Do you ever come home from a workout or game and say, “I wish I could do that for a living”? You’re not alone. For most of us, sports are just a hobby. Something to do for fun, to stay active, or to play with friends. But for a dedicated sports fan that hobby can be turned into a successful small business. Signing with the Bulls or the Packers isn’t the only way to enjoy a career in sports anymore. You’ve got lots of options. Here are 10 ways you could turn your love of sports into a business.
If you’re passionate about your local sports community, you could build a business providing custom uniforms and gear to the local teams. Custom team uniforms can be ordered online, sure, but don’t underestimate the edge a personal connection could give you with prospective customers. If you’re well known in your local sports community, you may be at an even greater advantage to win the sale from local team managers. With a roster of satisfied customers, you could easily expand your sales to the wider region or take things online.
Speaking of reputations, selling custom team apparel is just one of the ways you could create an apparel startup with your connections. Have connections high up in the sports world? Have a unique idea for a lifestyle brand or gear designed for athletes? You may be able to combine your connections with your ideas to build a more ambitious sports apparel business. If you think everything’s been done, you’d be surprised — the New York Times recently ran a piece on startups tackling the high-demand but very under-served pants market for athletes with muscular quads.
If you’re a good shot with a DSLR, you might consider a small business centered around sports photography. Youth sports photographers focus on capturing great action shots at youth sporting events. Proud parents are the customer base here. Meanwhile, youth sports portrait photographers focus on taking still shots, for both whole teams and individual athletes, and count both teams and parents as their customers. Professional freelance sports photographers combine both amazing talent and lucky timing to capture the most newsworthy moments of the game. Freelancers can sell their work to media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, and major websites.
Sports Tech Startup
Do you have a technology idea for how to solve a problem for athletes that hasn’t been done or that could be improved upon significantly? You might consider jumping into the tech startup scene. A number of fitness tracker apps and digital workout guides already exist, but they may not work for everyone. Walking and running are pretty well covered, but what about other athletic activities? Or, what’s something important to you that all the running apps are missing? Lots of opportunities here.
To be fair, most apps don’t make their creators rich from downloads and one-dollar sales, though some can do exceptionally well. The big payoff here though is being acquired by a large tech company. The sale of a popular tech startup can be quite a windfall for those lucky startup creators.
If you enjoy helping athletes find just the right gear, a sports equipment business might be a great fit for you. You could become a wholesale distributor or open a brick-and-mortar retail shop. But you could also keep things online. If you can meet the needs of one specific group of sports enthusiasts or athletes, your online store could have a leg up on the competition. Nothing’s as frustrating as making a trip to the local big-name sportings goods store and finding out they’re out of stock for the one thing you need. There’s also a considerable online market for used equipment. Estate sales and garage sales could be a good source of gently used equipment for an eBay shop.
Equipment Cleaning and Repair
What if that equipment wasn’t exactly gently used, though? Most sports gear isn’t meant to last forever, but some items cost too much to be easily replaced. Golf gear and fitness machines are two good examples. Fixing this gear is much cheaper than replacing it. An athlete should be able to get a good amount of use out of these expensive pieces of equipment. Enter the handy sports repairman. For most people, it’s well worth it to pay for maintenance and repair, making this a good business for the handy sports fan.
Outdoors Touring Business
Tourism is an important industry no matter what part of the country you’re in. Tour operators have the lucky job of showing off the best spots in their area to visitors from all over the world. You’ll lead urban walking tours in the city, hiking tours in the mountains, canoeing, kayaking, or rafting tours on the rivers, or diving and snorkeling tours along the coast. You can start out simply or build a more elaborate tour business depending on your goals.
A golf range might be another great way for a golfer to turn their passion into a small business. You could buy an existing range, convert a suitable facility, or start from scratch. You could keep it simple with a field, some safety netting, and a bucket of balls. Or build a more elaborate range, with putting greens, arcades, and a snack menu.
Paintball / Laser Tag
Recreational team games like paintball and laser tag are popular with both teens and adults. For a paintball center, you’ll need a fairly big outdoor space, at least several acres, with a variety of landscape features to make it interesting for the players. For a laser tag arena, you’ll need to find a suitable retail space, preferably with at least 5,000 square feet.
Kids Sports Camp
Make no mistake, a kids sports camp is a bigger undertaking than a paintball center or driving range, but watching young people push themselves, work as a team, and develop self-esteem is incredibly rewarding. To create a sports camp, you’ll need to assemble a whole team of coaches and educators who know the ins and outs of this kind of business. Licensing, insurance, first-aid training, and curriculum will be your biggest hurdles here.
Your Own Gym
Let’s say you’re committed to your sports startup idea for the long haul. You could decide to open your own gym. But there’s not just one kind of gym anymore. Your gym business could focus on whatever you’re most passionate about — a membership-based fitness center, a kids gymnastics center, a boxing, martial arts, or yoga studio. Choose the right location, niche, and business model, and you could be looking at a profitable, sustainable small business venture with opportunity for growth.
Whatever your idea, creating a sports business won’t be easy. Like your favorite athlete, you’ve got a lot of hard work, hustle, and luck ahead in order to be successful. But your love of sports is your foundation. Passion drives entrepreneurs to solve problems and fill the needs of customers, creating profitable businesses where others didn’t see any opportunity. If you can combine your knowledge and love of sports with management and networking skills, you’ll be well on your way to turning your love of sports into your next business.