If you asked a room full of high school students if they would prefer to be a professional athlete or an agent for athletes, chances are high that the majority of students would answer with the former. It’s not very surprising when you consider the near-instant fame and money that comes with being a professional sports star, and the good that those advantages can help bring to others.
What many may not realize is that the same amount of good – if not more – can also be done on the representation side of the professional sports industry.
From the Classroom to the Pitching Field
When I attended law school at the University of Miami in the late ‘80s, the college’s football team was dominating the NCAA and cranking out national championships. Needless to say, top NFL prospects were all over our campus.
Because we were in law school and not pursuing a career as athletes ourselves, a good friend and I thought it would be an awesome idea to become agents and represent some of those up-and-coming players. It seemed like it would be a very attractive and, potentially, incredibly lucrative way to utilize my law degree.
Just as many young aspiring entrepreneurs find out, however, responsibilities at the time got the best of us. Rather than embarking on that entrepreneurial venture, my buddy and I both got jobs at big law firms so that we could start earning a living, forcing us to temporarily put our dream aside.
But after several years of putting in 60-70+ hours a week to make other people money, both my friend and I decided it was time to chase that dream. So we left our firms, hung a shingle, and started recruiting football players. At the time, we did this by going to college games, waiting outside of stadiums, finding the parents wearing the players’ number that we were targeting, and would make our pitch.
The thing is: it actually worked!
Soon, my friend and I were off and running, representing several 1st-round NFL draft picks and building a great agency. After several years, I personally decided to add baseball to my sports management business, and my partner and I parted ways.
Shortly thereafter, I hired a former baseball player from the University of Florida and we began to recruit baseball players together. He came in with a couple of clients under his belt, one of which was David Ross (the current manager of the Chicago Cubs) whom we have represented for his entire career.
My business partner and I have now been at it as sports agents for baseball players for over 20 years and have built a successful agency together. What I didn’t realize at the time I made my career shift into sports management, was just how important my experience and lessons learned in that industry would be. It has given me the ability to help impact other people, companies, and industries just like those philanthropic athletes I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Family Always Comes First
How many times have you heard someone say, “nothing worthwhile is easy”? From childhood, we’re taught that we can accomplish anything, but we better be prepared to work hard, stay focused, and remain committed to the goal even in the face of fear and failure.
Failure is one of the most valuable teachers you will ever have, as it is by failing that we learn how to succeed. No one, I think, is scared of success. Rather, they are fearful of the possibility of failing on their way to achieving success. Success takes time and is not usually an overnight matter.
These are lessons that I always tried to impress up my children while they were growing up. As busy as I always was, I made it a priority to put my family first and to do everything I could to spend as much time as possible with them.
I think they always knew how hard I worked at building my business and they greatly appreciated all the time that I found for them despite my crazy schedule. I knew that one day it would all pay off when they were adults, pursuing careers and having families of their own.
About three years ago, I decided it was time to try and teach my sons, now adults, about my experiences in business, and to try and start a business with them. Initially, the plan came together with my oldest, Jordyn, a transgender male. After much research, we decided we wanted to get into the CBD industry.
We both believed that with a great line of CBD products, we could build a business that would help people. Ultimately, we founded Ziggy’s Naturals, which has since become a recognized and very reputable national CBD company. Since our inception, my other son Jake has joined the business and we are now all working together to continue to build our brand.
During our first several years in business, Jordyn, Jake, and I have come to learn how much our products help support so many members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We have received so much feedback from our customers in that community, which has helped us shape our mission around helping people that identify as LGBTQIA+.
We have also supported various LGBTQIA+ programs around the country and have lobbied for LGBTQIA+ rights. Being a transgender-owned business, we feel that we have to do whatever we can to support the community, and seeing that support return to us and our brand has been a very rewarding experience for all of us.
Starting any new venture is inherently a fearful endeavor due to the possibility of failure, but in the years since I had left my post-college law job, I have learned the importance of never letting my family suffer as a result of my being “too busy.” As it turns out, being there for my family and my sons as a father and co-founder of an LGBTQIA+ inclusive family-owned business, has only further helped me to put my family first.
Blending Sports Management with LGBTQIA+ Brand Inclusion
It did not take long after we founded Ziggy’s Naturals that I noticed one very significant similarity between Ziggy’s Naturals and my sports management agency: both fields are extremely competitive!
The difference is that while there are a significant number of agents in the sports business, there are only so many athletes to go around. Whereas in the CBD space, there are also many competitors, but there is a near-endless potential to gain more customers.
In the sports business, I learned that to be successful, I had to be different. I had to be better, provide a higher level of service, treat every client like they are my only client, and always let them know how important they are. I knew that if we applied those same principles at Ziggy’s, we could not fail.
For our customers to feel included in our brand messaging, we know that Ziggy’s needs members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be a part of that messaging. When Jordyn, Jake, and I were discussing how to build more inclusion from members of that community into our brand story, we agreed that LGBTQIA+ athletes would be a natural fit for us due to the numerous physical and physiological benefits that CBD can have for people that train hard and work at a high level to maintain their overall fitness. This has been a great crossover for me due to my many years of experience working with athletes.
In building Ziggy’s Naturals with Jordyn and Jake, I have impressed upon them the importance of treating each one of our customers, partners, and brand ambassadors like family. By giving them the best service, providing the best product, always being available and responsive, we can show our customers how important they are to our company and its mission. In summary, we treat them all like family. This, in turn, leads to high customer retention and repeat business, two things that are critical in almost every industry, but especially the CBD space!
For us, the underlying philosophy of Ziggy’s Naturals is all about inclusiveness. This means not just walking the walk, but also talking the talk. As advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion has become a more pertinent topic for businesses around the world in recent years, one advantage that my son Jordyn has taught me personally is that the best way to support the LGBTQIA+ community is simply to be a part of it.
Take a stand and support LGBTQIA+ rights. Provide messaging and branding that is clearly inclusive. Let the LGBTQIA+ community know that they are not only welcome, but that they are wanted. For any brand looking to be more inclusive, this is where you can deliver the most genuine value for your company and customers alike.