Good morning. A new map for Pennsylvania congressional districts includes some adjustments that land squarely on Central Pennsylvania. Narrowly approved yesterday by the state House, the new map reshuffles boundaries in Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon counties. The changes, however, are unlikely to make redistricting any less fraught.
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From left, Soccer Shots co-owners Jeremy Sorzano, Justin Bredeman and Jason Webb (photo/submitted).

Youth-soccer franchisor adds outside investor

The founders of Middletown-based Soccer Shots are hoping an outside investor can help kick their company into new territory
  • The investor is Susquehanna Private Capital. The Bala Cynwyd-based private equity firm has taken an undisclosed ownership stake in Soccer Shots, whose franchisees provide soccer programs for children ages 2 to 8.
  • Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. But the company’s existing owners -- Justin Bredeman, Jeremy Sorzano and Jason Webb -- are retaining a stake, as well as a hand in shaping the company’s future.
  • That could include branching into other, non-soccer programs for young people, Bredeman said this week in a phone interview.
  • “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore opportunities,’” said Bredeman, the CEO of Soccer Shots. “And I think Susquehanna was really the partner that we interacted with that saw a similar future."
  • Webb is vice president of strategic partnerships at Soccer Shots; Sorzano is a senior adviser and board member. 

What’s the future: As part of the investment deal, Soccer Shots and Susquehanna have created a platform they are calling Stronger Youth Brands to house youth-oriented franchise businesses, whether newly created or acquired.
  • The platform is similar to those in other markets, like food. Focus Brands, for exampkle, is the platform for pretzel franchisor Auntie Anne’s and other food brands.
  • What’s relatively new is bringing it to the world of youth-enrichment programs, said Bredeman, who used to work at Auntie Anne’s.
  • “We believe that we can apply what we’ve learned in franchising and providing excellent experiences to individuals and families,” Bredeman said. “It doesn’t have to stop at soccer.”
  • In a statement, Susquehanna exec Ken Parsons said a decline in publicly funded youth programs should create opportunities.
  • “We believe Soccer Shots is well-positioned to serve as the platform to help scale other complementary, youth concepts across the globe,” Parsons said.

Where did it start: Bredeman, Sorzano and Webb played soccer together at Messiah College (now Messiah University), one of the top Division III soccer programs in the U.S. 
  • Sorzano and Webb founded Soccer Shots in 1997. They trademarked the name and began franchising in 2005.
  • Bredeman was an early franchisee and became a co-owner in 2009. 
  • Today, the company has 24 employees and 140 franchisees in nearly 40 states and Canada. Its president is Kevin Stumpf, formerly an executive at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.
  • Revenue for Soccer Shots last year was around $67.5 million, up from $31 million during the depth of the pandemic in 2020, Bredeman said.
  • “That was encouragement to us that we’re back on track and then some," Bredeman said of the rebound.
  • The three owners started looking for an outside partner before the pandemic, he added.

What’s Susquehanna: Launched in 2016, the private equity firm is funded by the founders of Susquehanna International Group, a privately held financial services company based in Bala Cynwyd.
  • The firm invests in a variety of sectors, including business services, health care and industrial technology.
  • It also has invested in franchisors College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving, home services company Premium Service Brands and Authority Franchise Systems, which operates the Mosquito Authority and Pest Authority brands.

(Disclosure: The spouse of biznewsPA editor Joel Berg works at Soccer Shots)

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Renaissance Faire sues SBA over grant denial

A popular Lancaster County attraction has joined a growing throng of companies taking a federal agency to court after being denied grants designed to help live-event venues survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
What's the argument: According to its lawsuit, the Renaissance Faire, a d/b/a for Mazza Vineyards Inc.,  showed that it met the criteria for a grant.
  • After learning it had been denied, the company filed an administrative appeal. The appeal was rejected in November with no reason given, according to the lawsuit.
  • "A basic requirement of administrative law is that an agency provide the reasons for its decisions," according to the lawsuit.
  • An attorney for the company -- Mark Bradshaw of law firm Stevens & Lee -- declined to comment.
  • An SBA spokesperson also declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.

Was help needed: The fair argued that its revenue plunged during the first year of the pandemic, a period when government orders throttled large gatherings.

