LAST UPDATED: 20 January 2023
Starting Out as a Race Director
How hard is it to start a new race from scratch and zero experience in race directing? Brothers William and Jeremy Fermo of 3 Bros Running share all.
Looking into the business of putting on races from the outside, as a passionate runner and racer, you might be mistaken in thinking that putting on races is a fairly straightforward, relaxing, comfortably profitable thing to do. I can hear some of you chuckling there…
Well, my guests today, brothers Jeremy and William Fermo, are exactly the type of passionate runner that would try to make a business out of directing races. Which is why in late 2021, they put aside their medical degrees and took the plunge into planning their first race, Shannon’s Run in Orange, Texas.
Coming into race directing with few preconceptions, they tried everything to make their inaugural race a success - including an early round of crowdfunding for their business, 3 Bros Running, and a go at securing local business grants to support their revenue.
The result? Not half bad - 366 signups from more than 40 cities across the state, and with that, a growing appetite for directing more and larger races.
If you’re just starting out as a race director, there’s valuable lessons here for you on the challenges and the joys you’ve got ahead of you, and the importance of focusing your planning on the things that matter. And, if you’re well into your long-term career as a race director, there’s a couple of interesting gold nuggets here for you as well - and perhaps a little nostalgia about why you went into this really special business in the first place.
In this episode:
- Taking the plunge into race directing
- The importance of focusing on the race experience
- Launching a crowdfunding campaign to get the race off the ground
- Going after local business grants
- Putting yourself front and center of your race brand
- Telling your race story through video on social media
- Promoting your race like it's a Hollywood movie
- Reaching out and pitching to local sponsors
- Big learnings from the guys' first year in race directing
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William, Jeremy, welcome to the podcast!
Thanks for having us.
Well, thanks a lot for coming on. And thanks a lot for finding the time early in the morning, as it is, in the US. I see you're on separate screens. Are you both joining from lovely Orange, Texas?
Lumberton, actually. Our race is in orange, but Lumberton, Texas is where we live.
Okay, so you're both there. You're both calling in from Texas?
Yeah. We're both calling from Texas. Yes.
Okay, awesome. So you're brothers. You're 2 of the 3 brothers of 3 Bros Running. We're gonna go into what each of you brings to the race in a sec. Take a minute to introduce yourselves, please, to the audience. Some of them might be familiar, from YouTube, with some of the clips you've had, but take turns to say a little bit about yourselves.
Alright, so I'm Jeremy Fermo. A lot of people know me from my youtube channel, Goku Runner. It's a channel that has about 5,000 subscribers. I've been doing that for the last 10 years. It's a fun little thing that I've been creating videos. It gets my creativity out of the way. I'm able to make stories. I love to tell stories. That's why we did that with that 3 Bros Running Company. I'm also one of the brothers of 3 brothers Running Company. So just enjoying doing what we're doing right now.
My name is William Fermo and I am one of the 3 Bros and an actual bro of Jeremy, I'm a big-time runner, have done over 47 marathons, and I just love running. So it made sense for me to start this company.
Awesome. There's a third brother who's not with us today - right?
What's his name?
There's a story behind that. Actually, we're two bros now because he left the company. So now, there are two bros and we now say that anybody can be the third bro. So that's what it is now because, after the first race, there was a time commitment - we'll probably talk about that more later. Now, it's just two of us.
I love this. We'll get through some of that, hopefully, through the episode. I love the fact of how you spin one bro leaving as a marketing thing, right? It's like, "Anyone can be the third brother." So it's I love it. You take, like, a situation that you have to work with and you make something out of it.
Exactly. We can't change our name. We got to keep it. We actually told my mom that-- and she loved this. She was like, "Who's the third bro now?" And I said, "You know how we have Father, Son, Holy Spirit? It's the Holy Spirit." And she's like, "Jeremy, I love that so much." Anybody can be the third bro - even the Holy Spirit.
Yeah, we have to keep that 3 branding. I love the three. I think there's, like, importance to the number three. Like he said, Holy Trinity, Three Musketeers - it's just a good number for us and I wanted to keep that even though we're just two bros right now.
Yeah. Plus, you'd have to go back to the original YouTube videos and edit him out. I saw he had great success with some TikTok stuff. That'd be a shame. Today's episode is one of those episodes where I hope all of us can learn something from the full experience of you guys putting on a race. You guys specifically, I think, are a great pick for this kind of episode because you managed to put on a race, in 2022 - your first race. You came into it knowing very little. You came into it after the pandemic. Plus - I think it's super important and I'm hoping we will be able to touch on quite a lot of that during this time - you came into it with a very fresh mindset, particularly on the marketing front, doing lots of really outdoor stuff. Obviously, Jeremy, you mentioned that you had experience with YouTube. And you've done things that I think more race directors - even very senior race directors who've been doing this for a long time - can really, really learn from. But starting with a company of 3 Bros Running, and since we're still on personal stuff between you two, I was super surprised to hear that you're both trained medical doctors. Is that the case?
Yeah, we both went to Our Lady of Fatima in the Philippines and graduated over there.
Okay, so you guys spent however many hours and years of your life in medical labs and all of that. You had a brilliant career ahead of you as doctors. Then, each of you have your own reasons to go into planning a running race after the pandemic. What were you thinking?
Well, when the race kind of started, I always wanted to do a race, because we started our own running group called Golden Triangle Strutters, which is a free training group that we run every week. There's always, kind of, like, a vision for us to have our own race. People would ask us, "Hey, you should have a race. You should have like a half marathon." They actually want us to have a half marathon, but there was nothing that kind of pushed us to that. I was working for a startup before we started this company when me and Mike - who was the other third bro - were kinda doing work at a coffee shop. A moment came to him when he saw this post about our friend, Shannon, and then he started crying. I was like, "Why are you crying?" He's like, "Oh, I heard of our friend Shannon. He might not have, like, a year to live and he wants us to hold a race for him." I was like, "Wow." He didn't really understand everything that kind of goes on with the race, but he wants to do a race, and I was like, "I'm in with you." Because I saw that post and it, kind of, touched me too. I was like, "Let's make this official. Let's start making this, like, a thing. Let's do it the right way because I want to do it where people just kind of throw something together last minute, and then just, like, have a race. I don't want that. I want something that looks like quality." When we kind of decided to come up with this, I was like, "I need to have my brother because if my brother, Jeremy, is not in it, then we can't make this work because I think he has a good YouTube following. He knows how to market himself well." That's very important for a race and decide, "Hey, let's just go for it."
But to get back to the medical doctor, I think it's all about passion. Willie and I studied for eight-plus years to become medical doctors. At the end of the day, our passion wasn't in that. Our passion was in running. We started our running group Golden Triangle Strutters 10 years ago, and that's where we found our passion. I have my YouTube channel. That's where I found myself putting a lot of my time and effort into it because I love earning. It was all about passion. So that's why we started the 3 Bros Running Company because of passion. I think that's the best way to do anything - to follow your passion - even though, sometimes, you're going one way. You could go the other way just because it's just where it's least leading you to. So that's why we started 3 Brothers Running Company.
I like the answer better than mine.
Well, there are so many people in this industry. Most people in this industry came into it as a passion type thing, as a passion project. They've come into it because they love doing what they do. That's, I guess, how we all end up here. Just out of curiosity, was Mike a medical doctor as well? Would you have, like, three doctors in the family?
No, he was not. I think he did shift work.
Cool. We should say at this stage that Shannon - the person you mentioned ended up inspiring the name of your first race, which we're going to be talking a lot about. It's the first race you put on and we're going to be sort of dissecting that journey. So you put on a 5K 10K called Shannon's Run. How well did that turn out, by the way?
