Thursday, December 8, 2011
Interview with Kamau Murray
Would you tell me about yourself before you started your first venture?
My name is Kamau Murray, I am part of the FAMU Alumni. I was a student-athlete and studied Business Administration. I was born and raised in Southside of Chicago. I decided to create a tennis academy because tennis has always been my passion and dream. I also wanted to give the kids an opportunity at life. I basically started off as a tennis coach and doing social work for free.
Were your parents, relatives, or close friends entrepreneurial? How so?
Both my parents were not really entrepreneurs but they were well-educated. My mother was a lecturer and my father was one of the first black lawyers in Chicago and eventually became a Judge. My mother eventually started collecting pieces of artwork specifically African stuff and she would showcase them in the galleries and she was very involved in the community in Chicago.
Did you have any other role models?
Yes. My tennis coach at FAMU was my role model. He was able to work multiple jobs at same time still dedicate himself to the tennis team. He earned a doctrine in Pharmacy Research and also a head coach for the tennis team.
What was your education/military experience? In hindsight, was it helpful? In what specific ways?
I earned a degree in business administration. Yes, it was helpful because it prepared me on how to run the accounting and financial aspects of a business.
What was your previous work experience? Was it helpful?
Previous work experiences have been a tennis coach at several academies and also a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. Being a tennis coach has helped me on how to run my tennis academy, I have learnt how to conduct business and performance expectancy from parents for their kids. Being a coach has also helped me on being able to have social skills on how to convince customers to join the tennis academy. Being a sales representative has helped on how to look professional at all times because appearance can mean a lot to the clients. As a sales representative I have to be time-efficient because time is everything and being able to hold meetings in an organized manner.
In particular, did you have any sales or marketing experience?
YES, being a sales representative for a big company taught me that sales reflect the company’s progress whether they making profits or loss and they could easily affect the employees performance in the company.
If I am making more sales compared to my co-workers then I can have a salary increment and get to keep my job or earn a higher position.
How important was this in starting your company?
It was important because I had to learn how the business runs especially concerning profits and losses.
It also helped me learn to how to conduct business ethically even though there is lots competition in the same business line. I also gained pricing and profit knowledge and it helped me improve my communication skills with clients.
How did you spot the opportunity? How did it surface?
Athletes were being paid lots of money. Tennis has been a growing sport in all nations, and it was starting to become famous in America especially with the rise of the William sisters. So I began by giving lessons to girls mainly of the black race. My parents were earning a decent amount of money and they helped me start up my business on a small scale. The venture is a tennis academy. At first I didn’t own any resources therefore I had to rent out tennis courts. Since I was a tennis player and have had coaching experience, I knew how to coach and decided to start off my business as a tennis coach with a friend. We were conducting tennis lessons in Schools after my 9-5 work. As I became more famous in the city, I started having more clients and required more coaching staff and I needed to have a big tennis facility I could run.
What were your goals? What were your lifestyle or other personal requirements? How did you fit these factors together?
Initially my goal was to give the kids a second chance through sporting and through tennis. Therefore I had to start off with offering cheap tennis lessons to build up my clientele. My personal goal was to mainly work with female tennis players and let them earn tennis scholarships at colleges. So basically free education, I also wanted to produce national champions.
I applied my personal skills and tennis experience and started coaching. I also would work with other coaches to get a different insight on how to become a better coach and how to help run a tennis academy.
My personal requirements were to get as much knowledge on how to become an entrepreneur and how to eventually to become a great coach. I also required equipments and funding, but some of my pro athletes friends helped me with the funding and equipment.
How did you evaluate the opportunity in terms of the critical elements for success? The competition? The
The opportunity was tennis was not a familiar sport in the city and the William Sisters really created a buzz and parents were looking for ways their kids can stay out of trouble and enroll into colleges. The competition was stiff considering I was going to be one of the few black coaches in a white-man’s sport but on the other if I was successful it would be strength.
Basically it’s an open market system as long as you have the resources skill and funding, opening up a tennis academy is possible.
Did you find or have partners? What kind of planning did you do? What kind of financing did you have?
Yes .I had partners. Some of my close friends became coaches at my academy whilst I was at my other job.
Different coaches would bring different kinds of customers. Personal funding and family funding were my sources of financing.
Did you have a start-up business plan of any kind? Please tell me about it.
Yes. I had an idea and vision. I wrote out the goals and mission of my tennis academy.
Then I had short-term and long-term goals that needed to be accomplished at a specified time.
My goals had to be realistic.
How much time did it take from conception to the first day of business? How many hours a day did you spend working on it?
It took about two years before I eventually established the business because I was concentrating on my normal job and also building a name for myself in the community. I would spent atleast 4 hours everyday and the weekends about 8 hours because I had more free time.
What outside help did you get? Did you have experienced advisors? Lawyers? Accountants? Tax experts? Patent experts? How did you develop these networks and how long did it take?
I had experienced advisors which were coaches and friends who ran tennis academies, developed the networks in my teenager years since I began playing tennis and started travelling around the world and most of my sourcing came from friends who NBA players. Of course I had my father will legal guidance.