It was 2005. I had just returned from Iraq after a year and a half as a civilian contractor and that was after I had spent eight years in the Marines. I had my fill of working for the man. I wanted to be an entrepreneur and march to the beat of my own drum. (And by my own drum I mean I didn’t want to be marching on a parade deck to the beat of a marching band’s drum.)
I met my wife and she was studying to be a personal trainer/pilates instructor. While I was helping her study and getting through all my jokes about suffering and sacrifice through Pontius Pilates, I realized I knew a boatload about fitness from my days as an athlete and Div I college wrestler at Rider University.
So my first foray into the sports/fitness business was through fitness. I will write a post about the niche I discovered and did pretty well with within the fitness business later. But I won’t get sidetracked with this experience right now other than to say I wet my beak with it and entrepreneurism.
From here I jumped in a completely different direction and worked for my father in-law in the paving and sealcoating business. It was a radical change but one that would prove to be most fortunate. I ended up spending two seasons slugging it out on asphalt driveways running a sealcoating crew. I was flying through 5+ driveways a day and doing it all with a brush by hand. It didn’t seem like it at the time but this experience would prove to be fortunate. I’ll get to that in a couple paragraphs.
After a couple seasons, I realized my father in-law was a “Stay small, keep it all” kind of guy and wasn’t retiring anytime soon. So we had a talk one day and agreed I would close out the season and then go another direction.
One day while I was closing out the season, a customer said, “Hey Bill, do you know anyone that can remove a basketball hoop?” It was this question that changed the course of my life. He looked at me and I looked at the customer and said, “I can do it for you.” She said, “How much?” I said, “$100.” Thankfully, this was a very easy removal.
Then, like when you buy a new car you start to see them everywhere, I started to see old rusty basketball hoops everywhere. So I printed out some plain black and white flyers that said, “Basketball Hoop Removal” and I drove all over the place and taped them to old ugly basketball hoops.
Admittedly, people called and yelled at me, “What do you mean? My hoop is perfectly fine.” (They’re crazy. I never put a flyer on anything that wasn’t a piece of junk.)
This marketing campaign would get me a 5% return. For every 100 flyers I delivered, I would get 5 jobs. My driveway was starting to look like Sanford and Son Salvage but I was doing pretty well. Things started to grow from here.
A customer would ask me, “If you help me remove one, can you also help me install one?” Sure!
Another customer asked, “Can you help me find a basketball hoop?” So I asked a friend who worked in a sports store, “Hey, can you help me find a hoop for this customer?” He said, “You install hoops?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Great. We’ll give you all of our hoop installs.” So I was off to a good start pretty quickly.
Things just started to steadily grow from there. One customer asked if I could paint lines. “Sure” I said. And then I figured it out.
Then I received a call from a school and the athletic director said, “I know you’re going to tell me no but I’m going to ask anyways. Do you install wall-mounted hoops?” I said, “Sure.” This is where things took a big leap. He said, “I need you to do the job in a few months but, in the meantime, send me your Business Registration Certificate and Certificate of Insurance.” This gave me the time to put all the paperwork together.
To double back a few paragraphs on the sealcoating experience, I stopped by Sealmaster to speak with a guy I used to cross paths with when I worked for my father in-law to just let him know what I was doing. He said, “Hey, you’ve done a lot of sealcoating haven’t you?” I said, “Millions of square feet.” He said, “The mixing and application of acrylic tennis court paint is basically the same thing. You have the hard part down which is the application. If you get studied up, we can send you a lot of work because we’re dying for applicators.” So that was my start in the acrylic painting and backyard court painting business.
Since 2005, I’ve sold and installed several millions of dollars in sports equipment and painting projects.
I think you can see from my experience, the most important word that helped me succeed through the years and get into different niches is the word, “Sure.” I keep trying new projects.
I’ve tried a lot of different things and have a pretty good knowledge base in a variety of fields from:
- digging ditches
- basketball hoops
- backstop netting
- selling equipment
- installing school equipment
- wall-mounted hoops
- wall padding
- divider curtains
- ceiling-suspended hoops
- and much, much more
- tennis courts
- backyard basketball courts
- pickle ball courts
- Guerilla marketing
- internet marketing
- business networking
- finance and taxes
- workers comp
- liability insurance
- and much, much more.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed a trip down my memory lane and I hope you enjoy the site and the advice I give along the way. As always, if you need help, just let me know.