Latest TeamINN News
Mar 4, 2018
Photo by Contributed photo A wall mural at TEAMINN’s Wooster headquarters displays the company’s “book easy, play hard, sleep well” motto. How it works • TEAMINN says its website allows youth sports organizations to quickly search for hotel rooms that meet their requirements, and its staff then develops a customized plan for each trip. • The Wooster company negotiates a reduced room rate, and assigns a manager to work with each travel group. • Each youth sports organization has a custom-branded reservation site, which includes login access and real-time reporting of room-night pickups. • It works with team managers, coaches, parents, tourism bureaus and sports commissions. As a former hockey coach, Donald Harkins was well aware of the frustrations associated with youth sports travel teams. "Some team managers are really effective and on it," Harkins said. "And some are, 'I can't believe I got stuck with this miserable job. Here's my room, and the rest is up to you.' " Seeing the latter be the case far too often led Harkins to starting TEAMINN , which books hotels at reduced rates for youth sports organizations, in 2013. In 2016, TEAMINN's digital platform was used to book 43,000 room nights, which the Wooster-based company said accounted for $6 million in hotel revenues. Last year, the room nights more than doubled, to 94,000, and Harkins said his company's revenues increased 120%. The rapid growth of a six-employee firm drew the interest of several investors in the booming youth sports market, and TEAMINN was recently acquired by Blue Star Sports , a Frisco, Texas-based organization that has scooped up 25 companies since it was founded in April 2016. Harkins — a St. Edward High School graduate whose two brothers, Todd and Brett, were NHL draft choices — will continue to lead TEAMINN as its CEO. The 52-year-old said he will also serve as Blue Star's vice president of travel, and his five other employees — including his fiancée, TEAMINN chief operating officer Kim Kubiak — will remain with the newly acquired firm. "It's a simple business model. We broker hotel rooms and save sports parents money," Harkins said. And by working with the major players in the hotel business and the youth sports space, it's worked. Harkins insists the room rates he's able to get youth teams consistently are at least 10% cheaper, and what the hotels might give up in room money they gain in occupancy. Prior to the acquisition, Harkins said he "had to put the brakes on" TEAMINN's growth, because it was so rapid and because he wanted to make sure the company was able to maintain what it believes is strong customer service. Now that TEAMINN is aligned with a 450-employee company that seems intent on covering every possible base in the never-slowing youth sports industry, "all bets are off," Harkins said. STACK is on Blue Star team Blue Star Sports' majority owner is Genstar Capital, a San Francisco private equity firm, but its more notable backers include Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and 32 Equity — the NFL's investment arm. Blue Star's headquarters, as you might expect from its name, are at One Cowboys Way — the glitzy home of Jones' NFL club. In July 2017, the same month in which Blue Star became 32 Equity's first youth sports investment, the company acquired STACK , a Cleveland media company that at one time was known for its sports training magazines that featured the likes of a 20-year-old LeBron James on the cover. The acquisition, Blue Star said at the time , supported its vision of giving "athletes of all ages" access to content and tools to boost their development. But the move, as is typical with such private equity acquisitions, has resulted in some downsizing. STACK co-founder Nick Palazzo told Crain's that the company now has seven employees in its office in the Halle Building. That's down from 20 in February 2015, when Crain's published a story as STACK was celebrating its 10th anniversary. At the time, STACK had recently acquired Velocity Sports Performance and was compiling a stable of more than 40 training centers in which independent owners paid the company a franchise fee and had access to the company's many training resources. But STACK divested the training centers prior to the Blue Star acquisition, and several top leaders have left STACK since last July — including co-founder Chad Zimmerman and senior vice president of content Josh Staph. Blue Star declined comment on the departures, but Palazzo — who is now Blue Star's chief digital officer — said "STACK is doing well under Blue Star's ownership, and we look forward to continuing to align with our sister companies." STACK's plethora of training articles and videos are now being utilized by a youth sports conglomerate that says it has 45 million users in 32 countries. Among the companies in the Blue Star portfolio are Bonzi, Pointstreak, Goalline, PrimeTime Sports and Krossover. One of the newest acquisitions, TEAMINN, covers a crucial element — travel — in a youth sports industry that WinterGreen Research said last August is a $15.3 billion market. At the time, the industry had grown 55% in seven years. Harkins — who is also the director of U.S. scouting for the WHL's Prince George Cougars, for whom his brother Todd is the general manager — recently stopped coaching youth hockey because his time had been spread too thin. Even after cashing in on the business he founded, he said he has no plans to also move on from TEAMINN. "We could keep doing the organization down here in Wooster, Ohio, and do very well, or we could team up with someone with robust cash and technology and take it to a whole new level," he said. "That's what we're doing." Companies that have grown as rapidly as his might have 30-plus employees, Harkins said. "That's what makes us so attractive, right? We're lean and mean," he said. MORNING ROUNDUP Business headlines from Crain's Cleveland Business and other Ohio newspapers — delivered FREE to your inbox every morning. Sign up for the Morning Newsletter.