From the February 2007 issue of Startups

What: Online job board for graduating and former collegiate athletes
Who: Chris Smith of Athletes4Hire.com
Where: Overland Park, Kansas
When: Started in January 2006
Startup Costs: $50,000

As a former college athlete, Chris Smith knows what it's like to be competitive, dedicated and ambitious. Not only does he understand the challenges athletes face on the field or the court, but he also knows firsthand the struggles of finding a job and transitioning into the work force.

Last January, Smith launched Athletes4Hire.com, an online job board designed to connect former collegiate athletes and employers. Citing a 2005 study by the federal government, Smith says more than 400,000 students participate in collegiate athletics every year, and since 1986, these students have been graduating at higher rates than the average student body.

"I wanted to provide an opportunity for recent graduates to have a website where they could be united with employers who seek their skill sets," says Smith, 27. "There are enough companies out there that understand the sacrifice and determination it takes to be a student athlete. They want to get [jobs] in front of our demographic."

Only graduating or graduated college athletes from four-year schools can register on the site, but most companies can post jobs. The narrow niche gives job seekers direct access to opportunities targeted to their talents and provides employers with a group of hardworking individuals possessing skills learned as a student athlete, such as time management and teamwork.

Smith, who partnered with former Kansas State University defensive end Dirk Ochs, 33, uses experiences from his days as a center for University of Hawaii and Missouri State University football to promote his company's service. "Every time we're selling to an employer, we're selling ourselves, because we [are] all former collegiate athletes," Smith says. "We can be extremely passionate about what we're doing because we're selling who we are."

Though Smith initially planned to focus marketing efforts on the Midwest, Athletes4Hire.com's success has garnered national accounts with several companies and job postings from every state. The company, which projects 2007 sales of $500,000, has already had more than 100 employers post jobs and more than 200,000 site visitors.