"It wasn't like I was trying to make a company. I just wanted to test having a race."
After finishing a half marathon, avid runner Nick Zivolich wondered if he could produce an endurance race that would be just as big and professional as the corporate races without the exorbitant entry fees. His races would be accessible to all levels of athletes. At the time, this former high school track competitor wasn’t concerned with building a business so much as playing big with a hobby he’d had for years. So he followed his gut on how to best reach his audience, killing just about every rule in the book. It worked out pretty DAMN well and The Best Damn Race had runners scrambling for tickets on Day 1.
Glen Sanders (GS): When did you start the Best Damn Race? Nick Zivolich (NZ): I ran the Rock 'n' Roll event, here in St. Petersburg. It was the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete half marathon and I have always been a runner, had always been in advertising and marketing. In 2012, once I saw what a big corporate event was like and how it was so much different and better than some of the local races that we had around here, I thought, "I should give this a try." GS: What's the difference between a big corporate event and a local race? NZ: Well, so your local 5K, I guess you would call it your local charity 5K can have a couple 100 runners and back then, back in 2010, 11, 12, there would be, maybe a cotton T-shirt and a banana and some oranges and maybe or maybe not, chip timed and the money would go to charity GS: Chip timed is you're wearing a chip and it's tracking your ... So you can track how fast you're going? NZ: Your results. Exactly, your pace and your total amount that it takes you to finish the event. Then, on the other side of the coin is Rock 'n' Roll. They put on big 20 to 40,000 person running races. They're corporate. They're a for-profit organization and lots of sponsorships, lots of people and it's tech shirts and finisher medals, bands along the course, post race party, alcohol, really well done, polished events. GS: How did you know you'd be successful if there're already a couple of other races? NZ: I knew that there was only one quality race out there and I knew that runners were seeking more and wanted to give more, so my thought was, "How do I put on a better race or equal to what Rock 'n' Roll's doing?" NZ: I thought, "Well, what if I gave everyone a finisher medal, like the 5Kers?" Typically, 5Kers wouldn't get a finisher medal. What if I did multiple distance like, 5K, 10K? What if there was unlimited free drinks, unlimited free food? Chip timing and big race feel at a local race price? GS: How do you describe your niche compared to or what Best Damn Race is compared to a Rock 'n' Roll, compared to a, let's say Disney, which is usually ... The Disney half marathons, those kind of things. How do you ... Where do you fit? NZ: I didn't even think about me versus anyone at the very beginning. My only goal at the onset was to provide the best damn race I possibly could. GS: You were going to races and you said, "I think I can do this better"? NZ: Yeah. It was easy to see where other races were falling short and it's again, to no fault of their own. No one had ever done something like that before where it was unlimited. Usually you go to ... even Rock 'n' Roll that year, it was one free beer. NZ: I said, "Well, what if this person wants seven beers and this person wants zero?" GS: I just ran a half marathon, I'll drink as much beer as I want. NZ: Right. Exactly, so let's test this theory about, what if we give everyone everything? It wasn't like I was trying to make a company, I just wanted to test having a race. GS: It costs money to put on a race, so you're taking a financial gamble at this point? NZ: Absolutely. I've always been a gambler, so that to me ... That wasn't the issue. I thought, "If we put a quality product out there and people enjoyed it, they're going to sign up for it and at the very least, hopefully I could break even." NZ: In the back of my mind, secretly I'm like, "Yeah, I want to make a bunch of money," but breaking even for a first year race would be great, especially if we put a good quality race out there. GS: Did you have grand plans of creating a larger brand, having five races a year, all of that when you did your first race? NZ: No, it as just a one time shot. Let's put something possibly great together and see what happens. It wasn't 'til years later I realized this was my business, instead of just a hobby, but my thought was, "Well, how do I make myself different from the other ones?" GS: Right. NZ: 'Cause that's what's going to give me the registrations. In my marketing plan, I thought, "There's gotta be a way to get a lot of people signed up early. If we can get people to sign up early, they're going to tell their friends about via social media and the other people will come later and they will sign up to run with them 'cause people get FOMO, fear of missing out." NZ: I thought, "Well, what if I gave the people in line first, the best possible price?" I'm the first race, that I'm aware of, back in 2012, which created a registration blitz is what we called it. GS: That's the mega bus model in New York, where it's a one dollar bus ride from New York to, let's say, Boston, if you're the first guy to buy the first ticket. NZ: Right. GS: Then the second one's paying $10 and the third one's paying $100 or whatever. It's tiered. NZ: Exactly, so what that did was, created a frenzy. I went out and hit the streets hard. Lots of posters, postcards, social media and people saw, oh my gosh, I can run a half marathon for a dollar. There's only like 10 dollar spots in the half, 10 dollars here in the 5K, 10 in the 10K, but then there's two, then there's four, then there's six dollars, so we're talking hundreds of discounted spots with everyone with that opportunity to get one dollar. No one's ever run a half marathon for a dollar before. GS: Does that mean your price on the backend, on the end of that blitz has to be high enough to compensate for the lower prices in the beginning? NZ: Event production's a numbers game. Clearly when I came up with this registration blitz, if it didn't take off, I was screwed. GS: Yeah, you gambled upfront. NZ: You gamble upfront to get the people in and then the people on the backend would make up for the dollar spots. Even the pricing that I had on the backend, was still lower or competitively compared to the going rate for other half marathons, 5K, 10Ks.
