How Embracing Change Fuels Pioneer Sports’ Growth
For Tom Falcone, co-founder of enakbet Pioneer Sports , everything came to a screeching halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
With schools shuttered and cities across the country ordering everyone to shelter in place, Falcone and co-founder Andrew Cutrone could no longer offer in-person, after-school programs for local youth. They quickly pivoted to virtual classes, teaching everything from karate to cheerleading. But with unemployment hitting record levels and cash tight among households, that petered out a couple of months into the pandemic.
But they didn’t give up. Pioneer Sports had come a long way from the days when they started the business in Falcone’s basement. Now 12 years in, they had created something that was successful and growing, and they wanted to keep it that way.
“We stayed in contact with our clients (which include police athletic leagues and parent-teacher associations) through COVID via phones calls and Zooms,” Falcone told business.com. “We knew things weren’t running, but we wanted to make sure they knew that as the world was changing, we were as well.”
Nearly six months later, Pioneer Sports is growing again. Revenue in the fall is up year over year, the company is inking new partnerships, and Pioneer Sports remains solidly in the black. Falcone credits the return to growth with the company’s willingness to pivot with the pandemic, identify opportunities, and maintain its staff of teachers and sports instructors.
Safety syllabus sets Pioneer Sports apart
For a company that offers after-school sports programs, the pandemic could have easily been a death knell. But instead of bemoaning stringent shelter-in-place orders or threatening to sue local leaders, Pioneer Sports created a pandemic-safe way to keep kids busy and moving once some of the restrictions lifted. Located in Bellmore and Bethpage, New York, Pioneer Sports was able to bounce back a little sooner than small businesses in other towns and cities across the country. New York was hit hard by the pandemic during the early days but now has some of the lowest infection rates in the country.
Once Pioneer Sports got the green light to create sport programs for its clients, it had to convince them that it could be done safely. Drawing on guidance from federal, state and local government agencies, Pioneer Sports created a series of safety protocols that enabled it to gain confidence and grow. Its safety “syllabus” serves as a differentiator and sets Pioneer Sports apart from rivals trying to stay relevant during the pandemic, said Falcone.
All of Pioneer Sports’ programs are held outside, masks are required for parents and children, temperatures are taken, and hand sanitizing happens throughout the class. No outside equipment is allowed, and social distancing is enforced at all times. Classes have been reworked to focus on skills rather than games and scrimmages.