Steve Evans competed in the Olympics in Hockey, only to retire and then be diagnosed with cancer. Instead of becoming defeated, he fought back and turned his life around. Today, cancer-free, he runs South Africa’s fastest growing hockey league - Super Fives Hockey, an online store HockeyShop.co.za, and a technology consultancy called Stampede Mobile.
How did he do it?
WAKE UP CALL
Steve says, “After the 2004 Athens Olympics, I retired from hockey. I chose to focus on a different path, aligned around family and business. I joined 2 partners in a niche management consultancy start-up, and created an online sales & marketing portal for Voodoo hockey on the side. I knew that hockey was my passion, but there were the realities of trying to scale a business whilst supporting a family, keeping a roof over my head and paying the bills.”
Steve had to travel to the Middle East and Asia every couple of weeks for work. He was on a hamster-wheel, juggling work, family, and playing hockey recreationally, until a major illness came as a wake up call:
“The stress of work and travel caught up with me. In November 2010 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Fortunately, I picked it up early and was able to beat the disease. In hindsight, I realise that it was my body telling me that the high stress environment I’d created for myself was simply not sustainable. As a result of the cancer, I withdrew almost entirely from hockey for nearly 3 years.”
During this time, Steve realised how important hockey had been throughout his life.
“It shaped my childhood, my relationships, my knowledge, and how others see me. Having cancer brought into focus how important that community is to me, and the value of having credibility within that community. I realised that it’s easiest to be in flow with the things that bring you to life, and that finding your flow is a guarantee for success.”
ALIGN PASSION WITH PURPOSE
With this realisation in mind, Steve began looking at how to turn his passion into a business. By this point, he had evolved his hockey marketing business into Hockeyshop.co.za, however, it wasn’t enough for him to sustain himself full-time.
The first break-through happened when Steve was invited by a friend to attend the Fast Forward Summit, a global high ranking entrepreneurs event, where he met Roger Hamilton, a social entrepreneur and futurist.
“Initially my focus was more on monetising the opportunity through Hockey Shop, but Roger’s input helped me recognise the power of collaborations and that businesses with purpose are the businesses that people are going to support. One needs to have a clearly defined future vision that’s purpose driven, rather than purely profit driven.”
Steve told Roger about an opportunity he’d been discussing with a friend of his, Lloyd Norris-Jones, one of South Africa’s leading international hockey players. Their vision was to help drive South African Hockey forward from the grassroots level by establishing Super Fives Hockey - an exciting new format of the game that had been introduced by the FIH at the Nanjing Youth Olympics in 2014.
“Our intention for Super Fives, was to create a broadly accessible opportunity for young players, to develop and test their skills, through participation in fun Super Fives leagues and events. We will also extend that participation into skills training and testing for the players, with training accreditation and coaching seminars for the coaches.”
“If we’re going to make a difference and change the status quo of hockey in South Africa, we need to create more opportunities for coaches to get accreditation & input, and in turn, for our future superstars to learn the right skills at the right age. Until we managed that, we will be stuck with a self sustaining legacy problem.”
Steve joined Crystal Circle, Roger’s high-level mentoring group for entrepreneurs. Roger says “Steve got himself aligned to a bigger purpose, to grow hockey in South Africa. But he hadn’t yet refined the business model. We created a franchise model based on the top professional leagues in the world, and then we put together a step-by-step plan to implement, test and refine our assumptions.”
ALIGN TALENT WITH TECH
Roger helped guide and shape the business model by encouraging Steve and his business partner, Lloyd, to first focus on proving the Super Fives concept through running various event formats.
Steve says, “For the past 18 months, and with valuable feedback from our initial franchise partners, we’ve been able to offer various Super Fives league and event formats in Cape Town and Johannesburg, in the 1st and 4th quarters of the year (off-season), and with an annual Festival of Hockey being held in Cape Town in October. This year we also completed a trial run of our Skills Training Roadshow and next year we’ll be adding more cities, more superstars to the mix, and more importantly we’ll be adding coaching seminars to the program. We feel that it is very important that the business model augments the work that the South African Hockey Association and the Provincial Unions are doing by creating more opportunities for kids to play, learn & experience this exciting format of the game.”
Roger also guided Steve on the steps to attract sponsors, prior to building out the supporting tech platform (which was done through his technology consulting business, Stampede Mobile) so that the team wouldn’t need to look for external investment or financing:
“We’ll soon be able to start selling training mentorship programs and accrediting coaches on behalf of the South African Hockey Association, so more people will be able to coach and train the next generation of South African hockey talent. Finally, we’ve also tested a partnership model with our local Western Province Hockey Union, which has proven to be a great success, raising money for the province, as well as providing funding and participation opportunities for kids from disadvantaged communities in Langa and Khayalisha.”
In order to scale the business, Roger guided Steve and Lloyd through the development of their franchise model, including key focus areas for the underlying tech platform which is set up to facilitate the onboarding of new franchisees, and simplify the event management, player registration and payment process.
People interested in expanding the reach of Super Fives can become franchisees, starting up a league in their area, and benefiting from the existing branding, marketing and technology infrastructure. With 4 initial franchises to their name (2 in Johannesburg and 2 in Cape Town), they’ve recently signed up one new franchise in Port Elizabeth and have 3 more lined up for 2018.
The benefit of leading a hockey business with technology can be seen in the rapid growth of Super Fives.
“Over the the last 12 months, our user acquisition, engagement, and the growth of our community networks has doubled. We signed a 2 year contract with Adidas, and delivered our first national “Festival of Hockey” event and we have no intention of stopping there. Over the next 2-3 years I can see our business growing tenfold!
Steve also noted: “As I have focused on aligning myself within the networks where I have the most credibility, the value of the consulting contracts I’m working on in my technology business has also doubled!”
Most importantly, every work day now leads Steve towards his greatest passion and purpose - sharing his love of technology & hockey and empowering young players in South Africa.
What is your greatest passion?
And what might you discover at the crossroads of your passion, purpose?