Remember those times when your parents said “If you put as much time into video games and socializing as you did school work you would have straight A’s”? Why not take that effort and passion for those things and turn them into businesses? That is exactly what these entrepreneurs are doing. Quitting the job hunt they are going after what they really love in life. From beer pong to partying to just having a good time, these guys love what they do and make money at it.
Sam Pines – World Beer Pong Tour
Like Beer Pong? Well this is the company for you! The World Beer Pong Tour founded by 26 year old Sam Pines in 2006 as the “New York Beer Pong Tour” is in its 4th year and hosts beer pong tournaments in 18 states across the US and Canada.
Sam graduated from Marist College in 2005 but not with a degree in beer pong. “I had aspirations of being involved with sports media. I interned at the local newspaper when I was in college and wrote for the sports section. I also hosted a weekly radio show at Marist called ‘The Sam Pines Show’ with my friend who had the league with me,” said the entrepreneur.
Growing up in Westchester, NY Sam said “I never thought I wanted to run my own business, until I went to college, and became friends with Tim O’Brien. I credit him with teaching me the importance of working for yourself in today’s brutal economy and the importance of following your own dreams, not somebody else’s.”
So how did this career minded college guy end up touring the country playing a drinking game? It all started from Sam’s college house where he and some friends started running weekly beer pong tournaments with cash prizes. They got 6 teams together and had playoffs each week to determine the winner. When Sam graduated he said “I knew this was an idea that could not be wasted so I decided to stick with it.”
The “New York Beer Pong Tour” was born! Sam spent two years in his Toyota 4-Runner driving around NY State with tables, balls, cups and anything else he needed to host the tournaments. Bootstrapping never bothered Sam who was confident from day 1. “I never doubted the idea because beer pong is a game played by millions of people and I knew there was a huge demand for organized games/tournaments. More and more people are getting into the game and it’s not going anywhere.” Today he has taken a back seat to the actual touring and has instead acquired various venues to run the events with his company’s guidance. “The company has also expanded so much that I have been able to hire three friends of mine to work for us full time. It really is a dream come true,” said Pines.
It wasn’t straight A’s or some gift that let Sam start down this awesome path; it was passion. “I was never the kid who got straight A’s in school or had a wicked jump shot but I was always passionate with things I enjoyed doing. Having this company has allowed me to work for myself at a very young age which I am truly thankful for.”
Some words of advice to young entrepreneurs “Always stay focused and never let anyone steal your dream. This world is loaded with people who say it won’t work. If you have an idea, put a plan together and take action and never quit. ”
The future of the World Beer Pong Tour looks bright “The World Beer Pong Tour is growing every day as we continue to lead the beer pong movement. We strive to remain the leader in beer pong tournaments around the world and are gearing up for our 2nd national tournament, which will be held in June 2010. This will be the biggest prize pool in beer pong tournament history with $50,000 being awarded to the top 16 teams.” Make sure to check out WorldPongTour.com.
Kevin Bowker – Tapped Enterprises
“Work hard and play hard” is what 23 year old Kevin Bowker founder of Tapped Enterprises Inc. grew up believing. Kevin has had high expectations of himself and would never settle for anything else. He was class president for three years in high school, and varsity wrestling team captain all while taking honors and accelerated classes. Kevin decided to attend Bryant University and pursue a degree in business. While he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted out of his degree, the advertising industry had always been something of interest and he was considering a real career.
However, there proved to be some experience and ideas from an unlikely scene back in high school; the party scene. In high school Kevin hung out with his older brother Dave and his friends who partied a lot. Little did he know these were the starting grounds for his first company.
High school served as some of the testing grounds for Kevin’s first products “My friends and I started this mock fraternity called BTK (blunta tappa kegga) in which we would throw some fun parties throughout high school. We first created a cool beer pong table when we were 17. It was funny because this table looked better than most college beer pong tables I have seen. Then I built an American gladiators jousting set up which was used regularly at back yard parties. The next thing I created was the ‘original keg- in- a backpack’ which was a plastic pretzel keg that I transformed into a liquid operating keg using nothing more than some tubing, a bike pump and some epoxy. I sold a few of those to my friends and up at Bryant. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2005 after my first year of college where I created a product that was centered around the game of beer pong.”
Kevin found that it would take roughly $100,000 to get his product and business off the ground. Instead of abandoning the idea like so many would when faced with such an uphill battle Kevin took it as a challenge and started his pursuit of that lofty number.
The Tough Times
While these products were fun and cool they weren’t cutting it. “I started the business last August and sold beer flags, banners, and posters to college students door-to-door throughout NY state and parts of New England. I lived in a van, snuck into dorm rooms to sell and shower and sometimes ate in dining halls for all of September 2008.”
In light of this Kevin turned to another idea he had while studying abroad in Australia – Pub Crawls. He watched the scene in Australia and saw how popular the events were with the college students and thought he could do something similar in the US. “In November www.LongIslandpubcrawls.com will be launched with the goal of being the number one bachelor/bachelorette party company on Long Island.”
Kevin embraces his companies slogan “Innovation for Celebration”. “Our lives are too short here to not enjoy life and I had always been good at, and enjoyed entertaining people,” said Kevin. But even someone as upbeat as Kevin gets into ruts and doubts himself. “Like any risk taking entrepreneur, I doubt my ideas all the time and hit walls where I have to motivate myself to break through them. But then I tell myself that I will never know what it can be unless I give it a shot.”
If your passionate about something it is important to just go after it and see what you can do. Kevin’s biggest piece of advice to entrepreneurs is “Start young, don’t give up and believe in yourself. Find your niche, this is what I am trying to find and I know I am on the right track.” And always remember one of his favorite quotes, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand.”-Albert Einstein
Rob Ianelli is a 23 year old entrepreneur who is a native of NY and 2007 graduate of American University in Washington DC with a BA in International Relations. Follow him on twitter – @Robianelli