When did you join APA as a League Operator?
I became a League Operator in September of 2018.
Did you play in the League prior to becoming an LO? If so, why/how did you join APA as a player?
Yes, back in 2011 I was a bartender in college and worked at a pool hall in Gainesville, Fla. Multiple teams tried to add me, but I worked League nights and was not very interested in playing.
One of the regulars asked me to join her ladies’ team; they needed a beginner, and at the time I had played a total of two racks in my life so I was perfect. The ladies league schedule played once a month which worked for my schedule, so I tried it out. Although I wasn’t good in the beginning, I was able to squeak out a few wins and had fun getting to know the poolplayers in the area.
In 2013, I moved to Orlando and planned on taking a break from pool, but our ladies’ team was doing good and they didn’t have time to replace me on the roster so I made the monthly drive back and forth to finish out the session. It was worth my while! We won the Local Championship and qualified for Vegas. Although that was supposed to be my last session playing APA, I found out I needed to stay active on an 8-Ball team to play with the girls out in Vegas.
There are not many moments you can point to that changed your life path, but this was one of mine. When I joined a team in Orlando and began playing weekly, I was introduced to 9-Ball and I fell in love with the game. My new teammates became some of my best friends and I went to an APA tournament where I ran into an old Gainesville regular who is now my husband and business partner.
What made you decide to become an LO?
My husband, Kevin, was the main reason. He knew a lot more about the APA structure than I did and saw the value in owning a League. I loved planning parties. I ran tournaments as a bartender, and I had experience in customer service so I was a good fit to help. After going through training and meeting the staff in St. Louis I knew I would have no trouble making the APA my full-time job. I quit my day job a week later and focused all my energy on growing the League.
Do you run the business by yourself or with other(s)?
From 2018 – 2021 we owned an area around Central Florida. Kevin still worked a full-time job, so a lot of the day-to-day fell on my shoulders. We had an employee who would help with score input and pickup/drop off of team envelopes. We also had volunteer division reps who would help players find teams and answer rules questions when we couldn’t be there.
I would spend my days at the computer and my evenings out at League nights. Weekends were full of events. Our team tournaments were too big for any one Host Location so we had to split North and South. Kevin would run one, I would run the other and we leaned on volunteer players to referee and paid amateur photographers to come and take photos.
Recently, we moved to North Florida and are now both working full-time in the APA business with larger locations that can host more significant events. It has been a great change of pace. We get to see a lot more of each other and get to run all of our tournaments as a team. We do have separate offices, to keep the peace, but I couldn’t imagine doing this job alone.
What is your favorite part of being a League Operator?
There is so much satisfaction in being a leader in a community like the APA. We see players from all walks of life, and we all come together every week to relax and play pool without judgment. Some players have every trophy in the world, but for some, the Division Champ trophy we give them is the first trophy they ever earned, and it means the world to them.
Some players have traveled well beyond the borders of Florida, but for many, we get to be a part of helping them through their first-ever time flying. I love watching relationships blossom between teammates and lives changed, even saved, by being a part of something I get to organize.
My life was changed for the better when I became a member of the APA, not necessarily by one person or event, but by a combination of great people and moments over multiple years and cities. I love knowing that if I do my job right, I can help build a League that will have that same positive effect on others’ lives the way it did mine. Not many jobs offer that kind of impact.
What is the hardest part of being a League Operator?
Not letting the letdowns take you down is one of the toughest battles. Sometimes you put in so much work, you move mountains to get something started, and right after it all comes together, it just falls apart. It’s very deflating and it can make you want to quit.
It’s a constant grind of bringing in new players, providing good service to current players, and trying to maintain a positive attitude when things don’t go according to plan. We rely on players and businesses to do what they say they will do, and if they don’t, we are the ones stuck to find a solution or make a tough decision. People will let you down, but you have to move on and let it go. You can’t hold a grudge and you can’t expect the next person to do the same thing.
You have to keep a positive mindset and give each person the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes you get a call with really bad news, then hang up to answer a call from a new player interested in joining and asking a lot of questions. It’s tough to set aside the negative news and give that new player a positive and welcoming first impression, but you learn to compartmentalize.
What motivates you?
This one is tough for me to answer because my motivations have adjusted over the years. At first, it was the opportunity to be my own boss and be a positive role model for players in the League. Getting those thank you messages and knowing I made something they loved even better was what got me through the day. Then it was the success, the financial independence, and the recognition from my peers that pushed me to try harder.
Now that I am in my fifth year, I would have to say it is the process of improving things that motivates me. At this point, we have learned a lot and can use that knowledge to improve not only the player experience but our operating experience. I enjoy taking an idea, breaking it down, and thinking out the logistics from start to finish. I love the process of tweaking it and getting feedback from others to add perspective and improve the idea. I love watching the idea come to life, especially when it’s successful.
My happiest moments are when others ask if they can use an idea or copy something we have done. That is when I feel the satisfaction of a job well done and want to do something bigger and better all over again. I’m still motivated by the impact and recognition, but they no longer drive me the way optimizing our workflow does.
What advice would you give to other women aspiring to be business owners?
Don’t wait for someone to come and teach you how to do things. Google is your friend, and you can basically teach yourself how to do anything nowadays. You must start somewhere, so just start looking things up and read the articles.
Find others who have been successful in what you want to do and copy their moves, there is no shame in that. Once you learn the ropes you can branch off and do new things your own way with experience and knowledge on your side.
After you get some success, don’t let your bad attitude get in the way of making money. It’s easy to get tunnel vision but it’s important to stay humble and be kind. Remember to put the business first, you don’t work for free and you deserve to get paid for the things you’re good at.
Don’t feel guilty charging people a fair price. If you’re good at something, never do it for free. Also, when you go to get your business license and EIN number, go to your state website, and don’t use a 3rd party, it will save you hundreds, and doing the research to understand how it works will help you in the long run.
Anything else you’d like to add?
“A client will become a friend quicker than a friend will become a client.” It means don’t expect all your friends to spend their money on your new business; that’s not their job. Their job is to support you and buy you wine when you have a bad day. It is your job to attract new clients and it’s your job to keep those clients by providing a good product. You will make mistakes, don’t let it discourage you, it’s part of the learning process.