GS: Right, 'cause these are people that are running multiple races, so they're saying, "Oh well, I paid 35 at the other one, so next time I'll get in earlier and get the cheaper ticket."
NZ: Sure. They paid 35 for another one, and they didn't get a finisher medal, and tech shirt and they didn't get free food and free beer and so on and so forth, so even 35 was a bargain. GS: Your first year, you got those ... You created that blitz, how did you get the word out? NZ: A lot of what we did in the very beginning was, postcards and physically going to running groups and handing the postcards out and talking to them- GS: You didn't do a postcard mailing, you did- NZ: Handed them out. GS: Handed them out. NZ: I would go to ... Personally, I would go to ... Every weekend, two or three different runs, runs during the week, different running groups, talk to whoever was the head of the running group, say, "I have this new race. Can I come out and have two minutes before the group run, talk to everyone and leave a stack of postcards?" GS: When you say running group, these aren't competitive races? NZ: No, just local running groups. There's coached running groups, there's uncoached running groups and there's Facebook running groups and people just get together on a weekly basis or sometimes multiple times per week and run in different locations, they're sometimes in the same location, so I would go out ... I would seek out all of these running groups and then go- GS: So, you basically door knocked with local runners? NZ: Yeah, grassroots marketing, if you will. GS: Grassroots marketing. NZ: Then obviously, social media marketing on Facebook. GS: How has it evolved? What's your best source of getting signups or what's your best marketing tactic ... Most effective marketing tactic today? NZ: Well, Facebook is number one as far as reaching new people. Reaching existing customers, obviously is our email marketing database, which when we blast out that the registration's opening or there's discounts, we see a very high ROI. GS: Then you've got two marketing efforts, basically. You need to market to your existing database of people. You've gotta keep them in the folds, so to speak. Do you do more than just, hey, here's ... Do you do more than just, here's an announcement of a race? NZ: Sure, absolutely. We try to reach the runners monthly with some kind of information about, here's a new sponsor, hey, we have new merchandise, here's your price increase. At least once a month, let them know what's going on. GS: Do you do any paid advertising? NZ: Yeah, but again, but most of that's all Facebook. GS: Facebook is your best social media platform? NZ: By far. GS: You try the others? You try Twitter? You try Instagram? NZ: Yeah. Facebook, now will automatically feed ads to Instagram as well since they bought it, so really when I say Facebook, that includes Instagram, plus Facebook's ad network, so we'll actually serve ads outside of Facebook, outside of Instagram to other website that they're affiliated with, similar to Google Ad Words and reach other people. GS: Having the extra finisher medals, having the free beer, all that is a higher expense than the other races may have. NZ: Correct. Again, so a lot of those other races were looking to raise funds for charity or be part of a Rock 'n' Roll machine, which is a quantity thing. My thing was just to break even and put on a quality race 'cause I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it better than most and I didn't know a thing about producing races, so the first order of business- GS: You had no background in event production? NZ: No background in event production, so the first order of business was to hire a race director. GS: What, in your background, do you think helped you the most when you did your first race? NZ: I've been a sales guy my whole life, so I thought, "I could excel with creating a brand and sponsorships and if I could create a brand and create sponsorship opportunities, then I'm going to offset some of those one dollar entries, two dollar entries, so on and so forth and get bigger numbers than other people get for a local race because again, it's not just a local race, it's a brand. Who doesn't want to have the word, damn on their shirt?" NZ: Having the idea's one thing, having a logo and a pretty website and postcards is a whole great thing, but without knowing how to logistically produce an event- GS: What'd you do? You hired a race director. NZ: That was, I think, the most important thing after the branding and getting the thing launched. I interviewed some local race director, one of which was Philip LaHaye. He's helped produce world class events over the last decade. GS: What are a race director's responsibilities? NZ: Honestly, you're the first person there and you're the last person to leave. GS: And you're responsible for everything in between. NZ: And everything in between, but again, I didn't know that 'til a much later date, as well. I assumed I needed somebody to tell me how to produce a race, so I interviewed different race directors. Philip came in and he might have been the second or third person that I have interviewed and within 10 minutes I was