Unified through Sports

This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden

Harold Hughes, Founder and CEO of BANDWAGON Photo via Harold Hughes

For Harold Hughes, Founder and CEO of BANDWAGON, becoming an entrepreneur didn’t cross his mind until he earned his MBA from Clemson University.

“My journey has been a long road because I didn’t think about entrepreneurship while I was in undergrad. Before I got to high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought about what I did well on in AP classes, which was economics, so I thought I should be a lawyer.”

After earning his bachelor’s in economics and political science from Clemson in 2008 and completing a couple internships, he realized law wasn’t for him.

Upon completion of his degree, he ended up interning at a great company in sales. While he was there, he wanted to move up, but he didn’t have a business background. It was at this time he decided to go back to school and get his MBA.

“The last course of my MBA was a strategic management course, which was a case study class. It allowed us to get case studies on Yahoo, Google and Honda, where I had to make decisions based on the information provided. I thought that I was getting good at making decisions if I were the one to make them. That is when I decided I wanted to be my own CEO.”

Once he decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur, Hughes had to figure out what top two things he was passionate about. He decided his number one passion was connecting with people, while his number two passion was sports.

“My journey has changed quite a bit since undergrad, but I see where all the decisions I’ve made have impacted me and gotten me where I am today.”

He was inspired to become an entrepreneur in the sports industry because he was interested in figuring out what brings people together, but he admits he still has much to learn.

“Sports have a unique ability to rally people. There are so many ways people are divided in the world, but sports bring us together. They bring people together in ways that nothing else in the world does.”

“As a first time entrepreneur and a young entrepreneur, there’s so much I have to learn. Aside from books, the number one way I like to learn is by talking to people. I like to lean on entrepreneurs who’ve done it before and also entrepreneurs who’re going through the same struggle to hear advice, feedback, problems, and connect to see if there’s any way we can work together.”

Connecting with people is one thing, but being able to lead a group of people is another. Hughes’s experience in previous jobs have helped him develop his management skills.

“One of the main things I do as CEO is be a leader of people. I’ve never been a manager before, but I’ve been managed in several different ways. Being able to understand what management styles work most effectively for me and figuring out what types of things I should look for in my team members was relatively easy for me.”

When comparing BANDWAGON to other ticket sellers, Hughes says BANDWAGON has been flying under the radar.

“We focus on community message boards like Facebook, Craigslist and sports message boards to help fans who are posting tickets on the site and then having to go meet the buyer in person. You no longer have to worry about if the barcode the person is selling is real or not or if the stranger you’re meeting is going to take your money and beat you up. Customers want to be able to complete the ticket transaction within the safety of their home.”

When building the ticket platform and business model, he built it with the fan in mind. For example, BANDWAGON’s website is much more user-friendly and the fee structure of the company is different than the major ticket sellers. With the BANDWAGON platform, fans can find their perfect seat — be it, in the shade, in a family-friendly section, or in the home-team section.

What inspired him to earn his MBA was to try to stand out from other candidates in the business world, but what he learned most was that time management is crucial.

“I actually completed it in the evenings while still working a full-time job. I was able to learn how to compartmentalize my time in order to balance my work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and my class at six twice a week. For the other five days, I had to find time to complete the homework and the projects. I had to figure out how to balance work during the day and class at night.”

Once he graduated with his MBA and decided he wanted to start a business, he didn’t have to quit his job to go full steam ahead to focus on the business. Instead, he took the hours he was working on his MBA and dedicated them to his business.

“I worked all day at my day job and then would go home, eat dinner, then lock in until 1 or 2 a.m. and put all those hours back into building the business, testing the idea, doing research, and once it made sense for me to quit my day job and go all in, I had already put in the work.”

When it comes down to it, Hughes believes the most valuable things for any entrepreneur is feedback and finding ways to do thing on a budget.

“A lot of people will have a great idea and they go straight to work. They’ll create a Kickstarter, spend all their savings, quit their job and they build something they think solves a problem they have and they believe millions of people must have the problem too. Instead of doing that, if they had taken some time to do research, they could’ve figured out only eight people in the world have this exact problem and seven of them can’t afford to pay for it. Therefore your product didn’t work. The feedback you get from customers is valuable.”

“Build a lean startup. Figure out how to build a company with few resources and in a most efficient way. Not building your product in a vacuum increase the probability of success. Instead of building it assuming people will come, you’re actually creating a bandwagon effect to where people are giving you feedback and now they feel like they’re a part of the creative process and will support the product because they feel like they help build it. It gives you the opportunity to build the right product sooner than you expected.”