Episode 9 of 9

The Fantasy Footballers

Podcasters. Sports Fans. Marketers. Bloggers.
Words by Kayla Hollatz • Photography by Caleb Wojcik

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The Fantasy Footballers

Upon entering The Fantasy Footballers studio space, it’s impossible to miss the passion Jason Moore, Andy Holloway, and Mike Wright have for football.

Their podcast studio walls are lined with football trading cards, framed football jerseys, and sports newspaper clippings. Dozens of iconic player figurines are displayed on a desk next to a gift from a listener—a pair of Vans shoes painted with their podcast logo.

After getting a tour of the space, it’s safe to assume this trio lives and breathes football, and you’d be correct. But turning their favorite hobby into a thriving business wasn’t on their radar—until they invited others to join the conversations they were already having inside their fantasy football league.

Early Career Dreams

Andy and Jason met each other in a fantasy basketball league in high school. Jason invited Andy to join the league, and they have been hooked on fantasy sports ever since.

Mike was a part of a few fantasy basketball, baseball, and football leagues in his early twenties. He jokes about how he missed his first fantasy football league’s draft so he had to do an autodraft. He did terrible that year, but he learned his lesson and hasn’t missed a draft since. Luckily, Mike has won a few championships since then to redeem himself.

While Mike, Jason, and Andy all loved fantasy sports growing up, they had very different career aspirations. In high school, Andy and Jason began working together on Jason’s first business operation in 1999, Nothin’ But Net Web Design. Jason was in charge of sales and paid Andy pennies for the design.

While Jason and Andy felt like natural-born entrepreneurs, Mike was more interested in music. He had a knack for audio editing and performing, so he wanted to be a rock star or a professional studio musician. He saw himself as a freelancer but never had aspirations of becoming the boss.

However, Mike did have a business idea in grade school to rent out some of his best Nintendo games to other kids at recess. Modeling Blockbuster’s rental service, he started making a small profit from his video game collection. This passion for gaming led Mike to join a video game company where he met Andy and Jason in 2010.

Working Together at a Video Game Company

For eight years, Andy worked as a web developer at a game studio that was run by Jason. Mike joined the company later as their audio guy.

While working together, they learned a lot about how to use social media, marketing, and SEO to build a company. They each had a different set of skills and quickly found their ideal workflow.

To survive their hour long commute to work, Andy and Mike constantly listened to fantasy football podcasts. The more they listened to podcasts, the more they had to talk about over lunch. They loved heckling each other and trash-talking in the breakroom.

During the 2014 football season, Mike and Andy decided to start a private podcast for their ten other leaguemates. Inside these episodes, the friendly banter was in no short supply. They were completely free to be themselves and “destroy each other,” as Jason puts it.

After hearing that their leaguemates loved the podcast, Mike and Andy decided to publish the episodes publicly. But once it went live and the podcast felt more real, Jason could tell that Mike and Andy were more buttoned-up in their conversations. They weren’t taking the same playful jabs at each other like they were when it was private. Mike admits now that he felt like they were acting, and it put them in a box.

When you are consuming tons of other content or you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to find your own voice and find whatever special or unique thing you have to say. —Andy

Seeing the need for improvement and direction, they decided to take a step back and reassess what they wanted the podcast to be. It felt like the market for fantasy football resources was already saturated, so they spent time defining what they wanted The Fantasy Footballers to uniquely provide its listeners.

Jason wasn’t originally a part of the podcast, but when he told Mike and Andy about all the potential he saw in it, they decided to have him join in in 2015. Jason had great business experience and their mix of personalities was perfect for the show.

After joining The Fantasy Footballers, Jason was in the middle of his own business transition. His video game company was about to go under, and he didn’t have a solid plan B.

As a husband and father of three who wanted to provide for his family, Jason got a temporary part-time job at T-Mobile selling phones while selling real estate and hosting the podcast show on the side. He was determined to make the business a sustainable source of income for his family.

During this transition time, the guys were starting to notice how quickly the podcast was growing. Their podcast download stats were increasing exponentially each week, and more sponsorship opportunities were coming their way. It got to the point where The Fantasy Footballers couldn’t keep their pace of growth with a part-time effort.

Mike, Andy, and Jason all had conversations with their wives about the potential of quitting their jobs in order to pursue the podcast full-time. They also set goals for what the podcast could grow into and made sure their values were all aligned.

We sat down, the three of us, once we took this leap and said, “What do we want this podcast to be?” We didn’t have blind aspirations of “Let’s just see what happens.” We wanted something secure that allows us to have good family lives. Something where we can spend time with our wives and our children, knowing our bills are covered. —Jason

With this intention in mind, they all quit their day jobs to focus solely on building The Fantasy Footballers brand in 2015. From the outside, it may have looked like they were trying to make money by simply watching football and talking about it, but their first year of business solidified how much work actually needed to be done.