It turned out really well. It kind of exceeded our expectations. I mean, we had high expectations. I want to like go big or not go at all. So when I did this, I'm always, like, making sure to look at your competition, look at previous races - I think that's important because it kind of gives you some kind of benchmark to, like, strive for. There was a race that was, I think, a couple of weeks before our race and some people were trying to reach out as sponsors. They would sponsor them before they would sponsor us. Well, they're more established. So, I was like, "I want to get better numbers than them." That was kind of my goal. I want to get better numbers of them. I want our everything look a lot better than theirs. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think having competition makes you become better, and I think that's how all race companies should behave. "Look at that race company. I like what they're doing. Let me incorporate that into my race." That's some things that I was doing. Anytime I would go to a race, I'm like, "Oh, I like that." So I want to be the best possible and give our runners the best kind of experience.
Yeah, I mean, ambition is a good thing, definitely, as you say. I think people might be getting, by now, the whole, like you mentioned, planning and stuff when your brother raised the idea of doing the Shannon's Run, you were all about, "Okay. Yeah. Let's go into this and do something great. Let's go into it cautiously." You're also the MBA in this and the CEO - right? Lots of acronyms. So you have an MBA degree, and you are the CEO - that's William. You're the CEO of the operation. I think Jeremy's probably more on the marketing side. How did the both of you split up the responsibilities of what you guys do in 3 Bros Running with the races?
Well, Willie was already on the techie side. He had a tech background, and he's more computer-literate than me. So I let him handle, like, the RunSignup. He handled making up a website, which we made in a pro way. If you compare it to other races, you'll be like, "Wow, they actually put some time and effort into it." Willie did a great job with that. So, he handled that - the back end of the more techie side. Then, for me, of course, I'm marketing. So I'm trying to do all the marketing and create as many videos as possible because, for a lot of races, you could throw the best race. There are a lot of good races that were here before, but I felt like the marketing wasn't the best. If you don't know about it, then nobody will show up. So we really focused on marketing and making as much content and making a story for people to follow, so that they would want to run our races.
Were you a marketing professional before going into this?
No, but I always had an interest in - I don't know - I guess social media and just marketing myself and creating my own brand. I did that with Goku Runner for the longest time. You can't build a following without really marketing yourself, and I just did it that way. So I kind of learn by doing. That's how I did it.
Yeah, you mentioned, like, the MBA thing. I did work for, like, a startup, so I was very familiar with the startup space. I was familiar with how they would handle meetings. They have their own management style. So there'll be things I would do. For all three of us, I have, like, a spreadsheet where I have like, "Hey, this is a list of tasks. This is a list of priorities - low, medium, and high. If there's something high, that needs to be done ASAP. Something low, like, later." Kind of managing all our different skill sets to be able to kind of work effectively. I think that's important. I think, also, I treated things like a startup. I treated things. I did a lot of research. We did a lot of, like, market validation. We didn't really announce our company until after TRE because I was like, "Jeremy told me about the industry event. We need to go. We need to see how they are, how they do things, because I'm familiar with the tech world but I'm not familiar with like the business side of the running industry." So we went there. We kind of present our business idea to people, and they validate it. They actually say, "Hey, we think that's a good idea." And we did a lot of research, not only about previous races, but the city demographics, the amount of people here, and the median income level in the different cities. That's something, I think, that everyone should be concerned about because I love this as a passion project, but I want this to make money.
Yeah. I think that is a fantastically constructive attitude to bring into racing, even if it is your passion. If it is going to become your business, you need to treat it with the professionalism that the business deserves, and you need to be like really thorough with it. On that point, I find your mission statement or your, like, motto you have on the site to be about what you're trying to do to be really, really concise and on the point - bringing big-city race experiences to cities across Texas. I think that sort of sums the whole thing up perfectly and it gives you a direction to work on. I think we had a whole episode on mission statements with Peter Abraham and branding - it must be, like, almost a year back now. He first alerted me to the importance of having a solid mission statement to guide you through all this. This looks amazing to me. Did it take you long to come up with it? Did you sort of struggle with summing up everything you want to do with your running business down to that one line?
I think that came pretty early on. That was the reason we started the company - because we wanted to have great races in our area. There are races that are small and charity events are great, and not all of them are the ones - that you go to in a bigger city - where you get the medal, you get the age group awards, you get chip timing, and everything else. It's a big experience. So we wanted to bring that experience to our town. That's why we wanted to start our racing company to provide that for the locals here and everywhere else too.
So we're kind of like the opposite of Rock 'n' Roll - that's the way I kind of describe it. Instead of focusing on large cities, we focus on smaller cities. So, we're very calculative of our first city. Orange has a population of only 18,000 people. We had no familiarity with Orange, but we were like, "If we can accomplish what we want to do in this city, then we can do it anywhere." We were able to do it and now I feel like we could do it in any city. If it's like a population of, like, 10,000, I could do it. So now, when we talk to other cities, we're like, "Hey, we did this here. We could do it over here." and they believe us when we talk about it because, not only I showed them the actual numbers, I showed them the data behind it because we're very data-driven.
And actually - I don't think we mentioned this - how many people were there on your first race, speaking of first-year successes?
We had 336 signups and 300 actual live runners. We wanted more. We expected 1,500 to 1,800. But, still, 336 signups was really great, especially for the area that we were in. So we're happy with that.
Yeah, absolutely. It was, like, a 5K 10K in a local town, as William was saying. I think the other great thing about your, like, strategy here - which might be really subtle, but I focused on this - is that you're saying, "Bring big-city race experiences." So you guys understand that race is an experience, right? It's not only about the time and people running and doing, like, PBs and stuff. You guys try to create an awesome experience that's going to bring that big-city feeling to the local races in Texas you do.
Yeah. Because we've run a tonne of races. I think I've run probably 30-40 marathons myself, and a bunch of ultra marathons, Willie, Mike and I together ran over 600 races. So we know that the race is basically the celebration of your training. So you want to celebrate it with a great experience. If you go to a race and you don't get a banana at the end of the race, or you don't get anything - like, no water stops - then it's not a celebration. We wanted to have that celebration experience for everybody whenever they go to our races.
When did you actually form the company? When did you start out?
We were in planning stages, I think, as early as November, but we didn't announce till, like, January,
The reason why we did an analysis is because we didn't get the LLC until January - that's what we were waiting on because we didn't know the process of getting the LLC. Doing all the business end of everything took a lot longer than we expected.
Okay, so everything sort of happened after the pandemic started slowing down a lot.
Yeah. After the pandemic, we're like-- and we talked to a lot of people at TRE as well, and everybody was saying that there's gonna be a running boom because, during the pandemic, so many people took up running. It was just one of the most popular things. I think people that weren't running before were going out for a jog because that was one of the only things they could do. They were running in the living rooms. They were running everywhere. So all these new runners-- they need a race to run. That's why we started. We're like, "This is the time to do it. If not now, when? We should do it now." So that's when we decided to do it after the pandemic. I think that it's showing that if we could get 336 people to sign up for our race, it worked and it's working.
Did the pandemic, sort of, give you any second thoughts? Because I guess you would have been thinking about this beforehand. You must have seen what effects the pandemic had on the whole industry. I mean, it was pretty devastating from a business point of view and from making a living out of this as well. Did it sort of give you any second thoughts whether it might be a good thing about whether another COVID variant may come around and you'd be up in the air?
