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Start a Sports Business

You don't have to be a pro athlete to make it in the big leagues.

When you think about people who do what they love for a living and get paid the big bucks, who comes to mind? Rock stars? Movie stars? Athletes?

Guess what? You don't have to be a pro to turn your favorite sport into a money-making venture. In fact, lots of 'treps have done just that. Take brothers Sean, Brendan and Paddy O'Connell. The trio started the O'Connell Basketball Camp in River Forest, Illinois, several summers ago.

Although none of the brothers played organized basketball after grade school, they often enjoyed playing "pickup" games at home with other teens in the neighborhood. They realized they had the skills to teach grade-schoolers basketball basics such as dribbling, passing, shooting and rebounding.

Start-up costs were minimal--the O'Connells already had a hoop and several basketballs. And their first clients--the 20 boys and girls who signed up for the first two-week session--came from their own neighborhood. The business has earned about $2,500 each summer.

Taking the Bait
Rick Chase knows something that many successful sports-related business owners know--there's a great market in sports equipment. And for 16-year-old Chase, that "equipment" is none other than fishing worms, both plastic and live.

Chase has been running Little Rick's Bait & Tackle in Weedsport, New York, since age 10. He buys minnows, earthworms, hooks and fishing gear from wholesalers. His family owns a marina on the river, so they help him hold down operating costs by not charging rent or utilities for his shop.

"Some customers complain that my prices are a lot higher than Wal-Mart," Chase says. "The way I compete with the big stores is to offer customers more convenience. I'm right on the river, and Wal-Mart is miles away. I also run specials--like when they buy two packs of hooks, they get one free."

On the Rebound
There's also a market for inventing or improving on existing sports equipment. And that's exactly the kind of a sports business 17-year-old Chris Haas, of Murrieta, California, has capitalized on.

One day, Haas noticed that many of his classmates were holding basketballs incorrectly and, as a result, not shooting very well. That's when he did something both spontaneous and ingenious--he stuck his hands in poster paint, then put them on a ball in the correct position.

His idea captured the attention of Sportime Inc., an Atlanta manufacturer. Haas' Hands-On Basketball is now sold internationally and brought in a cool $50,000 its first year on the market. It comes in left- and right-handed versions and can be found at a number of retail locations.

So even if you don't think you've got a future as a professional sports player, there are plenty of businesses in the same arena. And who knows? Maybe you'll share Haas' dream of one day owning a sports team.

Next Step
  • Read Entrepreneur's story about how Joe Kivett thought outside the box to make it big in a sports-related business.
  • Courtney and Erica Enders, two of the youngest racecar drivers in the United States, are getting paid to pursue their favorite sport. Read about them on YoungBiz.com
  • Meet Todd and Lori Colbert, a motorcycle stunt team known as Team X-treem, on YoungBiz.com
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