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We like to keep tabs on fellow laxers. Periodically, Lacrosse Playground features profiles and interviews with what lacrosse players are doing in the business world.
Founded by two former Division I players, Frank Luciano (Maryland ’03) and Dixon Hayes (Princeton ’04), The Social Scholar is a free weekly email that clues you in on great local events and cool gear that won’t break the bank. It’s aimed at undergrads, grad students and men & women in their 20s and 30s. They’ve launched in 15 locations as well as a national version.
They are not going to tell you which lounge with a velvet rope outside has recently changed up their bottle service menu, but they will send things like when your local craft brewery is giving away free tours and samples, when the First Annual Power Wheels Racing Series launches, and when Patagonia.com is offering 25 percent off all items purchased online.
How did you come up with the concept?
We felt it was really tough to find information on apparel, nightlife, gear, food, drinks, etc. for our, for lack of a better word, demographic. Most of what’s out there is focused on either the luxury end (the models and bottles crowd) or the hipster end of the spectrum. We believe this middle ground, which we think most college students also fall into, is particularly underserved, so we’re hoping to be its eyes and ears. You know that friend who everyone asks what’s going on this weekend? Our goal is to be him.
How do you know each other?
We both worked together at the same hedge fund in Manhattan. We obviously had the lacrosse connection and we’re both from New Jersey- Frank from Mountain Lakes and Dixon from Princeton- so that helped as well. Frank’s still with the same fund and Dixon moved out to San Francisco to start with another fund.
What steps did you have to take to get the company off the ground? Has it been a long time coming?
We’ve been working on it for four or five months. We both wanted to start a business and began by kicking around a bunch of different ideas. Once we narrowed it down, we did a bunch of background work – looking at demographics in dozens of different areas to target where we’d launch, doing the legal work surrounding incorporating the company and taxes, competitor analysis, finding website designers and hosts and a number of smaller tasks.
Overall, the largest obstacle was probably the actual site construction. We’ve worked with a couple of different programmers for a few months making sure the site looks and operates just how we want it to. There are still some hurdles we need to clear and upgrades that we’ll be making in the near future, but for now we think we’re in a pretty good spot.
Is it hard to balance your personal life and this site?
We manage to find the time. It’s busy, but having an active social life allows us to keep our eyes and ears open and exposes us to a lot of new and fun stuff, some of which eventually makes its way into the mailers. It’s getting easier and easier as the weeks go by because people will send us recommendations and we’re getting more feedback, which in turn, gives us a better ability to identify what our readers would find interesting.
Where do you pull the information from?
We use pretty much every resource imaginable- recommendations from locals, online news sites, local newspapers, magazines, word of mouth, our own personal experiences. There are plenty of options out there, it’s really just filtering through the mess to figure out what appeals to our readers and what we find interesting and unique.
Many don’t understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur, especially in this economy. How did you support yourself while building your website and company portfolio?
We’ve both been rather lucky in that the site isn’t our main source of income, so we’ve been able to take some time to build it the right way and be patient while it gets off the ground. We know these types of things take time and we’re not going to rush things in order to make a quick buck. We want it to be a quality site and enterprise first and foremost. With all of the job losses over the past year, we’re just beginning to see all these new ideas and products come to fruition. There are plenty of people who have had ideas just bouncing around in their head, yet never acted on it for any number of reasons – concerns about income, lack of time due to a full time job, etc. Due to the economy, some people don’t have those same constraints and are now taking advantage of it.
Did you get funding for your company? If so, where?
Not a very interesting answer, but we both funded the business ourselves.
Why would a person visit your site? How is it beneficial for a person? Do you think there is a high demand/need for the information that you provide?
Someone would visit the Social Scholar for a number of reasons: to find out what’s going on in their town this weekend, what new apparel or gear is out there, what new restaurants or bars have opened in their town. If you’re taking a trip to a town you’re not very familiar with, the Social Scholar can help tell you what’s going on there this weekend. This past week for instance we told readers about, among other things, a Zombie Prom in Austin, TX, a Cypress Hill Halloween Concert in Washington, DC, an all day BBQ tour of North Carolina, and a service that will deliver and pick up everything you need to have a tailgate in New York City (they’ll even clean up after you). On a national level, we talk about new products and services. We will also give away some of the products we feature for free, but you have to be a subscriber to be eligible to win them.
Describe your demographic…
Our demographic would be males and females between the ages of 18-35 who are still very active and social; the type of people who would rather drink beers in an irish pub than be ushered past a velvet rope.
Who are your competitors?
There are plenty of other groups out there doing similar things for different demographics, but nobody that does a good job serving the “every-man/every-woman” demographic. We’ve seen other companies suggest timeshares on private jets to a target market of 20-30 year old men Yeah it’s interesting to read about, but that’s worthless to 99.9% of their readers. We only send out info that won’t break the bank and that we think our target market is actually interested in.
How has lacrosse helped you? Has it molded you into who you are today?
Aside from the relationships that we’ve developed over the years playing lacrosse, we think a strong work ethic and confidence to take on risk are the best by products overall from playing. So many people are afraid to step up and possibly fail, that they never take the chance and in the long run, it’s really going to hold them back. Nine out of ten ideas that we come up with may end in failure, but that one success will be worth all the downside of the previous letdowns. Lacrosse, and sports in general, teaches you better than anything else that you don’t always win the game.