Kyla Woodcock has no fear about mixing business with pleasure. Just ask the scores of Londoners who’ve signed up for the seasonal sports all co-ed leagues organized by the Richard Ivey School of Business MBA grad’s 2-year-old Forest City Sport and Social Club.
“When I moved to London, I wanted to create the opportunity for adults here to experience the same opportunity to meet people, have fun and stay fit,” she said of the club modeled after a similar one she joined while living in Ottawa.
The club, which opens a new office May 1 in a renovated historic east London building at 890 Dundas St., organizes recreational sports leagues and sport-themed social events. Billed as a place to find fun, fitness and friends it has grown to 4,200 members, mostly in their 20s and 30s, but with some in their 50s.
Coming from an entrepreneurial family – her mom has an executive search company, step-dad is in engineering consulting, dad owns a trucking company – Woodcock seemed destined to create a business. She just took awhile to realize what she wanted to do and the Ivey MBA program, with what she calls a “curriculum built for entrepreneurs,” was the ticket.
After earning her first degree, a BA in Sociology from the University of Waterloo in 2001, Woodcock travelled in Southeast Asia for two years and worked in human resources for technology companies, living in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, California and Saskatoon.
“It was a difficult decision and in some ways a no-brainer to go back to school after working,” she said. “The strategy and entrepreneurialism courses I took at Ivey, in addition to the consulting and case work for real world employers, were most useful in gaining the skills and knowledge to start the Forest City Sport and Social Club.”
Woodcock’s partner, Paul Rolo, shares her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. He is enrolled as a part-time student at Western pursuing a degree in management and organizational studies while running his company, Oneimage Solutions.
Growing up in the small town of Sebringville, Woodcock knew the value of community and sewed it into the fabric of the Forest City Sport and Social Club. The club takes pains to rent facilities from community organizations such as the London Boys’ and Girls’ Club, schools and churches. Courts at Western were rented for a beach volleyball league.
While not a service club, fitness gym, career networking centre or even a singles bar, Forest City Sport and Social Club does have common elements with each. The non-competitive leagues appeal to both skilled and non-skilled people and provide off-court, post-game social experiences at restaurants. It is, Woodcock said, “recess for adults.”
The membership ratio of men to women is about 60-40 and Colin Galloway, the club’s sport manager, notes a large number are Western alumni who have stayed in the city.
The club’s charitable causes include Emerging Leaders and the United Way’s GenNext.
For part-time staff facilitating leagues, Woodcock often turns to Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Associate professor Jennifer Irwin is among the club’s fans.
“I am in admiration and appreciation for Kyla Woodcock and her vision of introducing the FCSSC to the community,” Irwin said. “As a physical activity researcher, I am so delighted that the club provides so many opportunities for folks to engage in physical activities in a fun and supportive environment while at the same time keeping the couch at bay.”