Lockdown Economy Albania in a Sports School for Children with Delon Sina
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Marios Malaj
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world. This interview was done in collaboration with Epoka University.
In this interview, recorded in February 2021, we talked with Delon Sina, the CEO of Sauk Sport Club which was established in February 2020, shortly before the lockdown occurred. This business provides a training course program which is focused on training sessions, like football, volleyball and basketball, for children from the age of 7 to 14 years old. The interview was held in order to have a closer look at this business with the aim of understanding how it was affected by the lockdown and how it managed to stay viable in the market despite the circumstances. Delon addressed the actions under his management and also talked about consumer behaviour during this difficult period.
Let’s begin with a short introduction of your business.
Delon: Of course! I am part of the management group or I could say CEO of this business, called “Shoqata Sportive Sauk” (Sauk Sportive Club). We have established the club in February 2020 and it is located in the countryside of Tirana, in “Sauku I vjeter”. It is a sports association that is running on the path of an academy. We offer sports training courses for children that are in different groups from the age of 7 to 14 years old.
At this moment, our staff consists of four employees, which are: the president, who is competent in the documents and the legal part. Then it is me, the manager, who administrates the operations of the business and also for the economical area. There is also a group of 2–3 people who are the trainers and they exercise children of different ages in sports such as volleyball and basketball. We also have some new interns who are now learning to become trainers for the children.
Regarding our clientele, at the moment there are about 30 to 36 trainees, but we are trying to grow bigger day by day.
Kantonisa: If we could talk a little about the strategy of the lockdown. We were part of an emergency situation and many companies could not actually cope with it and as I heard from you, you were just in the first steps of your business shortly before March, when the quarantine started. We would like to know what you did differently throughout the isolation.
Delon: Honestly, we were caught by surprise about everything. When we opened the business, we did not know that in just a little bit we would be part of a lockdown. And in the first days that we went in quarantine, we decided to use the strategy of Social Media in order to operate online. Therefore, the whole time we were trying to post exercises for children so they could do a workout in their houses. Also about the children that were not able to be part of the social media, we tried traditional methods by writing all the exercises in different papers.
I could say that the best part, regarding these methods, was the fact that the children were exercising, even though they were at home and their desire to train was not decreasing despite the lockdown. On the other hand, the fact that the sessions were not on-site, slowed down the rapid progress of the trainees and their teamwork who, in a closer future, could have a great volleyball or basketball team, competing in the Albanian Championships.
So, I could say that in general, the whole business was having a hard time: us as employees and the business itself because we were operating online the whole time and there was not any other move that we could make.
Xhesika: Let’s say that the full lockdown lasted for about 3 to 4 months but many businesses found it difficult to work in the post-lockdown as well. I would like to know how the work is going right now.
Delon: Actually, right now, we are trying to “survive”, for many reasons. Regarding our clientele, there are some children who show interest, while some others are still not very comfortable because of the situation we are living in but I could say we are growing little by little. In fact, new clients were not our goal during the lockdown. At that time, we were trying to “hold on” to the customers we already had. But after the lockdown ended, new potential customers were actually interested to be part of the club.
Still, I believe we need to focus on a better strategy to raise more awareness for our training groups. I really hope that our customer base eventually will grow into large volleyball, football and basketball teams.
Xhesika: Which are the 3 things that you as a business need the most right now? What could help you?
Delon: As I mentioned, our business is in the surviving phase. What we need the most is financing. We are trying to find financial support as quickly as possible. Also, since we are located in the countryside, we are trying to move to another area of Tirana and this is not very easy. Low finances make it harder for us to find good equipment so the children will be happy with us in the training sessions.
Kantonisa: Since you are a company that mostly works with children it is logical that you need contact with the parents. I wonder if you had a kind of feedback from their sides. Are they willing to pay the same amount as before or have they had difficulties too?
Delon: We have always had contact with the parents if the children are not able to attend the session. There are also a lot of delays with the payments. Sometimes there are delays of 2 or 3 months but we are trying to not punish anyone because of the situation so everyone can be equal and not make any child feel bad. If they are not able to pay the whole amount, we comprehend them and we are trying to reduce the price to a smaller amount.
Kantonisa: We want to thank you very much. We have Isena here too but she was not able to turn on the camera or the microphone but we wanted to thank you for her too. Do you want to add something?
Delon: No, I just wanted to thank you for making me part of this interview.
About the Guest
Sports Association Sauk is an association which has the goal to train children in sports such as volleyball and basketball. The ages that are included in the groups start from 6 years old to 18 years old. We offer training courses specializing in teamwork and enhancement of personal traits. We have been giving courses since February 2020.