The past year has been like nothing I’ve experienced before, both personally and professionally.
Most of us can probably say this about our personal experience — huddled at home, distanced from friends and family, waiting for COVID to show itself out of our lives — it hasn’t been easy. But I feel very, very fortunate that my family made it through safe and sound, and everyone eligible has now been vaccinated.
While being cooped up for a year wasn’t exactly my first choice, it did bring me great joy in a couple of ways. I got to spend a lot more time with my wonderful wife and kids. Normally I travel often and spend some late nights at the office. That was replaced with special moments and deeper connections with my family. I was also able to invest time in a new hobby — sports card collecting — and that would forever change my professional life in the most unexpected of ways.
Recently, my wife introduced me to a friend as a “YouTube Influencer.” Two years ago, I would have died laughing at that intro. But 7 million YouTube views later, I guess that’s a fitting job title for me now.
Six months before the pandemic hit, I started a YouTube channel called Sports Card Investor. It was a nights-and-weekends project, outside of my core focus of running my growth agency, Three Five Two, and investing in and mentoring tech startups. I predicted that sports cards were about to explode in popularity again, like they did in the late 1980s. I saw a ton of business and investment opportunity in the sports card market, so I wanted to get ahead of it by creating content that no one else was creating at the time.
My prediction came true, my YouTube channel quickly gained some viewers, and I was thrilled. I had 5,100 YouTube subscribers at the end of 2019 (for comparison, today we’re approaching 100,000 YouTube subscribers, and our website, social media channels and podcast have hundreds of thousands of followers). I felt good enough about the audience growth that I decided to hire my own agency, Three Five Two, to build a sports card tracking and price guide platform called Market Movers. This would give me a way to monetize my side hustle, by selling subscriptions to my YouTube audience.
When I launched Market Movers in February of 2020, my goal was to get 100 paid subscribers by the end of the month. I reached that goal in the first day, and was adding hundreds more each week.
Then the pandemic hit. The sports world stopped. The stock market crashed. And, for a few weeks, sports cards were the last thing on everyone’s mind.
I was pretty sad. I had just launched Market Movers and had great early success, but new subscriptions stopped coming in. And the traction my YouTube channel had been getting suddenly slowed.
Here’s the crazy thing though: a few weeks later, everything changed. As people were stuck at home, and there weren’t any games to watch on TV, they began collecting sports cards again. The hobby took off like a rocket ship, and along with it, so did Sports Card Investor.
I wasn’t ready for it. I was suddenly working non-stop, 24/7, to keep up with the demand. I hired my first two employees for Sports Card Investor in April of 2020 (today, we have 20, and we’re continuing to hire like crazy). Last summer I opened a Sports Card Investor Studio in Midtown, Atlanta, and this summer we’ll be expanding into a new studio space about four times larger. My side hustle quickly became what was possibly the fastest growing startup in Atlanta in 2020 — all during a pandemic.
But while Sports Card Investor was accelerating beyond anything I had envisioned… my agency, Three Five Two, was struggling. We lost some customers during early stages of the pandemic as they slashed their digital marketing budgets, and tensions were high within my leadership team. Our entire business development strategy was based on in-person events, which of course were no longer possible. For the first time in while, I felt like I didn’t have the answers. I wasn’t sure how to help Three Five Two or calm the internal conflicts that were peaking.
It was an incredible dichotomy: one of my ventures was thriving beyond my wildest expectations (and I was having sooooo much fun with it), while another was struggling and needed a new path forward that wasn’t clear to me.
I thought a lot about what was making Sports Card Investor grow so quickly, why Three Five Two wasn’t on the same trajectory… and how exactly I fit into each company’s future success. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, so starting something new gives me a rush of energy like nothing else. Sports Card Investor was giving me that. Creating content — especially videos — is a passion of mine, too. And even though I had forgotten about it for many years, Sports Card Investor gave me that back too. Most people don’t even realize that I majored in broadcast journalism in college. My life goal back then was to become a sports anchor on ESPN. I never pursued that goal because I started Three Five Two while still in college. But creating videos for Sports Card Investor reinvigorated that passion.
So, after a lot of thought, I made a big change at the end of last year. I stepped out of the day-to-day management of Three Five Two. I appointed Robert Berris to be Managing Director. Robert has been a key leader at Three Five Two for seven years and he has a strong, compelling vision for the future. I felt Robert was the right person to guide the company through the turbulence — and more importantly, he was the right person to lead Three Five Two to the big, bright future I know it has. I also elevated the role of my very savvy long-time business partner, Caroline Blake, to provide guidance, wisdom and leadership to help Three Five Two thrive. I’m pleased to report that Robert, Caroline and the rest of the Three Five Two team have really righted the ship this year. The company is growing quickly once again and producing awesome results for clients.
I promised my team at Three Five Two I would help the company grow — but in a much different way than I had over the past 20 years. I am seizing the opportunity with the audience I have built at Sports Card Investor, and combining it with my passion for entrepreneurship, mentorship and content creation, to create new content focused on business and startup advice. I have two goals for this: One is to give back and inspire other entrepreneurs and business leaders to achieve greater things. My second goal is to have the business leaders in my audience check out the awesome digital product and business growth services that Three Five Two offers. I seek to help new clients discover Three Five Two, while Robert, Caroline and the rest of my great team deliver exceptional work for them.
It all starts now. This website, geoffwilson.com, will be updated weekly with my startup and business advice articles. My YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will also get regular posts and videos about building and launching new products and starting new ventures. I hope my audience finds it all really useful.
At age 41, I unexpectedly built a sports card content empire. At age 42, I’m excited to create what’s next, yet again.