With the sports industry’s market size growing to just over $73 billion in 2019, there is no lack of opportunity to create and innovate within the business of sports.
The question is, where does one start?
A quick Google search of “how to start a business” will yield approximately 11.6 million results. The traditional path of attending a top business school seems to be the road less traveled for many entrepreneurs today. Current and former professional athletes like Kobe Bryant and Alex Morgan have continued to turn heads by launching businesses and building venture capital portfolios, almost making the process look easy.
Let’s take a look at some advice from three up-and-coming sports startup founders on creating opportunity and reaching success as a business owner.
“Entrepreneurship is dealing with failure; it’s one thing for you to create an idea that you like, but it doesn’t always stick with people,” states Chad Kayner, co-founder of 4est Ventures, an organization that transforms athletes into entrepreneurs and connects startups to potential investors. “It’s important to check your ego at the door — and understand that the stakes are much higher with your failures. You don’t truly learn until you go through it.”
Failure is, in fact, a harsh reality when it comes to launching a business, with the Small Business Association stating that 50 percent of businesses fail during the first five years.
“Creating and selling things are fantastic, but you have to have the business model figured out in order to become sustainable,” said Kayner.
One of the top reasons small businesses fail is due to cash-flow problems.
“It’s survival; you have to use everything in your toolkit. If you haven’t been placed in that place before, entrepreneurship will bring it out.”
As Blake Masters and Peter Thiel say in the book “Zero To One”: “All failed companies are the same; they failed to escape competition.”
Starting from ground zero can be a huge challenge. Yet, it was failure that has helped Kayner build a community of mentors and a high-functioning organization. While it may seem like the odds are against entrepreneurs, it’s the ability to adapt, both yourself and the business, that can open the additional opportunity.
Be Prepared To Adapt
When launching a business, there isn’t always a direct next step or path to take. Rae Emard, founder of Athent, a mobile app that helps athletes and creatives easily understand and manage their finances, investments, and personal brands, shared how, “we grow up and go through our education system and come find out in business there are a million different ways to find what you’re looking for and get to where you want to be.”
Dominique Easley, a defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, is also an investor in Athent and claims that he’s fallen in love with the process of entrepreneurship. Providing a solution to the needs of financial literacy and brand development that professional athletes face has given these entrepreneurs purpose.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“For me to enter that realm was difficult. It was too awkward for me, but then I started seeing how the app was evolving and started to understand the details and gain confidence,” stated Easley.
Emard and Easley both had to adapt, even if that meant moving across the country to find greater opportunity and be surrounded by the right people. “I came to Los Angeles and literally went from crowdfunding to a functional app,” stated Emard.
In the process of adaptation also comes growth. Both Emard and Easley have helped position Athent to receive the endorsement of prominent current and former NFL players.
Embracing failure while learning to adapt is one thing, but lasting success is built through remaining patient.
The late William Feather, author of “The Business of Life” stated that “unnecessary hustle is one of the American follies. We hustle at both work and play, and consequently enjoy neither.”
Hard work is not to be overlooked or ignored, but it is focused energy over time that has the power to produce lasting results.
“It’s patience, and understanding the balance between executing and always knocking on doors. We need time to make really good decisions, and trusting your gut feelings comes from experience and patience,” shared Kayner.
Jumping to a quick conclusion may feel like it can give you an edge, but it can cause you to create an artificial timeline. When an idea fails to align with that timeline, the mind can run wild.
“Control what you can control; solve what you see is the problem,” stated Easley.
Ideas are powerful, and the sports-business landscape is wide open for those willing to bring an idea to life. Enthusiasm, passion, and grit are all key characteristics of startup founders, but in order to sustain a business, be prepared to embrace failure, adapt, and remain patient in your pursuit.