Child on trampoline

This is my story

My business, Little Big Sports is a website that sells age specific sports equipment specially designed for children under the age of 12. The equipment we sell allows children to enjoy sport and develop the skills of the game without wielding a cricket  bat they can’t lift, kicking a football that is too heavy or trying to reach a tennis ball that bounces over their heads. With the ultimate goal of helping make sport a normal and fun part of their lives.

Constantly broadening its offering, Little Big Sports now sells equipment across a wide range of sports including football, cricket, tennis, golf, hockey and swimming as well as Super Tramp trampolines and Strider balance bikes.

I am a Mum of two; an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter. My children are the inspiration behind Little Big Sports. Not only did they give me the initial idea,  they are the reason I left the corporate world of marketing and advertising behind in order to be my own boss and to have work flexibility.

In a nutshell

Little Big Sports logo
Katie Malkinson

What gave you the idea to set up your business

My then, four year old son was responsible for the moment of inspiration which led to Little Big Sports. An avid cricket fan from the age of 18 months (and still equally as obsessed now at 11), he was bought a cricket bat he could hardly lift, let alone hit a ball with. It stopped his enthusiasm for the sport in its tracks.

It immediately became obvious to me that in order to ensure that sport is fun and a normal part of life as well as allowing children to develop their game it was vitally important that they played with equipment especially suited to their age, size and ability. However, it was hard to find age specific sports equipment and little advice was given on age suitability by online retailers. After extensive market research and developing a business plan Little Big Sports was launched.

What sort of expertise did you have in the field?

During the first fifteen years of employment, I worked for various media agencies and then on the client side for a big FMCG company running a large advertising department.

So I have extensive marketing and advertising experience but I’ve always had the benefit of a big budget so setting up a digital business on a very small budget was unchartered territory!

Roughly what sort of investment was required?

Very little! Although marketing and advertising savvy as a result of my career I am not technical and with a young family I was not prepared to take out a business loan or remortgage our house to set up the business.  

I overcame this by building the website myself on a free open source e-commerce platform (with help from my husband and a Magento handbook).  

Secondly I persuaded sports equipment wholesalers with appropriate, quality products to initially drop ship on Little Big Sport’s behalf. This was imperative as I did not want to tie up any capital in stock until I knew whether the business was scalable and which products were popular. Finally all marketing was via low cost or free channels.

I am proof that is totally achievable to set up a profitable digital business on a very limited budget!

How do you balance work around your family commitments?

I am very lucky to be in a position where I can be an involved Mum and run a growing business.

It is challenging at times to fit it all in but I love what I do, so working never feels like a chore. I work very unconventional hours often until late at night, at the weekend and I am always available even when on holiday ….but I am there for the kids after school, in the holidays and attend most of the kids sports fixtures, assemblies and the such like.  

It would be great if there were 28 hours in a day though!

What is the best thing about being your own boss?

The life/work balance it brings me is incredibly important. The best thing however is the motivation and satisfaction I get from building a business I am passionate about.

Do you plan to develop your business further?

Yes I have so many plans! I will continue to add more exciting products – coming soon are a new range of cricket bats and bikes for kids to name just two. I am also on the look out for new products with a bid to become their UK distributor.

I will continue to work towards the company vision of being the leading specialist in kids sports equipment with quality products, service and advice for parents in the UK.