  • Revenue was down 47% in the second quarter of 2020 and 72% in the third quarter, according to the lawsuit. The company was down 40% for 2020 as a whole compared to 2019.
  • In normal years, the Renaissance Faire typically draws around 200,000 people over the course of 11 weekends from August through October. 
  • The venue also holds three festivals each year.

Who did get help: The biggest beneficiaries in Central PA were Lancaster County-based Sight & Sound Ministries and Clair Global, each of which received $10 million, the maximum amount available to be awarded, according to SBA data. Other major beneficiaries here include:
  • American Music Theatre, also in Lancaster County: $7 million. 
  • The M.S. Hershey Foundation, an independent Hershey entity that runs Hershey Garden, the Hershey Theatre and The Hershey Story, a museum about the chocolate entrepreneur: $5.9 million. 
  • Fulton Theatre, Lancaster: $4.9 million. 
  • Gettysburg Foundation, which operates a museum, visitor center and other attractions at the Civil War battlefield: $4.3 million. 
  • Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Carlisle: $2.2 million
  • Appell Center for the Performing Arts, York: $1.5 million
  • Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, Harrisburg: $782,132

Quick takes

WHO'S CHANGING ROLES: Tina Campbell, CEO of Assets, a Lancaster-based nonprofit focused on economic and community development. Campbell plans to leave Assets on Jan. 14 to take a new role with the city of Lancaster: community fund development manager, where she will secure funding for special initiatives.
  • Campbell was named co-CEO of Assets in 2017 alongside Jonathan Coleman. Coleman left for a new job in 2020 and Campbell became sole CEO. 
  • She joined Assets in 2015 as development director.
  • Assets is planning a formal search to fill her shoes. In the meantime, the nonprofit has brought on an interim CEO, Jesse Casler, current COO of nonprofit HOPE International and a former chair of the Assets board.

What's next: Assets' home at Lancaster's Southern Market has been undergoing renovation.
  • Poised to reopen Jan. 27., the market at 100 S. Queen St. will include a food hall, co-working space and an incubator for restaurant startups.

WHAT'S BEING REFASHIONED: The former home of fashion retailer The Plum in downtown Harrisburg. A partnership linked to Harrisburg-based nonprofit developer Harristown Enterprises paid $250,000 for the 3,300 square-foot Victorian-era building at 213 Locust St. and plans to carve it into three two-bedroom apartments. The total budget, including acquisition costs, is $615,000, said Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown. The nonprofit is partnering on the project with Don Mowery, a longtime construction exec.
  • "It's a small project but kind of an exciting one for us," Jones said.
  • If all goes as planned, the apartments could be ready by fall.
  • The building was erected in 1900. The Plum opened there in 1967.
  • The store closed last summer, Jones said, but owner Isaac Mishkin and his daughter, Kirsten, continue to operate another Plum location in Camp Hill.
  • Over the last couple of years, Harristown has converted several downtown Harrisburg buildings into apartments.

WHO'S HIRING: Duck Donuts. The Mechanicsburg franchise company has named a new chief development officer. Filling what is a new role for the company, Eric Lavinder will oversee business development strategy. He worked most recently as chief development officer for WOWorks, the holding company for brands such as Saladworks, Frutta Bowls and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh. 
  • Lavinder (pictured below) should be busy: Duck Donuts aims to open 40 donut shops in the U.S. and eight overseas this year. It currently operates 106 franchise locations in the U.S. and one overseas.
  • In April, Duck Donuts sold a majority stake to Radnor-based NewSpring Capital, a Radnor-based private equity firm with an interest in growing franchisors.
  • WOWorks is owned by a different private equity firm: New York-based Centre Lane Partners

Any other hires: Yes. Duck Donuts added Chad White as vice president of operations, Alyssa Martin  as creative director and Brigid Bink as digital marketing director.


WHO'S RETIRING: Scott Sipe. He plans to step down at the end of June from his role as CFO of Mantec, a nonprofit that offers consulting and other services to manufacturers in Central Pennsylvania. Sipe has worked for York-based Mantec since 1998.
  • The organization is forming a search committee to find Sipe's successor and Sipe is expected to assist with the transition, according to a press release.

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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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