Tag Archives: business

Race Sponsors

As some of my previous posts have hopefully conveyed, the expenses for putting a race together, especially one for ultramarathon distances, can be an expensive proposition. Unless you’re independently wealthy (and I don’t see Donald Trump as the race director type), you’ll likely need some help in the form of race sponsors.

For the first Rim To Rim Trail Run, my primary focus was on obtaining local sponsors. I certainly wasn’t going to turn down any major companies, but since this was an inaugural event with a cap of 200 runners I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect a large amount of support from the big players. That was okay with me, as I really wanted to work on emphasizing the local appeal of the event. Chico already has a lot of personality, and Bidwell Park is a great place to host a trail race, so highlighting local companies as sponsors was a natural fit.

My background is not in sales, marketing, or any other area that has given me a ton of practice cold calling businesses and negotiating deals. For any of you in the same boat, I have some good news: you’ll get plenty of practice once you decide to put on a race. Fortunately, dealing with smaller, local businesses is easy enough. The owners are just people, and are generally open to at least a conversation about becoming a race sponsor. Putting yourself out there still takes some getting used to for those of us that are a little more introverted, but all I can say is persevere. I had several folks who weren’t interested, but I never had anyone who was even the slightest bit rude about saying no.

When approaching local companies to be a race sponsor, finding the right time can take some work. As a race director, I’m ready for folks to commit as soon as possible. I want to know as far in advance as I can, since it helps me plan and budget. However, some small businesses are not in a position to plan nine to twelve months out, and if you try to get a commitment too early they will default to a “no” when they might really mean “I’m not sure yet”. Try to be flexible; put out feelers and don’t be afraid to ask early, but if you encounter resistance it’s okay to back off and wait a couple months before reaching out again.

Another lesson learned was to be specific, but not rigid, about what you are asking for from your sponsors. When I approached my first few, I did not have anything written up for different levels of sponsorship and what they could expect if they came onboard. I soon realized this was hampering my recruitment efforts, so I drew up a list of sponsor packages and put it on my race website. I don’t treat it as carved in stone, but it serves as a starting point for negotiations and helps set expectations for potential sponsors.

While I keep my focus on local race sponsors, it still doesn’t hurt to explore larger, corporate sponsor opportunities. Most of the familiar brands have a process for requesting sponsorship that involves filling out a web form, sending an email, or mailing a letter. I went ahead with all of those methods, but it didn’t generate any interest the first time around. I will go through the same routine for 2016, and we’ll see how that plays out. As with anything involving larger organizations, the best path is probably to know someone who works there; the inside track always helps.

The good news for year two is that I’ve now got a starting point; a list of sponsors who were at least willing to come on board once. This helps take the pressure off, at least for now. Time to limber up the phone dialing fingers and start again for 2016!

Adventures in Permitting – Interlude

I have talked a little about permitting in my first post on the subject, and in my August update I indicated I was still waiting for the City of Chico to review my race permit. Well, I am still in permit limbo, but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I exchanged emails with the city’s Parks Department and, after a brief tease where I thought it would be reviewed in August, my permit is now scheduled to be reviewed at the end of September. One of the managers responsible for the permit review has some questions; I’m currently waiting to hear back on exactly what those are. So… in the next couple weeks I should hopefully get any outstanding issues resolved and be ready for a permit approval on September 29th. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!

Going Into Business – Part 1

As a would-be Race Director, I am planning on having dealings with a wide array of people. There will be runners, of course, but also potential sponsors, media, the city government and who knows who else. Setting up a race will involve running a business (albeit a very small, narrowly focused one). Nothing says I can’t conduct this business as myself. I can send all my emails, write all my checks, and fill out all the requisite paperwork simply as an individual. But is it enough to just be… me?

I am committed to putting on this race, and I would very much like to make it an annual event. If it goes well, who knows… perhaps another ultra in the future? Either way, I want to make this endeavor feel like a serious, professional effort. I’d also like to be able to write off any money spent along the way. To that end, I decided I will create a business entity to serve as the company putting on the race. This immediately requires a decision. What type of business entity? There are two options that would apply for me: a Sole Proprietorship or a Limited Liability Company.

In truth, a Sole Proprietorship only barely qualifies as a business entity. The business has no existence apart from that of its owner (me). However, it does afford you the opportunity to operate under a separate business name and have a bank account for the business, forming a very clean divide for an individual between their personal and business dealings. Setting up a Sole Proprietorship is very straightforward. There is minimal paperwork and the only outlay is the cost of filing and publicizing a Fictitious Business Name. When it comes time to do your taxes, you still do them as an individual but with a separate Schedule to track business income (and, perhaps just as importantly, expenses).

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is an actual, legal business entity. It affords some degree of legal protection since the member(s) of an LLC are not liable for financial debts and obligations. It’s a newer, fairly popular form of business entity since it’s less onerous to create an LLC compared to actually incorporating. While it’s far easier than forming a true corporation, there are still some additional steps involved and some additional tax implications to consider.

After some consideration, I decided to set myself up as a Sole Proprietorship for the time being. I have familiarity with the process, having gone through it many years ago when I created my own software company. It’s straightforward, inexpensive, and won’t make me sweat anything on my 1040. Additionally, I don’t have any employees, so I don’t need to worry about that angle.

To that end, I’m following these four steps for establishing a Sole Proprietorship in California:

  1. Choose a business name.
  2. File a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the county recorder.
  3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number.

So, my Fictitious Business Name paperwork is in the mail. Stay tuned and I’ll post another update when I move on to the exciting world of business licenses and Employer Identification Numbers. I will also continue to update my Resources page with links related to creating a business entity.