like, "This is my guy. How much?" NZ: He laughed kind of laughed it off a bit and said, "I don't think you understand. Most races lose money. You get a couple 100 people. It takes time to build." This, that and the other. I said, "Great, how much?" He told me how much and I said, "Okay," and he looked at me like I was crazy, but I knew- GS: Actually, he was probably thinking I shoulda told him more. NZ: Well, it was already a large number, so I don't think that he thought it was more based on what he thought would happen, it would be a ton of money to put on a small race, which is what he thought. NZ: I said, "Great. I'm going to open registration. I'm going to do this registration blitz." He says, "It sounds very interesting, but look, you get a couple 100 people, four, five 600 people the first. It's a step in the right direction." GS: Did you have a plan to cancel if you didn't get enough signups. NZ: No. I was just going to roll with it and see what happened. GS: So, if you got 10 people who signed up, 10 people where going to have one hell of a race? NZ: Well, I didn't foresee myself in any situation where only 10 people would sign up based on my registration blitz. Failing wasn't really on the table. It was how much do I make? How much do I lose? The event was going to happen. There was no thoughts of it not happening. I just thought, "Am I going to get 10,000 people or am I going to get 300 people?" NZ: Philip was like, "Six, seven 800 maybe," is what he thought for a really good first year race, so I found someone to be able to build the software for the registration platform. GS: You built your own ticketing? NZ: I found a local runner that I ran with who was a programmer who just happened to be wanting to build a registration platform similar to Active or Eventbrite or Run Signup. I told him what I wanted to do, and he says, "Great, I'll build it." He built it. We marketed it and boom, first day crashed my server, crashed his server, everyone was on there like maniacs trying to get those one dollar spots and I believe ... Don't hold me to this number, but there was about 970ish registrations on the first day. GS: How many were you hoping to get? NZ: I had no idea. GS: You didn't have a success number in your head? Like, if we get 700, we're going to be thrilled. NZ: I've never put on a rave before. I didn't know what to expect. No one's ever done a registration blitz like mine. Don't know what to expect. I don't even know other people that put on races. I don't know what they would expect. Philip didn't expect that, so by the time he came in a week later or two weeks later for our first official meeting, I already had 1,200, 1,100 registrations in the bank and he walked in and said, "Well, shit. We have something now." GS: Now we're in trouble. NZ: He's like, "You have something here," and the whole conversation from there on out turned into, okay, how're we going to execute a 2,000 person race or a 3,000 person race versus a five or six- GS: A little local race, right. NZ: Exactly. We ended up doing, I think just shy of 3,000 people that first year. GS: In your first try, your first go around you got 3,000 people? NZ: Fist go around. GS: Did you have advanced conversation about what happens if we get too many people and it crashes the website? NZ: No, 'cause we didn't expect it. We didn't expect thousands of people on the website trying to do this. GS: That's fantastic. NZ: It wasn't even a thought in our mind, but what was funny, the first year is, people weren't mad, they were excited that, oh my gosh, we broke the ... We knocked down the servers, as opposed to being pissed at Ticket Master or something like that, they were like, "So many people are trying to get these dollar spots." Turns out, year two, year three, year four, people got pissed 'cause they expected the glitches to be fixed, so we eventually moved away from this guy's system onto a bigger system called Run Sign Up. They're bandwidth is more capable of handling our registration blitzes. GS: Right. It's not running off a server in somebody's office. NZ: Right, right. Exactly. GS: You bring Philip in, you say, "Hey, good news, bad news, we got a lot of signups." NZ: Yep, so we were excited and he was impressed and also scratching his head because here's a guy who's seen a lot of shit in his days with events and you don't typically see some first year race, that's never existed before just pop a thousand people off the gate. NZ: If there's ever a business lesson for anyone to learn, it's hire the right people. I have him to thank for making me have a logistically sound first year race with 3,000 people, which is ... I didn't know at the time was a lot of work. GS: Plus the education you must have gotten from him had to be tremendous. NZ: The education's been ... Was just unbelievable. He had the pro-book up in his head 'cause he's been doing it for so long, so it as a matter of just watching what he did, learning what he did and then having the right ... Him being able to pull the right people in. That's where I found out that there's actually a carny circuit. There's a lot of event professionals, which they call carnies that will go from event to event to