Yeah. I think everyone should like reach out to someone. Don't just, like, go, "Hey, I have an idea. Let me just go do it." Like I said, we went to TRE. Even before that, I reached out to another race director. He's pretty well known. He organises trail racing over Texas. Rob - he's the race director. I called him and I said, "Hey, I have this idea. Do you think this is a good idea?" Because I had the same concerns like you were saying, like, "Hey, the pandemic is going to happen." But this guy is a smart guy. He actually exited his company and sold it for a decent price. Now, he's called, like, the director of fun. So I was like, "This is the guy I need to talk to see if this is worthy of me to kind of get into because it's a scary thing." He did the same thing. He was in business and he decided to start a race directing company. So I reached out to him. I kind of gave him the same kind of questions himself, and he has a very analytical mind. He said, like, yeah, that was an issue before, but he kind of sees that it's going to be trending upwards and there's going to be a positive trend where people are going to start doing more races. I kind of see that. I see that people are frustrated with everything with social distancing and wearing a mask, and they just want to go out there, and kind of live life like they wanted to do. It kind of showed with our race. I think it's important to - yeah, like what you said - don't just go into anything without doing your research and just be aware of all the risks that are involved. I think that's a big thing. Be sure of the risk.
Yeah, in Texas, I think I remember from the woodland marathon, it was one of those areas that sort of opened up quite early, actually. So you must have been in a better place than others. I want to go a little bit now into the actual timeline of what you actually did, working through the event, putting everything together, which must be an enormous learning curve for you guys - must have been - like with every other race director. Looking at all of that in a snapshot, how prepared would you say you were when you were starting out, from one to ten, considering what ended up being ahead of you?
I think that we were pretty prepared. We didn't announce until February, I think, right? February?
Beforehand, we were working our butts off to make sure everything was correct. But still, there's a lot of learning experience from doing what we did. I would say probably a six or seven. I'm not gonna say too high because there were some mistakes, and it was all a learning experience. This is all about putting on the best race that we could do because this is our first race and we wanted to show the runners and the city that 3 Brothers Running Company is legit. So we really didn't cut costs too much. We tried to cut costs, but we didn't cut costs too much. We try to just go all out. So this was an all-out effort for us. But I would say we probably have six or seven in preparedness. How about you, Willie?
Yeah, I would say that too. I think what people normally do when anything like this happens is they will use Google as a resource. I realised it will help, but what really helped me and us kind of move forward a lot quicker is using Race Director Hub. Another race director kind of told me, "Hey, you should go check out this group." And I was like, "Wow." Instead of using Google to say, "Hey, this is where you get the medals," I would ask the other race directors because they know where you get the medals and where you get the bibs. They've dealt with every kind of situation possible, and that helped us move things a lot faster than if I had to kind of figure things out myself.
Yeah. It is actually really important. When people ask in Race Directors Hub - which is our Facebook group, I should say, by the way for every race director out there - when they would ask, "How do I get started?" I think one of the first things people mentioned is also the importance of mentorship. Lots of people say, like, "You're not going to learn about this at university or in books or whatever." It's like, "Go find a race director, work with them, volunteer on a race or something like that." You guys have obviously run lots of races before then. Was that something you also did - volunteering and going out and helping race directors on the ground - so you'd pick up some of the knowledge that way?
We did a little bit of that, but I wouldn't say a lot. We volunteered every once in a while, but I'm not gonna say we went to more than 10 races to volunteer, which we should. Volunteers are super important, and I know that now. I always kept a few race directors in my pocket. So I had three or four race directors that I could text or email, and they would respond to me like that. So if I had any questions, I would just ask them or, like Willie said, Race Directors Hub was always a great place to go to for information.
Yeah, it's one of the things. We would have, like, little things that I would want the guys to do. So I would give them little tasks. I think one of the tasks was to, "Hey, let's look up all the historical races that were previously done in Southeast Texas. Let's get the numbers. Let's get the city. Get the location." Another thing was like, "I wanted everyone to reach out to a restaurateur and just talk to them." We would reach out to different race directors and then we will come back and talk about what we've learned. This was when we were in the pre-planning stages before we started our company. So mentorship is super important.
You said you looked at actual statistics of races and people, and you weren't dissuaded at all? I mean, I heard race directing is a pretty brutal business, economics-wise. Like, you actually looked at the numbers and you thought that's a good business to begin?
I'm gonna tell you something. Not only I did look at the numbers, but someone else, like, said, "Hey, I have like--" because you can't necessarily find all like the numbers on the internet, someone actually gave me, like, their records from, like, long time ago. He was part of this running group and he gave us these paper records as far back as 20 years. So we have printed results of all these races and I have printed results of all these different cities. The thing that surprised me was like, "This area-- there were so many races that existed before, but then they stopped." That kind of made me say, and our area, let's say-- we're focused right here in southeast Texas, but it's a half a million people who lived in this area and there was a lot of races before, but they stop and people now would go to Houston. They will go everywhere else, but kind of do running here because there's no quality, there are no races. After I saw that, I was like, "There's a potential there's a market here if we create it." Then, instead of maybe people going to Houston, people from Houston would want to come over here.
Did you ever find the answer to why all those races disappeared?
Those races-- I know, they're like nonprofit. If you're doing something for nonprofit, you're doing a lot of work for nothing in return. I think, to be successful, to make a race keep consistently happening, you have to run it as a business and it has to be profitable. Because people do talk about like-- they think races are, "Hey, that's nice. You're doing something for a cause." There's nothing wrong with that, but it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of effort, and I'm sure like all other race directors agree. It has to be worth your effort to be able to want to do this race. You could do it as a passion, but it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of work. It's not just, like, "Hey, boom, you just set up a race in two hours. That's it." It's months of planning.
Oh, yeah. It does take a lot of effort. So with your businessman hat on, you looked at the economics in your pre-planning stages, you say and you thought, "Yeah, this looks good. Let's go into this."
Not necessarily. In my head, it's just like, "To make this sustainable, we need a lot of races. We need a lot of races to kind of make it work." I even talked to someone else like-- or you have, like, one big race. You can have one big race. I think if you'd have, like, a 5K, 10Ks, it's a good thing, but we can't go until like a half marathon. We can't go to half marathon out of the boat. I want to start small. We need a lot of races and we need to have, like, a high-profile race, like a half marathon, at least, to really make this kind of profitable.
Yeah, I see Jeremy nodding along there. Do you guys have a strategy even now on how to scale this up?
I don't know. Do we? I don't think so, really. Right now, we're just taking it one race at a time because we're building. We're trying to work with different cities. Right now, we're only on Orange, so we're having issues with other cities wanting to have our race in their city. It's easy to throw one race and have one race set up. Once you do that, then you can do it multiple years because we have everything planned but, now, we're trying to expand to other cities and people are like, "Why are you guys only on Orange?" That's the only city that wants to work with us right now. We're talking about other cities. We're trying to establish our first couple of races and then build on that.
Yeah, I agree with what Jeremy said. When I was even doing this first race, it was, like, putting most of our effort there. I can't plan ahead even though we have, like, a list of like race ideas and race locations. I didn't want to go to move too forward until our first race was a success because, let's say, if our first race, like, bombed, I don't think there's a future for the company. No one's gonna trust us. No city is gonna want to work with us. It's not going to work out. But we were so successful that they asked for us back. Not only the city of Orange, but other cities are approaching us. A University approached us. I'm in talks with someone else for a possible race in Houston that we're kind of in talks with. It doesn't necessarily fit our brand but, as a consultant, try to figure out other types of ways to bring income. So not only have your own races but, also, I think once you become an expert in this, consulting other people is another kind of element for us that I wanted to kind of, like, go after.
