This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Paul Schmude, owner of SportsPower Armidale. Not only is Paul passionate about all things sport, but he is an equally passionate advocate for supporting community organisations and for shopping locally.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Armidale and am the eldest of four boys. My parents moved here in 1970 and for many years my father was the UNE librarian. I attended St Mary’s School and then O’Connor before spending the last two years of school at Joey’s in Sydney. After school, I had a break – travelled around a bit before I trained in Early Childhood. Then I decided to try out working for Dave Robins at his sports store. I did that for 12 years and then my wife, Veronica, and I bought the business. We’ve now been the owners for almost 15 years. I have an interest in all sports and have played many of them, mostly rugby union, soccer and cricket. Veronica and I are the proud parents of four kids – two boys and twin girls – and that keeps us on the run!
What does SportsPower Armidale do?
There are very few sports stores like us – we’re primarily a traditional sports store. That is, we are more about the hardware – sports equipment – than we are about sports clothing, although we do provide uniforms for many sports clubs and organisations locally, regionally and at state level. We also provide a range of corporate wear for businesses. On the equipment side of things, there are not many sports we don’t cater for – bats, balls, exercise equipment, protective gear, and loads of incidentals. If we haven’t got it in store, we’ll most likely be able to get it for you quite quickly.
When did you start your business?
As I said, Veronica and I bought the business in 2005 as a going concern. It was a great opportunity and has allowed us both to continue our interest in sport – and the kids also benefit!
What have been some of the challenges for your business?
The biggest challenge was the move to the current premises. That meant that we quadrupled the store size and almost quadrupled our stock. Like all small businesses, there were some problems with cash flow in the early days, but a good accountant (Veronica) can really help to smooth those things out and keep you on track. The COVID-19 pandemic has also been challenging, particularly coming after the drought and the recent bushfire crisis. But if anything good comes out of this COVID stuff, it has to be that people in the regional areas realise the importance of shopping locally. We’re still here and it’s great to see that different sports codes are getting their respective seasons back on track, one way or another.
What do you like most about running your own business?
My big focus is on keeping things local. Running a sports store gives me the opportunity to give back to the local sports organisations and clubs that support me. Really, that is a win-win situation for everyone. We keep things local and that ensures that local kids get to participate in a huge variety of sports if they want to. Sport plays a significant role in regional areas. It’s great to be in a position to help.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Focus on the basics, the small things matter. Before you commit to running a business, do your research. Ask yourself if it is sustainable. You need to understand what is involved on many levels – you really need to know about the financial side of things and how much time you are going to need to put in. You need to be realistic about your capabilities and when you hit an obstacle, have faith that you will overcome it. The money will come. I think falling in love with your accountant is also important!
What inspires you?
The day-to-day interactions with customers and the wider community inspire me. I think the most inspiring is seeing a kid getting their first piece of sporting equipment. Even if I’m having a bad day, seeing a 5-year-old picking up a bat or a ball, or getting their first pair of football boots is inspiring. I love to see their big smiles when they have that item in their hands. That’s really why I enjoy coming into the store every day.
My wife and family also inspire me. Veronica’s work ethic is something I aspire to. I also love being a proud dad, especially when I get to take my kids to sporting events. There are a lot of sporting people who inspire me – I’m a big fan of Greg Norman and how he put Australian golf on the world stage. Mum and Dad instilled a great sense of community and family ties that my brothers and I value and aim to pass on to the next generation.
What is your secret for success?
While I don’t seem to take things seriously, I do keep communication open. I think it’s important to be both honest and respectful – and that includes not selling a highly priced item to a customer when it’s clear that a similar and cheaper item will suit their needs just as well. I think that being involved in local business and the local community in general is an important factor in SportsPower’s success.
What’s next for SportsPower Armidale?
I’ll continue to focus on raising awareness of the benefits of shopping local. Looking ahead for the business, we will be increasing the focus on teamwear and continue to sponsor and support local sports clubs. We’re in a good position to really make the coming months count for the business. It’s great to see a lot of the local sports organisations preparing to commence their winter competitions. I think the next 12 months will be about consolidation. And our website will definitely be 100% up and running!