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Hello Wallace Lee, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I moved to New York from China in 1979 as a child, and went to high school (Newtown High School) in Queens, NY. I later attended college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where I received my degree in electrical engineering. I started working as an engineer after graduating and later earned my MBA.
I currently manage New Jersey Badminton Club, although I still work as an electrical engineer during the day.
Describe New Jersey Badminton Club
NJ Badminton Club, LLC (“The Club”) is a full-service badminton facility that offers high quality training for badminton players at the beginner, intermediate and elite level.
NJ Badminton Club is dedicated to providing a high-quality badminton experience, and promoting the game of badminton in New Jersey. The Club seeks to cultivate and train youth to qualify for the U.S. National Badminton Team, as well as prepare intermediate to advanced junior and adult players for national and international competitions. In the past five years, more than five students per year have qualified for the USA Junior National Badminton Team, which represents the United States in the Pan American Junior Championships.
The Club is situated in a 14,000-square ft. facility in Montville, NJ, which offers an indoor facility for badminton enthusiasts to learn and practice their badminton skills all year round.
Where did your interest in badminton come from?
I have always loved sports. I played ping-pong and volleyball when I was young, and started playing tennis and golf when I came to the US. Fifteen years ago, my co-worker introduced me to badminton. Once I tried it, I loved it and was hooked!
How did NJ Badminton come about?
In the summer of 2010, I created NJ Badminton Club as a way for both seasoned and new badminton players to get together and play. I recognized that many people wanted to join the group, but there simply weren’t enough courts to accommodate everyone. As a result, I opened the new indoor badminton facility located in Montville, NJ.
What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while building “NJ Badminton Club”?
In this country, badminton is not very popular, and it’s not easy to find quality trainers locally. We have to rely on hiring coaches from other countries, such as China and Indonesia. It does take time to find international coaches and bring them here – although, sometimes we are lucky and can recruit a coach from the West Coast.
In addition, promoting the sport can be a bit of a challenge in the US since badminton is not as popular here as it is in the rest of the world (although it is an Olympic sport).
The other major challenge is finding a location suitable for playing badminton. For example, you need indoor space with high ceilings and lots of floor space. Typically, the only buildings that can work are open warehouses – but even these spaces can be difficult to find since many warehouses today are not designed with the high ceilings you need for badminton.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend most of my free time building up NJ Badminton Club, although I do have a few people who cover for me when I want to travel or relax.
Tell us a few things that we may not know about Badminton.
Badminton is great exercise. It’s one of the fastest sports because you have to run the length of the court for each move.
Most people think badminton is an outdoor sport, but professional level badminton is played in an indoor facility.
Badminton is also an Olympic sport and is becoming more popular in the US. Most east coast colleges now have a badminton club on campus, and many kids come to the club to learn badminton with the goal of playing in college.
How popular is badminton in New Jersey?
Badminton is gaining in popularity. There is a large Asian population in northern New Jersey, and because badminton is a very popular sport in Asia, parents in the area grew up playing badminton and have introduced the sport to their children.
Anything else you would like to share about starting a sports club?
The facility has to be friendly and make people feel comfortable. You cannot expect to simply open a gym and have people come. You have to put a lot of work into the facility before you open – meeting regulations, updating the facility, building a friendly atmosphere, etc.
Any tips for new entrepreneurs?
You have to be really dedicated in order to open a facility like NJ Badminton Club (or any business for that matter). When you are managing a business, you will always face problems and challenges, and you need to be able to handle pressure and learn to solve the problems that come your way. Most people give up easily when they are faced with a large obstacle, but as an entrepreneur you need to be able to work through a problem, no matter how challenging.