Full-Time Effort Into the Podcast

In their first year, Mike, Andy, and Jason were all working out of Andy’s house in a spare bedroom that acted as their recording studio. Mike’s wife would take care of the kids downstairs and try to make sure they didn’t come into the room when the trio was recording an episode.

Jason’s first office space was in a closet in the spare bedroom lovingly referred to as the “cloffice.” Working out of Mike’s home didn’t give them the kind of work-life balance they were hoping for, but they had their eyes on the bigger prize.

In the beginning, they were just trying to get a big enough advertising deal every month so they could keep the podcast going. It caused them to take a few bad deals, but they learned a lot through the process and now walk into term negotiations with more confidence.

The biggest challenge in their first year was working out the kinks of running a seasonal business. Because the regular NFL season is from September to December—not including the draft, preseason, and postseason games—they needed to create strong income streams for off-season months.

Knowing that they had more flextime in the off-season, they decided to create a digital product that listeners would love. After thinking about what they would want as fantasy league fans themselves, they created the Ultimate Draft Kit in the fall of 2016. This digital product helps their listeners plan and choose their top draft selections before the draft so they are always a few steps ahead of other leaguemates.

Thankfully, by process of elimination. . . we landed on an idea that pushed us beyond our expectations and took away the month-to-month worries. Only in this last podcast season have we talked about how nice it is that we don’t have to take bad deals. It’s really not the freedom of, “Oh, good, we’re not going to go under.” It’s, “We can operate how we want to now.”

As the draft kit sales started to climb, they explored other income streams outside of advertising and brand sponsorships. Since they run an independent podcast show, they thought Patreon would be a perfect fit. Fans of The Fantasy Footballers show, who are called the “Foot Clan,” can support the podcast by pledging a desired amount each month through Patreon and in return, they receive rewards and exclusive access to episodes.

Of all the success The Fantasy Footballers team has had in the last two years, they are most proud of their strong patron and listener support.

One of the things we said in the very beginning is every new listener matters. They aren’t just this big clump of numbers. I respond to as many people as possible. You took time out of your day to ask me a question; I’ll try to
answer it. —Mike

In the past two years, they have intentionally crafted a show that provides a fun, relaxing environment for all fantasy football fanatics. While fantasy football centers around competition, the trio takes a more playful approach with their family-friendly show.

Their Business Today

After moving into their new studio in January of 2017, they now have ample space for recording podcast episodes, watching football games all day Sunday with their families, and hosting ping pong matches between meetings. This day-to-day rhythm is working considering they received over thirty million podcast downloads during their 2017 podcast season.

Even with their expansive growth during the last two years, they’ve always kept family as their number one priority. They also attribute much of their success to their wives.

I think we all recognize that our wives do more work than we do. —Andy

We thank our families big time for putting their trust in us. It has to be hard from their point of view—not only to have supported us, but also to keep doing it.  —Jason

Not only does their business provide stable income for all three families, but it also gives them the opportunity to share their favorite hobby with each other and with the world. Hearing stories and comments from their listeners fuels them to make the show better every season.

Looking at their current business model, they have three main sources of income that support the podcast in an even split. One-third is from advertising and sponsorships, while another third is from Patreon patrons. The last third is from digital products like the Ultimate Draft Kit.

The secret sauce to their success has really been how well they work together as a team. Because they’re all proficient in separate areas, they’ve been able to define distinct roles within their business without stepping on each other’s toes—most of the time.

Mike continues to do the show’s audio editing and is the main person engaging with their community through social media and emails. Now that he’s changed his mind-set from a freelancer to an equal business owner, he’s proud to look back at the transformation he’s made in just a few short years. After experimenting with a few different career paths, he’s happy to have found what he wants to do with the rest
of his life.

Jason works on the bigger advertising and sponsorship deals as the show owner. Being a part of The Fantasy Footballers has changed Jason’s entire perspective on what it means to achieve success. He now puts family first in every pivotal business decision he makes and loves collaborating with Andy and Mike—and he never misses an opportunity to remind them that he’s had the best overall accuracy
in his drafts.

Andy, the “dad” of the group, continues to work on website development and other content creation projects while making sure the bills are paid. He’s thankful to spend more time with his family now that he has stepped outside of the nine-to-five work environment. He wants to make his family proud and be present with his kids more than impressing others. Work-life balance will always be his top priority.

Now that their podcast attracts thousands of new listeners every month, Mike, Andy, and Jason have a lot to celebrate. Whenever they surpass a business goal, they splurge on a nice meal at Culver’s. Because nothing says celebration like a ButterBurger combo meal shared with your best friends.

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