December 7, 2011
By Jennifer Willis
The new Colangelo School of Sports Business kicked off with a bang Wednesday night as it hosted its first event, a panel discussion involving four sports business owners who successfully started their own companies in a competitive field.
Moderated by KTAR sportscaster Paul Calvisi, the panel answered questions that sports business students had submitted earlier, offering both business and sports advice based on experience at turning ideas into fully functioning strategies.
All four panelists shared with the audience the difficulties they had faced in starting a business, including the low points of being rejected and working in the red.
With determination, they said, it all pays off in the end.
"You have to have some practical experience in what you want to do," said Gary Knudson, CEO of AdSport Agency, which works with companies such as Chevron to find sports sponsorships and advertising placements. "You also have to have a short-term memory. You're going to fail sometimes. But what's important is what you do after that failure."
Rob Yowell is the founder and president of Gemini Sports Group, which handles naming rights and title sponsorships.
"Being an entrepreneur, you have to be able to snap off the rearview and sideview mirrors," he said. "You can never look back and wonder if that was a good idea or not. You can learn from your mistakes, but you need to always be pushing forward and not second-guessing something you did in the past."
The best advice from the panelists: Have a passion for what you are doing. That is the only way you will be able to push through the rough times and keep going, they said.
"It's grueling work," said Gina Marie Scarpa, founder and CEO of the Native American Basketball Foundation, which works to advance Native American athletes in sports. "You have to believe in what you're doing and love what you're doing, because then it's not work. That's what helps you get up in the morning."
Matching a skill set to a job is important, according to Mark Tudi, CEO of Sports Search and Sports Careers.
"Once you know what your strengths are," Tudi said, "you will gravitate toward those strengths and end up much more successful."
All agreed that networking and not being afraid to talk to people are important.
"There's no real road map to being successful," Yowell said. "Start gaining experience and developing relationships now. You never know where people you meet along the way will end up.
"If you start building relationships now, opportunities and doors will find you later."