Plus, our YouTube channel is going to also bring in a second income also. Once we reach the numbers that we need, we can start doing reviews - making income that way - affiliate links and sponsored videos. And if our YouTube takes off, we'll be making money through monetizing.
So that's the 3 Bros Running channel - not your Goku Runner channel?
Yeah, that would be the 3 Boys Running Company.
Listening to Jeremy and William share their story of planning for their first race, makes you wonder what camp of race directing you fall in. Are you the one-man army type, looking to do a million things yourself? Or more of a delegating team personality?
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode…
You guys have done the most on YouTube than any race of your kind - your level of company that I know. So we'll get into more of that in a sec. It's quite evident through your videos and your branding that your connection with the city of Orange was really something pivotal, both to this race and perhaps to others - because you're saying that you're talking to other cities. Lots of race directors starting out may want to try and understand that a little bit better and emulate it. So what was your thinking behind choosing Orange, approaching Orange? How did the whole thing go down with them?
Our thinking was, "It's a nice city and it's kind of the city that we kind of knew a little bit about it, but it had enough to bring people--" We want to bring people to the city. It had a nice location where we would want to run where it has a historic district historic downtown - I don't know if you saw the video of how it looks like. We saw it. We liked how it looked like, and it's a bit like what we want to do with our race company. Then, we decided we had to go talk to the city. I think that's the most important thing - if they can see our vision - because if the city doesn't see our vision, then it won't work.
I think at first, the city of Orange is still very wary of us. I'm sure we're just a new company. We're three guys very excited with the camera and the face. We told them we wanted to throw a race, and they were very welcoming. At the same time, some of the uppers were kind of, like, "What are these guys up to? Are they actually going to throw a race?" The city of Orange-- once we started working with them a little bit more building relationships - what you have to do as a race director is to build relationships with the cities that you work with. They came along with us. The city of Orange is great because it has so many things to do. It has a park in the middle of the place that is called Shangri La gardens. It's a beautiful park. The route was actually one of the main draws to bring our race over there because, in a lot of towns over here, there wasn't too much history and the city of Orange has a lot of history. There were, like, pirates that used to live there. There was an Old Naval base that was there beforehand. It had so many old houses along the route that pass where I wanted to have a race, and I thought that that was going to draw people to our race as well. If you run that race in a park, it's not going to draw people, but if you run a race in the area that brings you along the landmarks of a city, that's going to be a race to remember and want you to come back. That's why I think Orange was one of our top cities to bring a race to.
What was your entry point into that, I guess, local authority organisation? How did you first start the dialogue? And what was your pitch to them? You said that they were a little bit weary of you approaching them at first. How did you woo them into becoming supporters of the idea?
It's interesting to say what I did was I knew one of the city officials. They had, like, an ALS walk. So I decided I'm going to go there and help out at the ALS walk, and this is before we even talk to any city officials. So I went there. I attended the walk. I helped volunteer. I actually talked to one-- I think she's, like, an event coordinator for the city of Orange. I had, like, a dialogue and actually kind of exchanged contact information. That was my in. When I ended up talking to her, I would always reference-- I did like how she did her ALS walk. She did it very professionally. She did everything that I would want to do. Try to make that relationship organically seem to help me better than just, like, emailing them because, sometimes, you email people and no one will respond. But hey, that's how serious I wanted to make this. That's why we make that personal connection first, and that helped us.
And did you sell it on, sort of, "We're going to bring business to Orange. Basically, it's going to be a couple of days where people spend more. We're going to put it back on the running map since so many races are basically closed around there."
Yeah, we actually told them where we said, "We're gonna bring 500 to 1000 people to the city of Orange. That was our whole goal. We wanted to bring that many people, and we brought about 336 and only 30 People from Orange ran the race. So everybody else was an outsider, which is what a city wants. They want all the outsiders to come. So that was a real positive for us. We told them that we wanted to bring a big race. We told them our whole plan - big city racing to small towns around Texas - and they were up for it and they're excited. They were a city that really wanted people to come and actually throw a race, I think, at some parts. Like I said, we had some pushback toward the end. They thought that we couldn't pay, so we were like, "We can pay. Give us an invoice and we'll pay you," and we paid them. So that was the only issue. I think that, just because we were a new race, they were unsure about if we had money to actually throw a race there.
Yeah, I did thought it was gonna be a lot cheaper to hold it in the smaller cities. "Oh, okay. It's not going to be expensive." I think they probably charge a little more. I don't know. That's why when they told us that we had to pay this amount for the police, and we had to pay this amount for the barricades.,I was like, "Give me an invoice of exactly-- we're paying for all these barricades. I want to know what I'm paying. Do you remember how much were the barricades?
3500 bucks for the barricades. Yeah, it was expensive.
You remember something like-- were you, like, scared if this thing was going to work before you started? When I heard that number, I was like, "Oh my god, what are we gonna do? That's a lot of money and that's a lot of registrants that we have to get."
To break even.
Yeah, to break even. I was like, "I'm gonna stick this through. We're still gonna go for this." It's gonna give me something to kind of push for it. I don't want to go on red in the streets - that was my whole idea - I want to go into green. Like what Jeremy said, we did kind of have, like, our own little forecast. I think I put, like, 300 to 600 when we had, like, a pitch deck. When I was, like, buying medals - because you have to buy medals for a race - I think I was looking how to figure out how many medals to buy. One of the vendors that we dealt with was like-- they wanted our purchase order about three months before the race and I was like, "How do I calculate this?" So I was, like, looking at different ways. I didn't just, like, throw out numbers. I was looking at, like, the percentages of what money-- if you get a certain amount of registrants in three months period, this is the amount of registrants you should have at that race day. So I kind of overextended because I think a lot of people sign up for our first race for the first day because, like, of recency bias, because they love us, and they would all sign up, so that kind of skewed numbers, but we wanted to go for a big number.
So how come you had $300 in your model for barriers, and they ended up at $3,000? I mean, that's a pretty big drift there.
They just never told us a price until pretty far into the race. I think, now, if we go to a race, that's the first thing we're gonna ask for because that's a big part of your budget. That's one thing that we learned - we're not going to start a race in the city if it's too expensive for us, and police and barricades are going to be one of your top costs for a race. Yeah, for sure. When we got that price, it was sticker shock. That was a day we all looked at each other and we were depressed afterward. We were like, "That's a lot of money." We didn't know if we could actually make money if it was going to be that much. So that was a day that really shocked us, for sure.
Yeah, I don't know if you see one of the videos. I kind of, like, put it in a positive spin because I was telling the guys, "Man, it doesn't matter. We're gonna make this work." But in my heart, I was like, "That's a lot of money and I don't know if we can make that back."
I guess these are some of those items on the budget that, if you've only run races before, it's easy to be caught out by these kinds of things, right? I mean, you don't imagine that some of these things take so much money. Which is why I find lots of runners complain all the time - that race directors are profiteering or whatever when people but just making ends meet - because they don't actually understand how much money goes into producing an event. Did you guys have any other nasty surprises like that - like the barrier situation?
I think that was a nasty surprise, for sure. We knew the shirts were gonna cost a lot and the police didn't cost as much as we thought it was gonna cost, but the barriers were just another extra cost that shocked us. It was so surprising and really depressing at that time, but we overcame it and we try to throw a positive spin. We're like, "It doesn't matter how much they charge us. We're going to throw the best race possible." We always look to the positive for our race, and I think that's what made this successful.
