Success Story: Boardball
At Boardball, our mission is to make the game of volleyball more accessible, while maintaining that same level of fun and competitiveness. Boardball, a new, dynamic, and competitive game, replaces the traditional volleyball net. All you need is a board, a ball, and 4 players. The game is played two against two, and you can move anywhere around the board without losing that bump, set, spike that you love.
Check out this interview we did with the Founder & CEO of Boardball, Amanda Nguyen, and learn more about her entrepreneurial journey to innovating the friendly, competitive game you’ll want to be playing.
Amanda, tell us about yourself.
My name is Amanda and I am the founder of Boardball, a Toronto-based sports startup. Myself, along with 2 co-founders, are all big sports fans. We may not be pro athletes, but we sure do love a good competition. Beyond sports, our team makes up a diverse background of experiences and skill sets. I come from a digital marketing and analytics background. David has extensive experience in social research and film production. Kyle has expertise working with eComm brands and excels in supply chain management. Together, we’ve created a pretty awesome team to work with!
Give us some background on your business and the inspiration behind it.
I grew up playing and loving all sorts of sports, one of them being volleyball. But as I got older, I started to recognize the barriers to playing certain sports simply because I didn’t have access to the right equipment and resources. While on a trip with some friends, we were trying to find ways to play volleyball, but all we had was a ball — no access to a court or a net. We eventually found a creative way to use a miniature bridge that was fastened in the middle of a pool, and ended up using the bridge as a net and hitting the ball off of the bridge. To our surprise, things quickly got heated and the next thing you know we’d play this game for the rest of the trip. Soon after this experience of playing a makeshift version of volleyball, I quickly decided that I needed to evolve the game and develop a simplified piece of equipment that would lower the barriers to playing the game of volleyball we all know and love.
Boardball became my passion project that I was ready to take to the next level. I, along with my co-founders, started to work on evolving the rules, testing various playing surfaces, and developing board designs that could achieve both high level performance play and simplicity in set up and travel. All of our testing and playing took part in an empty squash court, where we invited friends and family to play every chance we had. We would even joke about having professional Boardballers play the sport one day, and how cool it would be to watch a high level match. That day came sooner than expected — after launching our kickstarter we were able to quickly sign on a World Champion Beach Volleyball Player and a Rio 2016 Olympic Team Canada Volleyball Player to represent Boardball. What started as a hobby in an empty squash court, quickly became a sport people were excited to be a part of.
What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur, and why?
There have been a lot of people and experiences that have inspired me to become an entrepreneur, but at the top of the list would be my parents. My parents didn’t own businesses, they didn’t study business, in fact they didn’t really even get a chance to study anything as they spent most of their childhood running from hardships in their home countries before they immigrated to Canada. But when I think about their life and the life they’ve provided for our family, one word comes to mind — “create”. Both my parents came to Canada under difficult circumstances, but they found a way to take the little that they had and create a life for themselves and a home for me and my family. My parents continuously inspire me to create something impactful and positive to share with the world.
Tell us about the decision to incorporate your business. What was that process like?
From the start, our team was focused on developing the product and ensuring we had a great marketing and distribution strategy down. We wanted to maximize our efforts where it made most sense for our business and reduce any errors or missteps that could cost us time and money. When it came to incorporating, it was an easy decision to move forward with Ownr as we really did see it as a one-stop-shop platform. We had already heard of many businesses who had registered or incorporated with Ownr, so it really helped us feel confident about moving forward with our choice.
One key lesson you’ve learned in starting a business. What is it?
Time is very, very valuable – and it’s not replenishable. What I’ve come to learn in starting this business and building up Boardball is that the more time I’ve put in, the greater the output. When we first began working on Boardball, every project seemed equally important. We spread ourselves thin trying to do everything we thought mattered in the beginning, and this cost us some time in certain areas that may have needed more attention from the get go. Learning to allocate and prioritize your time when starting a business is just as important as finding the right ways to spend your money. Before beginning, I would highly recommend mapping out all of your projects, deliverables, tasks and really break it down into different priorities and tackle it from there. While this may be an obvious tip, you’ll find yourself getting lost as new things arise in your business everyday.
Fill in the blank: The most rewarding part of doing what I do everyday is…
The most rewarding part of doing what we do everyday is that we’re ultimately working towards something greater than our business. Through Boardball, we’ve found a way to make a sport that many people love way more accessible to play. Not only are we evolving the way the game is played, we’ve also received an overwhelming response of how exciting, explosive, and fun the game actually is. It’s great to see that something you’ve created can build a community that is engaged, eager to stay active, and excited to connect through a new and dynamic activity. We feel lucky, excited, and happy to be working on an idea that is beneficial to the public in so many ways.
Any future plans or goals for your business that you’d like to share?
Our vision is to make Boardball a sport you can play anytime, anywhere. And we’ll first achieve this by releasing our Boardball Kits for the public, so that they can start playing wherever they want, with whoever they want to play with! We are also preparing for tournaments and leagues that will provide opportunities for people to play and connect with the Boardball community.
Finally, if you could give 3 tips to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would they be?
Challenge yourself, you should always be learning. Building a business doesn’t happen overnight, and it really shouldn’t happen overnight anyway. It takes a lot of dedication, drive, and curiosity to be successful. You should always find ways to challenge yourself, challenge your business, challenge your team members to push for new ideas and hopefully improve results. Building a business is a process, whether failure or success, the outcome should always be that you’ve learnt something.
Find good people but also make sure they’re good to work with. Your team is everything. Surround yourself with reliable, talented members that complement your skillset. You’re likely unable to do everything yourself, and you’re likely inexperienced in some facets of the business. Finding the right combination for your founding team is pivotal to your success.
Be a visionary, but also a doer. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I bet you’ve had many ideas that have crossed your mind. The reality is that an idea is only so good upon its execution. It takes a visionary thinker to want to pursue a business on their own, but it also takes a doer to actually get going with this.
Bonus: Celebrate the little wins and have fun!
Where can we learn more about Boardball?
Facebook: Boardball Sport
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