When Sam Davy pulled up at a school in Indonesia something serendipitous happened.
Hundreds of people were gathered for the final of a primary school soccer game. Kids stretched and warmed up. Parents prepared picnics and BBQs.
Davy stuck around to watch, but preparations went on, and on, and on.
“When are they going to start?” Sam asked his driver, who then went off to investigate.
“They’re waiting for one of the coaches to come, he has the only ball.”
“Oh my God, this is unbelievable,” said Davy. “We can solve this problem.”
The founder and CEO of PARK Social Soccer Co went over to his van and pulled out a bunch of soccer balls.
“It was just unreal, we couldn’t believe it, the timing was unreal.”
Timing is crucial right now for Davy.
As the timer counts down (5 days, 11 hours, 15 mins as I type) on an equity crowdfunding platform, Davy is ever-closer to raising the 750k in capital he needs to take PARK to the next level and realise his dream of becoming the leading soccer brand for the next generation. A brand Davy hopes will help change the world with a very simple premise – buy a ball and PARK will pass an identical ball to a disadvantaged child.
Choosing soccer was a natural fit for Davy.
“I found myself thinking about what it is that I wanted to do for the next 20 years of my life, essentially, and what my skill sets were. I come from a design background, brand product development and retail. That’s my skill set,” says Davy who is the former global creative director of Apple and worked closely with Steve Jobs.
“So I thought how can I put my skills to good use and do something that’s meaningful and creates impact and is fun and engaging?”
Davy’s wife asked him what he would do if money was no object. Probably coach kid’s soccer, he replied.
“I love soccer. I’ve always played soccer. My kids play, I coach the game. I could find kids who couldn’t afford access to the game and just teach them the game. That’s probably when I’m the happiest – standing in the middle of the field teaching kid’s soccer.”
From that conversation the idea percolated to something simpler and more specific to his to skills – just the ball.
PARK was launched in 2015 by Davy and Tara Montoneri, former US general manager of Crumpler/
Nutting out the details and finding reputable manufacturers and partners took the best part of a year and was a side project to the Davy’s day job. Until it reached a point when he had to make a decision – get on the field or stay on the sidelines.
“So I bit the bullet, went for it, ordered a few thousand soccer balls. Our first year we sold 5,000 balls roughly then donated the same amount. The response was just awesome. Lots of people really jumping on board. The goodwill was really great. Parents were loving it, kids were loving it, soccer clubs started getting balls, some really good retailers started jumping on board,” says Davy.
The balls are passed on via partner organisations, often charities, working with kids all over the world. Sometimes PARK finds them, sometimes they find PARK.
In Australia, Davy approached Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and now PARK provides soccer balls for ASRC’s football programs and as Xmas gifts for kids who are too old for toys donated by the public.
PARK recently sent 500 balls into refugee camps in northern Jordan via a charity set up by a US military serviceman. “He’s a passionate soccer player and he’s seen what the game does to benefit kids in conflict areas and he reached out and said, ‘I have this charity, and this is what we’re doing, could we get soccer balls and I’ll distribute them here.’”
As the business – which Davy describes as for profit, for purpose – grew, he could see its potential for expansion, but he needed more funding. To this point, Davy had used his own savings to fund PARK and was not drawing a salary from the business.
Early on Davy had spent time with impact investment groups and organisations that incubated social enterprises, but he felt that although PARK was young in terms of its growth cycle, it was developed in other ways – they knew who they were, they’d figured out their manufacturing process, their margins etc.
Not only did PARK have a very strong brand identity (checkout the distinctive design of the balls) and the manufacturing and distribution sorted, but they were very clear on the impact – that soccer can change the world. Simply owning a ball could change a kid’s life and have positive flow-on effects on the communities those kids live in.
“A lot of the start-up systems weren’t really relevant,” says Davy. “But I couldn’t get there on my own, my bank account was depleted.”
That’s when Davy had the idea to play to PARK’s strengths. “It’s a community brand at heart, so I thought maybe if I reach out to the community, people would want to invest small amounts or larger amounts and jump on board for the ride. That was what led me to the crowdfunding route.”
Again the timing was good as crowd-sourced funding legislation passed in September 2017 and ASIC granted Australian Financial Services licences to seven platforms in January this year. PARK chose to list with Birchal, sister platform to established crowdfunding site Pozible.
Through this capital-raising round PARK hopes to expand the Pass-A-Ball Project, launch an apparel and accessories range, grow online sales in Australia, the United States and Europe, and expand its independent retail network.
At some point down the track Davy also hopes to start manufacturing, at least in part, the balls closer to the points of impact so that PARK can create jobs as well as deliver balls.
“That’s what we’re working towards at the moment. That’s the kind of the next phase, but it’s about finding those partners in countries and having the resources to make sure that the quality control and the working standards are high.”
But back to the present. I check the crowdfunding site. $229,735. And still five days to go.
For more information about PARK, visit the website.