Yeah, yeah. Like what Jeremy said, we want to give them the best experience with everything. We want our designs for our medals to be good. We want our medals to be good. We want our shirts to be good. So we were kind of expecting those costs. But, the sticker shock for the barricades and stuff-- especially for a small city, that was very surprising.
Yeah. And actually, you mentioned earlier that you decided to put on this event and just not basically cut corners or costs to the extent that it would actually jeopardise the race experience. How did you think through-- because you have lots of options these days in terms of what you give away to people and what things to focus on, more or less, or where to cut back, where to be smart about things. How did you approach that exercise in terms of compromising between the things that you wouldn't absolutely compromise on and other things that, perhaps, you could be a little bit smarter on?
What we compromised on is probably a little bit of the food. We thought that we would have more sponsors for food than we did. We still have plenty of food for everybody. We actually had too many fruits and stuff that we had to donate them to a shelter or I don't know. Who did you donate it to, Willie?
I think it was, like, a Catholic food pantry.
Yeah, but we didn't really cut too much costs. We did look at shirts. You can get the softer shirts or the more tech shirts, but those are going to be $10 a shirt. We decided for our first runs, early on, we were going to do cotton shirts and it worked out. Everybody was happy. I don't think anybody complained about anything that we cut costs on. I mean, we actually spent-- I don't know if you're going into costs right now, but we spent $40 a runner for our race, which is a lot when our race cost, I think, about $45 for the 10K and $35 for the 5K. I mean, we spent a lot of money.
Yeah, so you just about broke even then - sounds like it.
Yeah, just about breakeven. Well, with the sponsor and everything, you make a lot of money. I think that's one of the more important things - you need to get sponsors. If you don't have sponsors, then it's really bad for the race director.
Well, I'd put that down as a big success. First year, generally, people lose quite a bit of money. Of course, I just never realised you guys also did, like, an Indiegogo fundraising crowdfunding type thing, which I've never seen for a race.
I'm part of, like, the startup atmosphere. You can bootstrap your stuff yourself - pay everything yourself - but in my opinion, you treat this like a startup, as a business. How startups kind of get funding is they go through angel investors. So I would say Indiegogo is more like angel investors, but has a different kind of spin. So angel investors are normally like your family, your friends, or someone close to you. But I didn't want to go through the GoFundMe route where it's just asking for money straight up, that's just, "Hey, give me money for my company." I realised if I give people some kind of item attached to it, they'll be more willing to support us. It actually worked really well and kind of helped us get some initial funding for this company.
Yeah, we saw how other businesses also-- like, around here, there was a local brewery. They had GoFundMe or Indiegogo on their side, and we saw that they raised money. A lot of the business costs to start up this business was a lot and we didn't have a lot of money to start off with, and we thought that Indiegogo would be a great place to start off. We actually tried to do-- what was the first one we tried to do?
Kickstarter. We tried to do Kickstarter, but we got turned down for some reason. I don't know why. They didn't want a sporting event, but we saw other sporting events on that platform. So at the last second, we switched to Indiegogo, and we had to transfer all our videos and re-edit everything because everything was towards that. We went to Indiegogo and I think that was a good route. It was a good plan to just have some funds to start off and not be worried about losing money right away.
And how did that work exactly? So you go to Indiegogo, you're saying-- because I've seen it as William says on, like, startup products and stuff, right? You have a new shoe out and you say, "You fund me upfront and I'll give you the first pair of shoes" or something. But for an event, how did that work? So you're in Indiegogo and you're saying, "We want to put this event on in Orange. Give us some money upfront." and you're getting what exactly?
The Indiegogo is actually for 3 Bros Running Company. So it was for the 3 Bros and the startup cost for 3 Bros. What did you get with that? You would get a T-shirt at a certain level, and you would get a hat and a T-shirt at another level. That's basically what it was for the 3 Bros Running Company, when it comes to startup costs for our company.
When I created it, it was like, "This is our vision. This is what we want. This is our value to the company. If you want us to kind of bring experiences like what we want to do to, like, cities across Texas, you will support us." And I had like-- I think the first initial one was like, "Hey, if you give us, like, $5, you put your name on the banner, which we carry everywhere. So their name is on our 3 Brothers Running Company banner for, like, $5 and, then, for $10, you'd get a sticker. So we just kind of increase exponentially. So for $10, you'd get, like, your name and a ban and a sticker. For $50, you'd get your name, sticker, and a shirt. Then, for $100, you'd get a T-shirt and all the other stuff. We even had crazy levels - we had, like, "Spend a day with 3 Bros for like--" I want to put something crazy like 3000. We didn't quite get that but I wanted to put it out there in case someone wants to give us 3000. We made a pretty decent amount from that which gives us some startup costs that helped us.
Okay, so no regrets. You think it was, like, an actual good use of time and everything to go up there?
Yeah, no regrets. It worked well.
Yeah, for sure. It actually helped us because that actually went into the cost of the race as well. That's part of the reason why we didn't go into the red because we did have the Indiegogo funding. That just showed that people believed in what we're doing because we showed the story of what we're trying to do here in southeast Texas and beyond. If they believed in us, they could support us. I started on my YouTube channel and also on Facebook. We shared it everywhere and a lot of people did support us, and we can't thank everybody enough for supporting us.
Yeah, like what Jeremy said. I remember that day because, like, it's tough when you're asking people to give you money. It's tough. So I remember telling the guys, "Once we do this, all we need is just one person to believe in us - just for that one person to believe in us - like, "I don't care if it's just five bucks. I'm just gonna go through this race with whatever it costs" because that person sees our vision. We had multiple people to see our vision and gave us, like, that motivation to keep doing what we're doing.
I think I saw on another video of yours - one of Jeremy's - that you also received a grant or you're in the process of receiving a grant. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah. Currently, right now, the city of Orange, for our second race-- we're having a race - October 8 is the Big Pumpkin Run. We actually went back to them, and they asked us to come back to throw another race - the Big Pumpkin Run - and I told them, like, "The cost of the police and barricades is just too much. We can't throw another race here if that's what's going to cost." And they told us, "We have a grant and the grant is going to--" you apply for it. You tell them basically your pitch deck, your business plan, and how many people you could bring into the city, and you apply for a set amount of money, and they can approve up to that amount. So, we won't know actually until September 27 if we get that grant. So it's kind of a gamble right now. Hopefully, they do because that's one of the biggest reasons why we're back in Orange - because of that grant. I think, for any race directors, you should definitely look at the grants that cities provide because they do help and that's gonna help us a lot. It helps us make money and help us to throw more races in Orange if we can get that grant.
Okay, sounds like the economic side of things didn't go terribly bad for you guys. And as I said, in the first race, anything other than a total disaster is a win. Marketing is where I think you really, really excelled. What I'm trying to understand about your marketing-- and I strongly advise people to go check out your 3 Bros Running YouTube channel, your social media, your website, and also your TikTok channel, which I think you're one of the few people out there doing stuff. Jeremy was also saying you're doing paid stuff on TikTok. So, you're really at the sharp end of all this marketing-wise. While I was actually going through all those videos, the question that I had in mind was, "Okay, you're obviously getting some viewership out of that. People are enjoying them. It's doing stuff for you. But on the other hand, these videos take a lot of time to produce, to write, edit, upload, and stuff." So, on the balance of it, is doing video on YouTube and being really heavy on that give you a good return on your time and the limited resources you guys have?
