff and are always working to provide the highest level of instruction and consistency for our students. I am very proud of what we have accomplished.” says Leann. “Although the facility only opened last fall, our revenue is up almost forty percent over the prior year and we’ve managed to break-even including all the start up expenses that we’ve had to absorb,” she states. “By working really hard, saving money and spending only what we needed, we were able to open our own indoor facility within three years of starting the business without needing a bank loan or bringing in other investors. However, Charlie and Dick helped me put together a strong, substantive business plan that I could have used to obtain a bank loan if I had needed it.”
About 80 players per week now use the Cutting Edge Softball facility. Leann believes that it has a capacity of about 100 players per week. “We’re growing so rapidly that I think we might need to consider a larger facility or maybe even a second facility in the near future,” she states. Then she concludes “when that time approaches, I’ll definitely look for Score’s help to ensure that I not only see the big picture but that I consider all the substantive details and potential hurdles, too. I think that Score is a great resource for anyone starting or expanding a business. The experience of Score counselors is broad and appropriate and they really want to see their clients succeed. I especially appreciate all the help and advice that Charlie and Dick provided. It really contributed to the growth and success of Cutting Edge Softball Inc.”