A former police officer from Hitchin who swapped the beat for a new career in football coaching for pre-school children has won a national business award.
Paul Stokes, 40, won the ‘Microbusiness’ category at the 2015 bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards, supported by Express Newspapers, for his success with his Little Kickers franchise, which he set up in 2014.
Paul said: “It’s fair to say I didn’t expect this when I left the force! Finding Little Kickers has been truly life-changing for me and unearthed a passion for business I didn’t know was there. I feel part of something much bigger now and this award caps an incredible couple of years.”
Cathryn Hayes, who chaired the judging panel, commented: “Paul’s transformation from police officer to football coach is an inspiration for anyone thinking about making a change in their career. He’s set new standards for Little Kickers and developed programmes that have been adopted by fellow coaches overseas. His obvious passion for his business shone through.”
Andy Brattesani, head of franchising at HSBC, added: “Paul took the brave decision to leave secure employment and start up his own business so he could spend more time with his young family. His transition from copper to soccer is the perfect example of achieving work/life balance, with impressive results and an exciting future to boot.”
Despite no previous business or football coaching experience, Paul now has 27 classes over six venues, with 14 coaches teaching 300 children weekly.
In his first year of business, Paul opened more classes than any other Little Kickers UK franchisee, and has a projected turnover of £98,000 for the current financial year.
The bfa awards showcase the diversity of excellence in the franchise sector, encouraging businesses of all sizes and sectors to demonstrate their outstanding achievements.