That's a good question. I think that, because I love creating those videos, it's worth it for me. It is work for me, but it's almost not work because I love creating those videos. Willie's actually been creating more videos recently too because it is so much work. I was editing almost all my free time up until, like, 2 AM in the morning just to create a video. But I think it's important because it tells the story. If you tell a story of a restaurant that you visit, they're going to share it. They're going to share it and then those people are going to watch that video and know about your race. It's a smart marketing tool to use for any race director because you're just gonna get a shareable material for your race. That's what you really want people to know - about you, about your race, and about all the restaurants that you visit. And all those restaurants and businesses that you visit are potential sponsors. So, at the end of the day, we're doing a lot of work, but we're also getting sponsors, we're getting free marketing from people sharing it. I think it's working for us. I think it's working for us.
Yeah, like Jeremy said, I think we're kind of going through the route of, like, influencer marketing because we're the face of the company. So we want people to trust us. I think when people see, let's say, just a brand or like a logo, they might trust them if they're well established, but if they see us, they say, "Hey, these guys are actually putting work, they're putting the effort. Man, we like these guys. We want to support them," that they'll trust us and want to do our events. We have, like, some person - one of our main followers-- he's done everything. Like, he bought our shirts. He visited everything that we've done, and it's pretty amazing. So we just need more of those people to keep doing that. But like Jeremy said, I knew Jeremy was doing a lot of content and I feel content is king especially right now. I had to learn how to make YouTube. I did not know how to make YouTube content. I didn't do any video editing, but I learned it. So if it takes some of the burdens off his shoulder, so, you know, we could keep producing content because I think it's important.
I mean, it's interesting because most of the YouTube channels you see that races operate-- the content they put out is more around the race. It would be a startline video or, like, a flyover of the race course or something like that, or a medal reveal or something like that. But you guys-- in the example you mentioned of a restaurant, it's like showing videos of the food. You guys showed videos of the kitchen. You saw lots of videos about you guys who put on the races, going out, before your meeting with the city of orange, when you go through all of these negotiations with vendors, all of the whole roller coaster, I guess you guys went through emotionally as well - the ups and downs of putting on the race - and you think that kind of thing resonates with people or with a certain segment of people?
I think so. I think that doing that is building our brand and it's building our story because story is king. Like, if you're watching somebody start from nothing like what we did, and they're following our whole story from the beginning, like, "Okay, they're buying medals now. They're going to this restaurant and trying to promote the race." They're following us and becoming fans of our brand, fans of us, and that's going to lead them to want to support us as well. I've seen other YouTube channels as well. In my own experience, I've grown my brand - the Goku Runner channel - and people follow me to races. If I suggest to buy something, they'll, more often than not, trust me and buy that product. I've seen YouTube channels create gyms because gyms are now one of the biggest gyms in California. So it's all about that story. If there wasn't that, I don't think that what we're doing is going to be successful because it's all part of the marketing scheme of building our race and building our brand that people want to follow us, follow our story, and really support us because they see how much work we're putting into it.
I mean, in some ways, going back to an episode we did a while back with Meg Treat who is a public relations expert, it sounds like a mix between public relations and marketing. It's not like you're marketing in the sense that you're trying to sell something but you are creating those relationships with the local communities, with the audience, with the people - like the personal relationship between you guys who put on the race and your audience, right?
Yeah, we visited so many people in Orange. I joked with William and Mike. I was like, "We could run for mayor because we've met everybody in Orange." I could name everybody in Orange by name because we shook hands and met people. That's what we want to do as a business. I think it's smart to be hands-on and go out because, like Willie said before, an email can get left and forgotten, but if you actually go and meet somebody, they have to shake your hand, they have to meet you.
I think networking is like building these relationships. I want to show you this - a lot of these business cards. It's like I've been kind of trying to talk to people, talk to sponsors, and talk to so many different people. I think it's important, especially if you are a race director, to make these certain connections because, sometimes, not necessarily, once they kind of see you out there, and they see that you're actually working hard-- we're working hard. We're putting in a lot of effort. So that's why they say, "Hey, I want to work with these guys." That's what we want people to know, like, "Hey, we're not going to just give low effort. We're gonna go give high effort into everything that we do and we're going to try to promote their business." This is a thing that I kind of say-- I don't know. Probably, other race directors would hate that, but I want to do more than just put their names on the back of the T-shirt. I want to give our sponsors value. That's how we're giving our value - through our YouTube channel and things like that that I don't think any other races really doing.
Yeah, because a video actually would cost anybody else-- if I do video work on the side, I'd charge $1,000 for a video easily, and we're doing these. I mean, our sponsorship levels are not even that much. I mean, there are $1,000 but a lot of people aren't doing that. Are you actually getting more for your money if you get a video from us because a video production would cost a lot more - that's what I'm saying.
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode…
I think the great thing about the kinds of videos you guys shoot - which is you going around exposing people to the whole process of putting on the race - is they're much easier to put together than the highly-polished videos you'd see of a drone over a race course or something with music and stuff like that. In some sense, they're both more personal and easier to produce. Plus - which I guess is why you guys also trying that out - I think they should work quite well on TikTok as well. I mean, they almost look more TikTok-ish kind of videos. They're long-form, but the style of theirs looks a little bit more like it's meant for something like TikTok rather than YouTube.
Yeah. Any video you produce, whether it'd be on TikTok, YouTube, or Reels, all has to have a story. There are those videos that do well just because they're just TikTok craziness, but it's all about the story. We try to post on all the platforms. If it's a long-format such as YouTube, we try to make it to a much shorter consumer-friendly format on TikTok as well. It's really important to use everything because I did try to buy ads on TikTok and, like I told you before, the audience that I was breaching was 8-year-olds to, like, 14-year-olds, which isn't my target audience. But in the future, if they keep following our stories and keep following our TicToks, they're going to be our consumers later on. So you got to build it right now. Even though you don't believe in TikTok, you better be on it because that's what people are watching. I've seen my 77-year-old dad scrolling on TikTok all day. So it's getting everywhere. It's one of the biggest platforms to use right now.
Yeah, I want to mention that, when Jeremy said that, during the race in Shannon's Run, when everything's done, I was like, handing out awards, a little boy came up to me and he was like, "Hey, can I get a picture with you?" Because they watch your YouTube videos. He probably was, like, eight or nine. I don't see myself as that. I'm just a regular guy who sometimes puts stuff on YouTube. But he was so amazed to be seeing me. He asked his mom to take a picture with me and I don't know why. So it's already kind of working. It's just like a pricing, like the people that will watch it - our dedicated people - and they are following us.
Well, that's the kind of celebrity both of you wouldn't have gotten as medical doctors, right? So that's the upside. Now, you walk around in Orange and everyone wants to shoot videos with you. So there you go. Good choice there.
We have those guys on YouTube.
Yeah, exactly. It's interesting, actually - what Jeremy said. I think, by the time this episode would have aired, there would have been a full episode that I recorded on TikTok with a TikTok marketing expert, which is an amazing episode. If it has gone out before this, I think people should check it out. What Jeremy mentioned, actually-- this guest of mine was saying on this episode that, basically, the fastest-growing age segment on TikTok is over 55 in terms of who's on it. I mean, TikTok, to me - personally, I'm not a user and I don't really understand that much - it may seem like 12 to 13 year old with, like, a 5-second attention span or something, but lots of people are getting on it. You guys did great as video producers to just republish some of your stuff on TikTok. I think it's going to be a great start for you.
Yeah, it's one of the things. We're trying to get more into it because it is a space that we're unfamiliar with. We're more familiar with YouTube. But yeah, TikTok is going to be important - TikTok and Reels. It's weird. Sometimes, you'll post something and you think it'll go well, and you'll get nothing. Other times, you'll post the weirdest thing and they'll get a million views. So, I'm still trying to learn about TikTok and all these weird things that go on with it.
