(UPDATED) Growing up, Amanda Fernandez had always loved soccer, having played in her school’s varsity teams in her formative years. But she had to give up the sport when she flew to the US for her undergraduate studies.
“When I studied Business Economics in the University of San Diego [California], I just focused very hard on my studies and thankfully, I finished cum laude. It was also here that I was exposed to a lifestyle where anyone can play any sport at any time because there were so many facilities available,” Fernandez told Entrepreneur.com.ph.
By the time she got back to the country in 2011, her academic background could well enough support her dream as a 13-year-old: to get everyone involved in sports.
Like how many young Filipino boys can go on hours playing the sport, Amanda has the same love for soccer too. It not only made her better physically, but the sport also molded her values as well.
“Sports has helped me have a better life. I’ve made better decisions, better values. My passion is to help people realize the beauty in life through it,” she said.
FMF Development Corporation, the lot owner of the location today of SPARTA (Sports and Recreational Training Area) was looking to turn the 1,998-square meter warehouse in Mandaluyong City into something more profitable. And the young Fernandez had an idea.
But booking a meeting with the company board did not come easy.
“Since SPARTA was the first of its kind, I had to come up with my own business plan and it took three years before I even got my father convinced,” she said.
A “yes” from her father, Enrique C. Fernandez, FMF chairman of the board of directors, will not cut it of course—it was a decision to be made by the majority.
Enrique—son of the sixth governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, Jose B. Fernandez Jr.— heads Eramen Minerals which has a site in Zambales.
“Here I am, a 26-year-old defending my idea to them. It was really scary because the board composed of business sharks but it made me realize how much I wanted this. Fortunately, I got their yes,” she said.
The board agreed that she own 20% of the company with the financing loaned from his father, but even that came with a twist.
“If you knew the Fernandezes as bankers, you have to pay what you borrow with interest. The arrangement I have with my dad is a business transaction and I don’t want it to be any different,” she said. “I don’t want him to cut me any slack because it would teach me that if I open a new business, I can be professional and I wouldn’t need to use my connections or my last name because my dad is not like that, so why should I be?”
Even when Amanda just came home from the US, she created her own semi-professional female soccer team, Sikat Football Club without any help from her parents.
That meant knocking on sponsors’ doors, booking field space for practice, and facilitating events for brand awareness. It was hard work indeed.
“That was a humbling experience because the sponsors knew my family background and my parents could have easily supported my venture but they wouldn’t,” she said. “I believe they wanted to teach me that money does not come easy.”
Building SPARTA came with a hefty cause, especially when Amanda strived for it to be a state-of-the-art facility meant for athletes and sports enthusiasts. The facility not only boasts a FIFA-approved indoor soccer field, it also has a gym facility, a calisthenics clinic, and offers karate, yoga, and Zumba classes.
“This is a passion project which I believe can make money. When we first opened, my 24-hour indoor soccer field already has booked schedules. I believe there’s a market, especially when I was once part of it. Space is a big advantage,” she said.
A crossfit gym and a sports retail store have recently opened and while housing a considered competitor in the facility seem counterintuitive for an entrepreneur, Amanda believes this is more than just a business, but a push for the industry.
When his grandfather closed some banks as central bank governor, the move earned him enemies, but for the banking industry, it was the right thing to do. It is somehow similar for Amanda, for her business endeavor aims to promote health and wellness among Filipinos.
"I’m here for the same thing: to lift the wellness and sports industry, and I’m not going to do that by destroying anybody,” she said.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is Entrepreneur.com.ph's editorial assistant / staff writer. Follow her on Twitter, @elyssalopz.