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As a self proclaimed “sports nut” company President Rich Spaulding has been in a long lasting love affair with sports and tailgating. As such, he has made it his life’s work to bring the best tailgating games and gear to the consumer through the Gold Star Games website.
Gold Star Games provides fun tailgating games and gear for sports fans. They do this by offering the coolest games and tailgating gear combining with an easy-to-use website.
MO: Can you talk about how you started the company? Did you solicit investors or raise the capital you needed in some other way?
Rich: Gold Star Games started in my apartment with my best friend Jotham McCauley. We had the idea of selling big arcade games, pinball machines, and other expensive coin operated “old school” arcade games to home owners via a website. Arcade machines like Pac-Man and Golden Tee Golf sell for $5,000+ and decent margins. We thought an easy to use web store selling these types of machines would be a winning combination. We wrote a 34 page business plan with no idea on where to get money. We started with our parents. They were impressed with the business plan (at least they told us that) and gave us some cash to get started. Within three months, we had an office, a website, customers, and a real business.
After 18 months of grinding out sales, we ran out of money. Gold Star Games was bringing in enough money for one person to make a decent living, but not enough revenue for two people. I gave Jotham a check for his half of Gold Star Games and we parted ways.
I realized a giant web store selling $5,000 arcade games was not going to survive with one person running the show. Low margin, high ticket products, and two week sales cycles were just not a good fit for a one person company. It was about that time, I got a call from my step-father. He told me about this company that wholesales cornhole games and thought we’d be a good match. I was familiar with the game cornhole, but tailgating games didn’t really fit my arcade game webstore. As a favor to my family, I added these cornhole games to the webstore and put them up for sale.
After a couple months, I noticed these cornhole games were selling at a nice rate. It was time to look into the tailgating industry and see if there was enough demand to build a company around this niche market.
After some research, I noticed the tailgating industry was an industry on the rise. I took notice to people tailgating outside stadiums and at home before football games. These people were serious about tailgating! More importantly, these people were just like me. They enjoyed a couple beers, burgers and fun before the big game.
In early 2010, I pushed my chips “all in” the tailgating industry. I made relationships with over 20 different manufacturers of tailgating supplies. I got rid of the arcade games and jumped into the tailgating industry full time.
The rest is history. We are now the leading web store of tailgating games and gear. We provide over 10,000 tailgating related products and still growing. I love the industry, people, products and growth potential.
MO: What were you doing before starting Gold Star Games?
Rich: I started a poker coaching company during the poker boom of the mid-2000’s. I gave free poker lessons to people who wanted to make decent money playing online poker. I got paid by the poker websites for the referring the player to their poker website. This was my first entrepreneur experience. It was a relatively successful. However, my wife got pregnant with our first child and I didn’t have health insurance. That was when gave up my three year poker coaching career and worked for Sears selling lawn mowers. The Sears job wasn’t sexy, but it provided the health insurance and stable income I needed for my family.
MO: What does your marketing plan look like? How have you been getting the word out there so far?
Rich: Our marketing plan is all about inbound marketing. Rather than telling people “our company is great, buy from us”, we encourage our customers to do the talking. This means a LOT of referrals and word of mouth marketing. I believe in the small family business mentally that every customer is like a family member.
Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to spread the word. We believe in the inbound marketing concept and that is the backbone of Gold Star Games.
In addition to inbound marketing, we still participate in some of the traditional outbound marketing techniques most E-commerce businesses use today. This includes pay per click marketing and affiliate programs.
MO: What are some of your most popular products? Are you adding any new lines that you’d like to tell our readers about?
Rich: Cornhole games, washer toss, and beer pong are some of our popular products. Our customers really enjoy playing tailgating games while they wait for the game to start. These games are not super competitive and can be played by men, women, and kids. It’s a fun way to pass the time while talking about your team’s chances on winning the game that day.
We are adding barbecue grills and other tailgating supplies to broaden our market. The tailgating industry overlaps with the outdoor cooking industry in many ways. We plan on dipping our toes in the outdoor cooking market this year. I’m excited to show our customers these new tailgating supplies and I expect this overlap to be a wild success.
MO: Do you remember your first tailgating experience? Were you instantly hooked?
Rich: I do. I was 12 years old and my father took me out of school to attend the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis, Indiana. We arrived to the Hoosier Dome several hours before the game. Dad wanted to “soak in the atmosphere” by walking around and participating in the fun college basketball activities that were being displayed outside the stadium.
I remember Duke University had a HUGE following. Their tailgating tent was packed with Blue Devil fans. The tent has televisions, food cooking on grills, and fun games. We enjoyed some baby back ribs and spent two hours talking to all the Duke fans about their basketball team. Their excitement and love for their team was something I really remember.
I was hooked on being a sports fanatic more than a tailgating guru. However, as I’ve gotten older, tailgating has become just as important as the game itself. I think many people feel the same way and that’s why my business has succeeded.
MO: As a one-man-show, you have to have to focus on every facet of your business, from finance to marketing, to customer service, how do you recommend not being overwhelmed by this?
Rich: When you work for yourself, time is a BIG commodity. When I worked for Sears, I would often think about time moving slowly. Now, I think “where did all the time go during the day”?
Being a business owner requires a great deal of self-discipline. I find it easy to lose track of time. This is why I created a daily checklist of tasks that need to be accomplished every day. I highly recommend this strategy because it takes the thinking out of the equation. For example, my task list starts with responding to emails and ends with daily accounting. In between, there are several tasks that need to be accomplished every day. I make sure that marketing, customer service, sales, and accounting tasks are sprinkled in every day. This way, I don’t miss out on any important part of my business and I can keep growing. The trick is to accomplish necessary daily operational tasks to keep the business running and growth type tasks at the same time. It can be real easy to spend hours on accounting, but that doesn’t help your business grow. It’s very important to keep focused on growth in addition to sustaining the business operations.
Hopefully, Gold Star Games will be big enough to hire people for every department. In the meantime, it’s my responsibility to make sure everything gets done. I’m guessing most business owners that are run by a single person share my thought process.
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