Secrets Behind a Successful Startup

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Ready to take the plunge and start your own business from a hobby or interest you are passionate about? If you are, then you might be struggling with these two common startup concerns:

  • What sort of business should I start?
  • How would I even go about starting a business?

When it comes to passion and business, there are two schools of thought.

On one hand, you have someone like Jeff Bezos. In the early 1990s, when he discovered that the Internet was growing at 2,300% a year, he decided that he had to take advantage of it and start an online business. His research led him to conclude that selling books was the way to start. Sure, he loved the idea of being an Internet pioneer, but his decision to sell books was a pragmatic one.

On the other hand, look at this quote from Steve Jobs:

People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up.

One person who falls into the Jobs camp, who has learned how to take his passion and turn it into a business, is Brett Rosin of the Rant Sports Network. In four short years, he and his partner Grant Brown have turned their love of sports into one the best, and fastest growing, sports networks around.

Ask them what they want, then give them what they want…

In college, Rosin was a major league prospect with a 92 mph fastball… until he blew out his arm. Two elbow surgeries later; he decided to turn his love of sports into a business. In February of 2010, he and Brown began to build and run a collection of sports team blogs, which would quickly swell to 155. Before long, they merged them all into a centralized hub known today as RantSports.

From the start, Rant Sports has an edge that made it stand out. I once heard of a business coach who gave a new entrepreneur this piece of advice: “Ask them what they want, then give them what they want.” And what is it sports fanatics want? Usually it is the chance to argue sports. So, that is what Rant gave them.

There is no shortage of sports sites out there that report sports scores and news, but what Rant does differently and better is that they encourage their writers to have an opinion, defend it, and debate it. And they clearly have fun doing so.

This sort of engagement allowed Rant Sports to get traffic from the get-go. By December of their first year, their combined blogs had 300,000 unique visitors, even though the company still had only two employees.

But to grow you need money, and even though Rant Sports had traffic, advertising dollars, and a sustainable business model, it still needed funding to get to the next level. Like so many new entrepreneurs, the founders of Rant Sports turned to friends and family and raised a seed round of about $300,000. This allowed them to bring in a few more employees and a lot more writers and grow the site even more.

And today? As of October 2013, RantSports has reached 96 million people with over 1.4+ billion page views in 2013. In November, they raised a round of investment of $3 million from Hudson Bay Capital and they launched a Lifestyle brand, Rant Lifestyle and Rant Chic.

When I asked Brett what advice he had for entrepreneurs wanting to turn their own passion into a business, he made a few important points:

1. “Be willing to sacrifice.” It takes a lot of time and energy to start a business from scratch, and “you have to be willing to give up some time on other things to devote the energy necessary to get the business off the ground.”

2. “Grind away.” Keep at it. “Not all months were great months at the start, but we kept working at it.”

3. “Learn.” There is a lot to know when you start a business, so it’s important he says to study your craft, network, go to conferences, and get the help you need.

So, yes, you bet, starting a business from scratch is very possible, as long as you are a fan of what you do.