It is quite fascinating, actually. So you mentioned doing some stuff - trying out TikTok paid marketing. Did you do any other kind of paid marketing - Facebook, Google ads, or any of that?
Yeah, we did use Facebook ads, and we're using it currently now. Before, I thought it wasn't that useful for us, but I'm finding it really is working now. If you use the right ad, it works. We'll do $50 ads for five days - so $10 a day - and some ads will do way better than others. So, it's all about choosing the right ad and seeing if it works. If it works the first day, it's going to keep working. So it's all about experimenting right now. Maybe you have some tips on what Facebook ads to post? I know you did a couple of episodes on those two.
We did. But it's actually much more important to hear what you found from your experiments because we spoke about all kinds of levers that you can basically move here and there on Facebook. So when you say that, "We did some stuff that didn't work and, now, some stuff works." What was it that didn't work and what was it that ended up working?
Our medal reveal one didn't do so well. But when we use a picture of the mayor running our race, that ad went crazy. So I think I'm actually going to redo that one because it's just an ad that more people will resonate with. They see the mayor of Orange running it. And he's also a different runner. He's a larger guy like me and he's a person of colour. So, you see that person running a race. That's what we want to show with our races - that anybody can run a race. It's not only for fast people. Every colour and every race can run the race. So I think that's the perfect ad for us because it is doing so well, and it's showing what we want to show.
I think, also, when we were like-- I remember our first race when we were doing-- because I have, like, an analytics background, I did have more fresher data. I attach Google Analytics to our websites. So I see, like, their exact locations and I was like telling Jeremy, "Orange actually didn't put us on their event schedule, and I don't know why. I guess because we're new event organisers." But I was looking, "This is the amount of traffic we're getting from Houston, and this is the amount of traffic we're getting from these cities. Why is orange not there?" So I told him, "When we do our paid marketing, let's like focus it on the Orange area so we can get more people from there to kind of participate because that's a whole market that I think should be running the race." It's good to have people from outside, but I want people from inside to be doing it. I think being aware of where your traffic is coming from is very important. Like Jeremy said, "This is the age and demographic, but you also need to know where they're coming from." Because if you get someone from, let's say, the Philippines and they're not gonna even do a virtual race because we don't ship there, that's not a good thing. So to, kind of, know who's watching your content is very important.
And you guys-- I mean, obviously, between the two of you - between William being sort of, like, the tech startup background person and you, Jeremy with all the marketing stuff - you must have inevitably been drawn into the online world quite a lot for your marketing. But did you do any stuff in the real world like physical stuff - pamphlets, posters, running shops, brochures, all of that old-school stuff? Do you do that as well?
Yeah, we were doing a bunch of pamphlets. So, we have six, six-by-five cards. We also recently discussed some yard signs. So we're trying to put it everywhere. I think the more people see it-- it works because a lot of racers have told us that they saw our yard sign at, like, the hiking bike trail or a certain trail, and that's why they know about the race. So you gotta really reach out to everybody because a lot of people aren't on social media. A lot of people really hate social media, so they're completely off, and those are the people we're trying to reach to. So if they don't see it, they're not gonna run our race.
Yeah. Another thing, when you mentioned that, I feel like trying to get, like, news media is important. I've been trying to, like, contact every newspaper, and say, "Hey, you should feature us in whatever way possible." I think it was easier for our other race because, like, we had Shannon's story behind it, but it's been a little bit more difficult to kind of get people to kind of, like, publish stories about us. I think I have someone lined up just, like - I think on Wednesday-- but just getting your name out there, newspaper, TV, whatever-- the way I treat it is, like-- you know how movie stars promote their movie? That's what we have to do. We have to push our race as much as that. So, to get any publicity is good publicity. Podcasts, whatever - try to get on it. Be out there. I think if you look at our 3BrosRunning.com website - I think it's in announcements - you see all the things that we've done to currently promote our brand, but also our races.
And I think your story is intrinsically very newsworthy, right? I mean, three brothers going into running with your background - medical doctors, MBAs, whatever - following their passion, and bringing races to local communities. I mean, as a local reporter, it makes total sense for you to go after that kind of thing and lots of people don't think about that kind of stuff. They think that either they have nothing newsworthy to share, or that reporters will not be interested, or they're hard to reach or something. But generally, local reporters - that's another thing we mentioned in that PR episode with Meg - they're dying for a good story. I mean, they'll bite your hand off for a good story. That's their job, right?
Yeah, we have to show them our worth for this story. So I think, for our next race, we got to really-- I mean, basically, being a race director is being a marketeer. You're trying to market yourself and market your race. So we're marketing ourselves - the race - to the newspaper right now and the news reporter. So we're trying to get more coverage for our race as much as possible through our story. And I think, like you said, I believe our story is good and it's something that somebody will follow and, hopefully, the news reporter will see that.
Yeah, we did a live with the mayor. I've been trying to contact the mayor and, finally, he's like, "Hey, we could do a live on Friday." I was like, "Okay, great! We'll meet you anytime you're ready!" And we did the live with the mayor just to kind of promote the race. I think that's important - promote the race in any way possible. That's what the job, I think, of all race director should be. You want the most signups possible, and that should be the goal - get the most signups possible.
And on your sponsorship efforts, how well did you do with that?
I think we did pretty good. How many sponsors did we have? For Shannon's Run, we had a good amount. It took a while. I think that once you start getting two or three or four sponsors, if they start falling one after the other, what we did-- I told the whole group - the whole team - to, every day, message two or three businesses and see if they are going to reply back. That's what I did with my YouTube channel whenever I try to get products to review. I will contact companies. A lot of times they'll say "No", but every once in a while, they'll say, "Yes." So you don't need everybody to say, "Yes." You just need a few to say "Yes." We got, I think, eight or nine sponsors, which we're pretty happy with.
Initially, I had, like, a sponsorship tier list like, "This is your presenting sponsor and this is, like, your vendor booth sponsor." And we weren't getting anything. I was like, "Man." So, I met up with this, like, big-time event director in Houston and she told me, "That will work in Houston, but know your market. We cut everything in half. As soon as you get one sponsor, they start rolling in, but you need to get that one sponsor." Like Jeremy said, then we started getting sponsors and I was okay with that. Eventually, I'm going to put that sponsorship tier the way I want it to be, but right now, I'm okay with the prices that we're offering our sponsors.
Who was that first sponsor?
First Response Urgent Care. They're, like, an Urgent Care Clinic. Yeah.
Did you have a strategy? So, basically, when you were thinking, "Let's put a task that we reach out to a couple of people a day," what was your shortlist? How did you come up with that shortlist of which sponsors to reach out to?
Really, there was no shortlist. It was anybody and everybody out there. We actually also looked at other races. Like, if other races had had sponsors locally, we would reach out to those same sponsors and try to get them. Also, the businesses that we visited-- we would contact them as well. It was hard for the first race, especially, because nobody knows about you. Nobody knows about your race. Nobody knows how many people-- we couldn't even tell them, "We have 400 signups or 336," but now we can. But that first race is all about trying to prove ourselves and telling them what we can do. I think that's where the video portion was important because whenever we visited a sponsor, I would bring my camera. The camera gets you to a lot of places. I will go anywhere and people will ask me about the camera, and you'll get to talk to the owner of the business right away because they're curious. And it's that curiosity that will get you in front of them. And, yeah, we reach out to as many people as we could through emails and also in person.
