Tell me your story. Who are you? How old are you? What is your educational background?
My name is Darren Heitner. I am a 23-year-old second-year law student (also known as a 2L) at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. I was born in South Florida and have lived in Florida my entire life (minus a 3 month internship in Atlanta, GA). I am a double Gator, which means that once I graduate from UF Law, I will have my Bachelors and JD from the same wonderful orange and blue institution. Upon graduation, I plan on moving back down to South Florida to devote 100% of my time to my business.
Tell me all about your company.
My company is Dynasty Athlete Representation, LLC. I started the Florida-based company in April 2007 with a partner who graduated from the University of Illinois who was at that point also in law school out in California. Interestingly, we met through a website that I own, SportsAgentBlog.com. He was one of my first contributors to the site, which now garners over 3,000 page views per day. In February 2008, I bought my partner out, and to this day I remain the sole owner of Dynasty. That being said, my company has fantastic employees who serve as Division Directors and we get a great crop of interns for every season. Dynasty was created in April 2007 with one client: a bowler. Since then, we have expanded to include divisions in basketball, football, coaches, baseball, and entertainment. Additionally, our bowling division is unrivaled. We represent over eighteen of the top PBA Tour exempt bowlers including this year’s ESPY Bowler of the Year: Norm Duke.
Why did you start this company?
I started Dynasty Athlete Representation for a variety of reasons. I am fascinated by the law and have an extreme passion for sports. The fact that I was a nationally ranked high school debater and have an inclination to negotiate practically everything made the selection of being a sports agent quite easy. Upon deciding that this was something I was interested in, I applied for an internship as an undergrad. I interned with a major agency out of Atlanta, Career Sports and Entertainment, in the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year. I am very thankful that I was not only selected by the company, but that they threw me right into the mix in my first day on the job. I learned invaluable information at CS&E. Upon the expiration of the internship, I started thinking to myself, “What can I do to start increasing my value in the industry RIGHT NOW?” As a New Years Resolution, I started what has become SportsAgentBlog.com on December 31, 2005.
The intentions behind creating it was two-fold: stay abreast of current sports agent related matters and get my name out in the industry. For the first year, my best day was sixty visitors. Now, SportsAgentBlog.com is read by the entire industry, and even generates some money for my company through advertisements. As the blog grew, I said, why not give it a try at the real thing? I had read up on every major sport’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, had the requisite connections for any potential clients, and had a solid framework of others in the industry who were more than gracious in their willingness to help. I never wanted to work for anybody else and I wanted to start my own business as a young man. The worst that could happen would be that it would fail.
How did you get funding?
Starting your own company, is no easy task. It is also not light on the wallet. This holds especially true in an industry where agents are poaching each others clients and spending large amounts of money on recruiting potential clients. Luckily, as an undergrad, I started a promotions company called DHP (Darren Heitner Promotions), which was one of the largest promotions units in Gainesville, FL during its existence. Instead of spending the money that I made on stupid purchases, I invested a majority of it. In my senior year, I decided to wrap up the promotions company and start the agency. I have had offers for outside investment, but have declined taking money for the time being.
Tell me the most important step in starting a business.
Passion. You must truly believe in what you are doing. For every email, phone call, or Facebook message I get from somebody who tells me how they look up to what I have done at such a young age, there are five others who don’t believe that Dynasty will be successful. If you are passionate about what you do and believe in your product, you won’t worry about the cheerleaders on the sideline. It is all about bringing something new to the table in your industry. How will you separate yourself from those already in the game?
Can you give me some concrete tips in starting a business?
If you are unaware of the basic procedures, get some help. I am not yet a lawyer, so I had some outside assistance in filing for an LLC, getting a tax ID number, etc. You always hear about people starting businesses, but you do not know how complex it actually is until you try it. It is also important to have a network of support behind your effort. I cannot begin to explain how valuable it has been to have trusted friends and my indispensable family behind me in my effort to create Dynasty. Again, creativity is very important. Think outside of the box and be persistent in making sure that your dreams come true. Know what works and find out what does not. Do not be stubborn and hold onto a project that is bound to fail, and learn from your failures.
What advice can you give other young entrepreneurs?
Listen when others give you constructive criticism. Feed off of the detractors. No one besides your family and closest of friends wants to see you succeed. Find out what makes you special, always be innovative, and strive to be better than whoever you believe to be the most successful person in your industry.
Tell me anything else you’d like people to know about you and your company.
Along with being a law school student and Chief Editor of SportsAgentBlog.com, as previously mentioned, I am also the head Playboy representative in the state of Florida, President of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society at UF Law, and a Student Representative for the Faculty Recruitment Committee. I also believe that you cannot truly be successful in life unless you are happy. I work out 7 days a week, eat healthy, and party hard. Dynasty will see a lot of growth in the next year. We are currently recruiting hard for the 2009 NBA and NFL draft and continue to develop our baseball division, which already has some impressive names in Minor League Baseball. The future looks bright.