event. GS: You had to learn a lot the first year. The second year, did you take over as race director? NZ: No. Philip was our race director going to year two. We had growth pains. We went from 3,000 runners to over 4,600. Over a 50% increase year to year. The event was so well received that, obviously, everyone had to get in for year two. GS: Did you make money in year one on that first race? NZ: Yes. Yes. Yes, so the event was profitable, but the money basically stayed in the account. GS: That's huge to have a profitable event the first year. NZ: Yeah, most people lose money or break even. Out of the 17, 18 different events, somewhere in that range that we've put on for ourselves for Best Damn Race, I've only lost money one time and that was the first year we did Jacksonville. GS: How do your numbers, in terms of having 3,000, 4,500 or what are you up to now for your biggest? NZ: Safety Harbor, we cap it at 4,000. GS: You cap it at 4,000? NZ: With those growing pains that we discussed, we realized that that was too many people in a small town of Safety Harbor to have 4,600 people there. GS: Safety Harbor is a small town, suburb of Tampa? NZ: Yeah, 16,000 person town next to Clearwater. GS: All of a sudden, you bring in 4,500 people, right. NZ: Right, plus that doesn't even include spectators and vendors and things like that, so we capped Safety Harbor at 4,000. Orlando is in the 3,500 person range. New Orleans, first year, was close to 3,000, so we're expecting 3,500 plus this year for New Orleans. Everything's pacing ahead and Jacksonville is 1,700 to 2,000. GS: What's your ... Do you have a minimum number that you want to reach in terms of signups? NZ: Honestly, I think anything less than 2,000 is a disappointment based on the production. We bring in a production crew and put on an event that really works for three, four, five, 6,000 people, so we're doing a big team like this, it's expensive and if we're going doing it for 1,500 people, it looks bare and the excitements not there. NZ: When you go to the Safety Harbor event, the Orlando event, the New Orleans event, there's electricity in the air, right? You go to the Jacksonville event, and for some reason, we just haven't caught on in that market enough. It's a good event, but it's not the same level of excitement as a 4,000 people versus 2,000. GS: How do your numbers of participants compare to other competitive races? You've Rock 'n' Roll for instance. NZ: What I've learned is there's your local two, 300 person 5K, then there's your giant 10,000 to 40,000 person Rock 'n' Roll corporate event. GS: Or Disney. NZ: Or Disney, so we're way more competitive ... We're basically like you're getting almost a big race feel like the price for a Rock 'n' Roll or a Disney, but you're getting a local race price. Your local 5K is going to run you anywhere from 20 bucks to 40 bucks. We're in that range, so when we do our registration blitz now, we no longer do a dollar, but we do $15 then 20, 25 up to 40 for a 5. NZ: Similarly, with our half marathon, we start at 35, go up to 95. GS: $95 for a half marathon. What does it cost to enter a half marathon at Disney? NZ: 150 to 200, so we're still way less than Disney. That being said, we're not Disney. We're not running and stopping at mile one and taking a picture with Snow White, so I don't believe that I can compare myself to Disney. GS: Disney, obviously, they have a huge benefit because they've got ... Somebody comes, they run the race, they bring the entire family, they're all staying at the hotel, they're all eating on the property, they're all paying admission to park, they make a whole huge weekend out of it, so they get more than the ... The benefit is more than just the entrance fees. NZ: Sure. GS: Are you getting people that fly into town to run your races? NZ: Yeah, so our big following, obviously, is Tampa. That's my backyard. It's where it all started. We get hundreds of people that flew in from Tampa to go to New Orleans race the first year. A lot of the people that I run with, do triathlons with know, so the BDR runners, they follow the brands wherever the brand goes and try to do all four races or five races. GS: That's the advantage of creating a brand. NZ: Absolutely. That was the number one thing was, I don't want to create the Safety Harbor half marathon, I want to create a brand. Don't just create another race just like everyone else, I was trying to be different. Once I realized we had something, we started creating merchandise, selling merchandise. NZ: We started expanding to different markets and people were really BDR groupies, if you will. We had one guy that got a tattoo of the very first year's finisher medal on his back. GS: Got a tattoo? NZ: Yes, so it was a collage. He had done 20 different races. GS: Instead of taking all of finishing medals and putting them on a wall somewhere, he has 'em tattooed on his back? NZ: I thought he was crazy, but hey. I told him, I said, "If you do this, you can have a free entry for life." GS: And where's your BDR tattoo? NZ: I thought about getting one, but girlfriend won't let me. I wanted to do Best Damn Race tattoo, but everyone I ask just shakes their head and says, "No."