Yeah. Like what Jeremy said, another thing that we kind of integrated was, like, a media kit and pitch deck. We didn't really have any concrete numbers, but we did have, like, projections or forecasting. But not only that, we would kind of also show, like, "Hey, this is how great our Facebook analytics is. We have a certain amount of followers. We have a lot of engagement." So there is a reason why you should be supporting us because, other places, I don't think, are going to have that kind of engagement - like people are concerned about them.
Was it mostly local businesses, basically, who looked at the run, and thought, "It's a good opportunity to engage with people in the extended, sort of, like, Orange County area"?
Yeah, basically, it was people just wanting to just support us. So we did reach out to family and friends that had businesses, and then people that wanted to help with Shannon's story - there was that portion - and then, also, businesses that wanted to show to put up their name to the community and our runners because we did tell them that we were having a lot of engagement on our Facebook page. I think, at the time, it was 40,000 engagements every 28 days. So, we showed those numbers to the sponsors and that was the value that we could provide to them - that we were going to actually get their name out there.
And it's better now because now that we have actual concrete numbers, I can show them, "Hey, this is how successful we were with our previous race. I think I showed you that pitch deck before but, now, there's no reason you shouldn't sponsor us because we have, like, the numbers to back it up."
Well, the last thing I want to touch on a little bit - I think the important things, to be honest, for people just starting out - is really the money, the marketing, and the sponsors. I think most of the most interesting stuff that gets people to put off putting on races is sort of behind us. If we want to just also share with newcomers a couple of stuff about how you approach the actual operations of the race and the planning of the race, William is an MBA - you may be familiar with spreadsheets and stuff, I guess. How did you do the whole planning because of this checklist upon checklist of tasks and stuff involved? It sounds like you run the whole operation with military precision. How did you approach all of that stuff - the tasks, having everything, deadlines, delegation between the three of you, and all of that? Did you run on any kind of platform?
We will have, like, weekly meetings. So we would meet weekly. I would have things that we need to get done. So, let's say, "You had to talk to this amount of sponsors or you have to what kind of content that's going to be coming out this week." And then, let's say, "We have to kind of finalise our sponsors because we're going to be putting our shirts this week, so that's like a high-priority item." And then let's say, like, something that's low would be not so important. We will just address it maybe, like, in the last month or something like that. I think one thing good is to have - at least, for us, it worked - weekly meetings and only had meetings to talk about things and meetings where we have actionable items that we would do. So when I say actionable items, don't just talk about things that you can do, I want to see you guys actually do the things that we've talked about and, then, in the next meeting, we just keep on moving forward from that. I think always kind of keeping a certain schedule is important. But now, I have my own checklist. I don't think it will work for everyone because I think everyone, kind of, personally know, like, what they need to do. So, I just kind of copy that same spreadsheet that we had before and apply it to this race. It's like, "Okay, here are the things that we have to do - insurance, permitting, venue. Is it done? Completed. Is it in progress? Started." Things like that. So I could kind of keep track of that, but it was all on the spreadsheet, for me
All right, okay. No Asana or Basecamp, or any of that stuff?
No, I think I could probably spend money on there but, right now, it's working for us. Now, it's just the two of us. We just kind of, like, keep each other in check. Jeremy is like, "Hey, did you do this?" I was like, "Yeah, I started on the spreadsheet."
And tell me, also, a little bit about your relationship with your race-timers. Did you have a race timer?
We have a race timer right in Houston, I think - pretty laid back. We talked to them and told them when our race date is, and they said they'll be there. So basically, they're doing their own thing, we do our own thing, and we trust that they'll do-- we trust that they'll come to our race and do what they're supposed to do. So pretty hands-off for our race timer right now. I don't think they contact us too much.
Okay, because generally race timers - we should say for other people listening in other than your initial mentor and other people who can support you, other race directors, etc-- race timers, generally, are supposed to be sort of your right hand, at least, in operations. I mean, they can pick up as much load as you want them to. Probably, in your case, you had it all figured out. But generally, if you're new to this and you feel like you're overwhelmed, you can definitely pass things off to the race director who's helping you. Now, wrapping up, what do you guys think, looking back, that you wish you'd known before you were starting out that you sort of learned the hard way since?
I just wish that we found out the cost of police and barricades before we started out - the location. That's the only thing. Everything else-- I enjoyed the experience of throwing a race. I think this is what we're trying to do. It's a good thing that we have the passion to do it. Also, I want to tell people that, even though we have very little experience right now, anybody that has any experience of doing anything, you can learn from-- like, I know I had some pushback that people said that I shouldn't be giving out advice because we only have one or two races. But through our experience, we have value in trying to-- we might not do everything right, and that's part of the learning process. Through our YouTube channel, what we're sharing, you could learn from that as well. So what we're doing-- we may make mistakes but, at the end of the day, we're trying to do the same thing that everyone else is trying to do and have a successful race.
Yeah, like Jeremy said, I think one of the things I've learned in this process is don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't try to, like, figure things out yourself when there's someone else there who already has been through the whole everything, and they can help you ease through it better, which is why I love Race Director Hub, as a resource for-- if I need to know where to get the best bibs, I will go to them. If I need to know where to get the medals, I'll go there instead of just, like, depending on Google, which I think a lot of people do because, like, they don't want to talk to anyone. Talk to anyone and everyone. They're your best resource. Like, I have a personal race director. She helps me out so much and we can kind of bounce things off. Don't be alone in this process. Reach out to your community. Your community will help you grow, and doing that will make you a better race director.
Yeah, and I agree with Jeremy actually. I don't think it's ever too soon to start sharing that knowledge back with people. You guys sound like you're already learning quite a lot. In terms of the piece of the puzzle, which is, "How do I put on my first race?" I would say probably your advice is much more valid than a lot of other people who've been putting on races for 40 years because they don't know the challenges that, like, a first-time race director has to go through. We have a mentorship programme in Race Directors Hub - the Facebook group - as well. So maybe, when you get a little bit of time, you can sign up as mentors now and start sharing some of that back with people - never too soon for that. What are the plans for the future of 3 Bros?
The next thing right now-- we're going to do some kind of, like-- either consultation, race directing for another thing that we don't really have to, like, Bootstrap and pay for everything. That's kind of something I would want to go to. I wanted to do a half marathon. That's like, my next goal. I want to do a half marathon. When is it gonna happen? Could be sooner than later.
More and more and more races and, eventually, the half marathon as our top goal. I think 5K 10K is good, but there's so little leeway between the cost per runner and how much money you're making. But when you go into the half marathon, that's where your company can really rise and excel. So that's our goal - a half marathon.
So you're ready for the long run?
Bringing big-city racing to the cities all across Texas.
Well, yeah, I mean, I look forward to seeing that. I think it was a great start with Orange. I wish you all the success in the world. If people want to reach out, where can they find you both personally in terms of 3 Bros, your channel, and some of the stuff we spoke about?
Yeah, everything is that at 3 Bros Running and 3brosrunning.com I think Jeremy has a LinkedIn. I have a LinkedIn. Or you can follow us on, like, our Facebook - all our socials.
And also Goku Runner on YouTube.
Awesome. Yeah, absolutely, Goku Runner. Guys, thank you both very, very much for taking the time to speak to me today. It's been really fun putting my shoes and our listeners' shoes into that first race again and all the stuff you guys had to go through. So thank you very much for taking part.
Thank you, Panos.
Thank you, Panos. This is fun.
And thanks everyone for listening in. We'll see you guys on our next podcast.
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on starting out in race directing with 3 Bros Running’s Jeremy and William Fermo.
You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your thoughts about starting out in race directing or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.
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Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.