What Playing Basketball Taught Me About Starting A Businessby go Inspo | 8 months ago
Guest Writer: Alex Jarrell, CXO & Co-founder of NomNomNow
“Nothing can prepare you for starting a business.”
“Running a startup is a singularly crazy pursuit that requires the kind of dedication and commitment that very few people have.”
Ever heard something similar? It’s a pretty discouraging sentiment. With statements like that, it’s a shock that anyone ever starts a business.
To be clear, of course running a business is incredibly challenging. But to suggest that it’s nearly impossible is to suggest that it’s not worth trying. And it’s especially misleading to suggest that nothing can prepare someone to run a business, when in fact there is at least one very common thing that millions of people share, that is one of the greatest methods of preparation for entrepreneurship in existence.
More specifically, I’m referring to being a student athlete. I played basketball from the age of 8 until I was 22. Being a long-term competitive student athlete, as many of you surely know, is a job. As a kid, I worked nights and weekends. As a high school senior I was recruited by Pepperdine and was granted a full ride as a collegiate basketball player.
Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it, and the rest of the time, I just did it because I knew it was important somehow. Now, I’m really grateful that I stuck with basketball as long as I did.
Without the blood, sweat, and tears of those 14 years, I would never have been prepared for what has been asked of me these past three years, as I founded a company and helped it grow. Reflecting now, I can see the lessons I learned from basketball, especially at the collegiate level, at play in starting NomNomNow, which is a pet health company that crafts and delivers custom, pre-portioned, fresh food for dogs and cats.
Understand your competition and have a game plan. Starting a business without understanding the competitive landscape would be like going into a game without knowing anything about your opponent. We would spend hours reviewing game film of our competitors and defending against their plays in practice – preparing for the challenge ahead and positioning ourselves for the best chance of success.
Starting NomNomNow was no different. We tirelessly researched available pet foods and brands to understand what was available and where the gaps were. We talked to hundreds of pet parents about what they were currently feeding and what they felt they were missing. We immediately began working with an expert in veterinary nutrition (see know your limitations). We knew that we couldn’t offer the best product available without doing our homework and planning for every possible outcome we could think of.
Know your limitations & your teammates’ strengths. I knew very early on in my basketball career that I was never going to be the quickest or the strongest, but I was blessed with a good touch. Give me the ball 15’ or less from the basket and I could shoot. In sharp contrast to my shooting was my dribbling… I knew dribbling wasn’t the way to help my team – just the opposite
– it usually resulted in a turnover and the other team scoring.
For my team these days, I bring a love for pets and people. My contribution is converting and then caring for our customers, whether that means speaking to pet parents at parks or answering emails/phone calls in the wee hours of the morning or weekends. I don’t know how to code, and I have never raised funding, but I love supporting our customers through their lives with us – creating a team to care for their pets’ health and happiness.
The only thing you are in control of is yourself. On occasion, referees will make the wrong calls. Your coach will make frustrating decisions. Your teammate will not always do her best. So much of the game is outside of your control. This is one of the most difficult and valuable lessons I learned from the game of basketball – the only thing you can control is your response to the things you cannot control.
I have never felt more out of control and vulnerable than when starting a business. I had legitimate fears that Fedex might fail to deliver to a customer, or a pet might not like one of our recipes for reasons beyond our control. . But basketball taught me that by focusing on the things within my control, I can operate with no regrets and take pride in my work and the work of those around me.
Set goals for yourself and for your team. As a student-athlete, there were more practices than I can count that I didn’t want to attend, and track workouts that I dreaded.. In isolation, there was little joy found in grueling hours of shooting, running, jumping, sliding, repeat… So what kept me going? I knew that every day, every minute was working towards the goals I set for myself and that was set as a team. Goals are the light at the end of the tunnel and the motivation to dig down and find a way to achieve what you thought impossible.
When I started NomNomNow with my co-founders, we had one goal in mind: improve the health and lives of our pets by giving them the nutrition they deserve. Just as my basketball career was guided by the goal of supporting my team, our mission for NomNomNow has been and will continue to be the light that guides each and every decision we have made since cooking the very first meals for our dogs, Harlee and Mim. Receiving messages from pet parents highlighting the improvements they see if their pets’ health after feeding our food makes all of the hard work worth it, 1,000,000 times over.
I could go on and on drawing parallels between my life as an athlete and my life as an entrepreneur. Ultimately, I want people, especially women, of all ages and backgrounds to know that despite what they are told, they can accomplish incredible things. Starting a business isn’t impossible, and it isn’t something that’s only done by experts in finance or MBA graduates.
Using a range of resources, including the tactical skills I learned as student-athlete, I was able to build a unique business from the ground up, that now serves thousands of customers all over the country. Who knows what the basketball player in me will accomplish next?
About Alex Jarrell
Alex Jarrell, Chief Experience Officer and co-founder of NomNomNow, is an expert in customer experience management, and is a true caretaker at heart. Growing up on a farm in Tennessee as the daughter of a veterinarian, Alex’s love of animals blossomed early in life, and has shaped who she is today. After witnessing dramatic health improvements in her own dog, Harlee, as a result of a fresh diet, Alex was determined to help pet parents everywhere experience the powerful benefits of nourishing their pets with fresh food. She set out to create the healthiest, most effective pet nutrition company the world. Alex cares deeply about transparency and education in the pet food industry, and wants to provide pet parents with the tools they need to ask the right questions of pet food brands, understand the importance of proper nutrition, and make well-informed decisions about their pets’ health.