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Exploring Life & Business with Michael Hodges of The Clubhouse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Hodges.

Hi Michael, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
The story of The Clubhouse starts with me as a child. One of the most impactful statements I can remember growing up was my dad telling me to “find something you love to do… and then find a way to make a living doing that”. So often, we miss out on life… by chasing the wrong thing… and at a young age, I knew I didn’t want to do that.

Fast forward to college. I was 20 years old, newly married and both, my wife and I were finishing our degrees in Religion. We were BROKE. Fortunately for me, I had a full ride to college, so my cost of living was VERY low. During this time, I began rediscovering my love for sports cards, that had faded while I was in Middle School and High School.

I started buying cards online and posting Youtube Videos when the package would come in the mail, showing people what I had received. These videos turned into me buying sealed boxes of cards, selling teams/spots in the box to Youtube followers, and then opening it to see what everyone was going to get! At the time, it was a fledgling segment of a tired sports card market.

Now, after over 10 years in this space, we have seen explosive growth in the sports cards and collectible industry… and ‘breaking’ (what my business specializes in) is at the forefront of the boom.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road has been anything but smooth.

Starting with zero money, I have bootstrapped the entire venture and taken on no debt doing it. That proved challenging, however, it taught me early on that the numbers are EVERYTHING. Every piece of margin matters. For the first 3 or 4 years, I rarely took a paycheck, instead pumping everything back into the building of our company and brand.

In the beginning, we mostly specialized in Hockey with a tiny bit of Baseball and Football. One day I received the news that one our the main manufacturers we had a relationship was losing the Hockey license… meaning the product we were buying was about to disappear. I had the choice to allow that to dictate my bottom line or to get uncomfortable and use the challenge as a way to expand our business. Fast forward, and now Baseball, Football, Basketball & Soccer are larger portions of our revenue than Hockey. It was a blessing in disguise.

The final struggle (I will mention) is one that is a daily struggle for me, and that is technology. I have invested heavily in developing custom purchasing platforms on our website, and in that have entrusted much smarter people than I to make my concepts come to life. This is a struggle for me personally, as it is an area of the business that I do not understand, and have to trust the people I have put in place around me to be in my mind and know how to pull out exactly what they need to make the development turn out as I envisioned.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
The Clubhouse is an online community in the Sports Card Breaking space. We specialize in taking expensive boxes and cases of sealed sports cards and splitting that cost across a group of collectors to make the hobby we all love affordable for everyone. Once we sell the ‘shares’ of the product, we then open the box on a Live Stream with our members all watching and chatting along to see what kind of cards we pull out of the box.

The biggest differentiator is our intense focus on Community. Yea, yea, yea… everyone says that. We LIVE that. Every aspect of our site is geared towards helping people interact together on our platform. I approach every day from a Relationship FIRST mentality… the sale of sports cards is secondary to the building of relationship. While almost every other company in our category goes after quantity of members & sales… we go after like-minded people who share in the vision of contributing to community.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I am fortunate to have a number of close friends who have followed me on this journey, who understand what I have gone through and understand the unique business I am in.

One thing I have learned about networking is that EVERYONE feels awkward, it is NOT just you.

Meeting new people in the ‘digital age’ can be HARD, but push through, you never know when you are going to introduce yourself to the most important person you have ever known in your professional or personal life.

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