GS: Don't do it. It seems to me in the beginning of the year, January to Aprilish, if you're a runner in Florida, you could run a race every weekend. NZ: Oh, easily. There's a local 5K, 10K, half, almost everywhere in the whole southeast every weekend. GS: You learned to apply any math to it in terms of market size? NZ: Big markets and or destination places, that's the key. If you look what Rock 'n' Roll does well, you look at what Ironman does well, a majority of their events are in major markets or destination locations. People want to travel to New Orleans, so hundreds of people that follow my brand in Tampa and Orlando and Jacksonville, would happily go to ... Use Best Damn Race as an excuse to go to New Orleans. GS: When you work with the cities, do you come across pushback? NZ: Oh yeah, all the time. It's tricky to navigate 'cause some cities say, "Well, you think you're full," but some cities for example, city of Orlando, there's no statutes or legislature that says they can ... That they can limit the number of events that take place in the city, so if you jump through all of their hoops, you get a permit. NZ: Now, they make it extremely challenging to jump through all those hoops, and most people probably give up or realize how expensive it is and don't want to do it, but if you're really determined and you have the money and you want to put that gamble into it, they'll say yes. GS: What advice to do you give to event producer that is trying to do an event in a city and the first thing they do is they say, "Here's the book of stuff you have to do to even qualify for us to think about it and no." They say no all the time. My experience is, the first answer is probably not. What advice to do you give to producers that are trying to create ... Whether it's a running race or something else? NZ: I think the number one thing you have to do is, before you even go to the city is make sure you're prepared to give reasons why you're going to produce the event and have a history of successful events with other cities. NZ: If you're starting from scratch, start small, then go back, but for major cities, you're going to have to go in there and say ... You have to show them that you know what the fuck you're doing because they're not about to let some crazy event that they never heard of just shut down downtown city streets, so my advice would be, go be successful somewhere that's easier, in a smaller market and then go from there. Once you get to the bigger markets, you'll have a track record of being able to produce events. GS: Your first year, you didn't know what you were doing, but you had built a team that you could go to the town and say, "Hey, listen, we've got a team of people that know how to produce races." NZ: Right, well, again- GS: You didn't have a history, but you had a team. NZ: In Safety Harbor, it was ... I just walked in and say, "Hey, liked to do a race." They're like, "Great. No problem. It's a small little 16,000 person town." GS: You would think that they would be the first ones to say, no thanks because you're going to bring how many people here? NZ: They didn't know how many people I was going to bring. They've had 5Ks there and they're all a couple hundred people, no big deal. First year, we brought 3,000 people and they're like, "Whoa, Whoa. What is that?" Year two was crazy, so getting to year three was an extreme challenge. Trust me, then Safety Harbor made me jump through a lot of hoops. We're talking about ... They made me do stuff that no other events had to do before, like get remote parking lots and things like that, so I had to build the story and say, "This is what impact will be low. We're going to shuttle people in from the Countryside Christian Center over on McMullen Booth and drop 'em off here. We'll have the middle school parking lot. We'll do this. We'll do that. We'll do barricades and so, we- GS: They come to you with their objections or their concerns and then you had to address those or did you know what they were going to be? For year three, they came back to you and made it a little more difficult. They finally said, "Wait a minute, you're going a little to fast. NZ: I proactively went to them with, we weren't prepared for that number of people, traffic plan wasn't good enough, parking wasn't good enough, things like that. I said, "Look, here's things that we see that need improvement going into year three. I want you to recognize that we recognize these issues were not good and we're going to fix 'em. This is how. We're going to limit the number of people." They didn't ask us to do that, but I chose to put on the best race, not the biggest race. We got shuttles. Did all that, so when we went to them, they said, "That's great, but also X, Y and Z and made us jump through a bunch of additional hoops, which, at the time I was a bit frustrated with because I was so proactive, but now I see, it's for the betterment of the event and city, so I'm fine with. GS: Your big races are basically January to March, April? NZ: Yeah, everything's first quarter, so January, February and then two in March. GS: So, are you just on vacation the rest of the year? NZ: It takes months and months of planning for each event and then we've also ... I've also created a second company called, Best Damn Events, which now owns all of our race equipment. Best Damn Race was nice enough to sell it to Best Damn Events. GS: Well, that was convenient. NZ: Yes. GS: How'd that meeting go? NZ: Good meeting. Now, we produce events for other companies that need help producing their events. We've also brought some of our equipment out to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for doing turtle releases, which is interesting. That start line trust with the banners and stuff like that, so they'll have their team release the turtle out into the sea and they invite the press out there and people at Clearwater Beach, which is a fun event, so we'll bring sound and some tables and tents and stuff. GS: Do they chip time the turtles? NZ: They don't chip time the ... Well, they do chip 'em. They follow them with GPS, but it's not timed. They just follow them where they're at and their patterns and stuff like that, but that's after they rehab 'em, but we also produce Iron Girl Clearwater, which is owned by Iron Man, so from your local Girl Scouts- GS: So they farm out the production to you? NZ: They help us ... We pretty much produce all of the logistic stuff for them, so race course, registration, setting up the venue, breakdown, all that kind of stuff. GS: Let's talk about ... Back to the business again, what are your different sources of revenue? NZ: The main source of revenue is registrations from the participants how pay to be in the event. Additional sources of income are sponsorships, which include expo booth sales, that would be the second stream. GS: You have an expo at every race? NZ: Yes. GS: Buy a 10 by 10 booth. NZ: 10 by 10, 10 by 20. Local running store, insurance companies, something like that, to be at the expo to interact with the participants and spectators at the expo. Third revenue stream, which is our smallest revenue stream is merchandise, but we are looking to expand that for this upcoming season as I just spent a truckload of money on merchandise. GS: BDR tattoo artists. I think you're on to something. NZ: Exactly. GS: You're profitable as a company? NZ: Yes. GS: As a whole. You're how many years in? NZ: Yep. Going into our sixth year. GS: How big a role does sponsorship play? First revenue wise, how close is it in revenue to entrance fees? NZ: Very small. Very small percentage. GS: A lot of event producers, regardless of what type of event it is, their entire revenue model revolves around getting sponsors. NZ: I revolve mine around zero sponsorship dollars because I want an event to be self-sustaining based on participant entries. That being said, obviously, we do have a certain number of sponsorship dollars per event, but it's minuscule compared to the amount of participant revenue. Sometimes it's half cash, half trade in the event. It's agreeable for both parties. GS: At what point did you realize it was a business? NZ: Once we went to Cape Coral and Jacksonville and we were in four different markets and when we had a lot of registrations for all of them, combined. Once we hit over 10,000 registrations of being registered at one time, I thought, "I think this is a business." GS: This might go someplace. NZ: Yeah, this might go somewhere. GS: Where do you see the future of the business? What do you think the growth ... We talked a little bit about this, but where do you see the growth opportunity? NZ: I think the growth opportunity is to continue to seek out other destination markets or large markets, expand slow and smart and produce a really solid event. By say event, not just a road race, but experience for everybody. It everyone has a great experience, it's going to be a success. I think the goal number is 10 different successful markets. GS: What do you think ... Is there a secret sauce? Is there advice you'd give if you had ... If you're doing a speech in front of a class of MBA students? What would be the advice you'd give 'em? NZ: Be a sponge for knowledge and then apply that to something that you love and want to do. I've worked in radio. I've worked in TV and I learned a lot of things, but I didn't love it. Ran my dad's company for a hot minute there, a year, year and a half in information technology. Hated it, but learned some things. GS: It wasn't a waste of your time? NZ: I don't think anything's a waste if you learn one thing from whatever you're doing. Similarly to going to a conference. If you can pick one nugget out of there that'll help you be better, even if it's small, it's not a waste of time. GS: I find that with business books. There's a zillion business books out there. You read the whole thing, but if you get one or two really great ideas out of it, it was worth the effort to- NZ: Absolutely, but be a sponge for knowledge, and then pick something you're passionate about and then that's what you should do and hopefully, you get lucky like me, you can make some money. GS: Do you see yourself as an event ... More of an event producer or an entrepreneur? NZ: I think entrepreneur. Currently, I have three different businesses, although two are very similar and I'm all about making each individual business better. It's something that an entrepreneur would do versus just an event producer who just wants to produce an event or multiple events.