By: Justin Mears, @jmears26
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Ryan Totka, an industry leading entrepreneur who has learned how to combine his passions of sport, business, and the internet to launch several successful companies and establish a productive career across all three sectors. His story is one of taking risk, offering to help others, backing this up with action, and continuing to grow and develop by finding the right mentors.
Ryan is the co-founder of several companies including RedCarpetMonday® and EliteJets as well as the President and Founder of athletepromotions.com and TornadoPromotions.com. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1999 with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing.
Ryan has started four successful internet companies including Totka.com Website Services, a website development company and TornadoPromotions.com, Inc., an internet marketing consulting firm based out of Orlando, Florida.
His company has helped hundreds of corporations with search engine optimization, website development, domain name registration, website hosting, and achieving maximum success on the web.
Other web ventures of his include TornadoEntertainment.com, a site promoting top athletes such as Lebron James, Torry Holt, Daunte Culpepper, Carmelo Anthony and many others.
Ultimately, he found that his true passion was combining sport, business and the internet. He founded AthletePromotions, one of the top athlete booking/sports marketing agencies in the country, specializing in booking sports celebrities for corporate appearances, speaking engagements, endorsements and more.
Ryan has teamed up with world class sports celebrities such as Mark Cuban, Magic Johnson, Terrell Owens, Wayne Gretzky, Tim Tebow, Mike Ditka, Mike Tyson, and many more.
It is clear that Ryan has been a part of an extremely diverse group of companies, yet in the end, he has continued to find his way back to sports. When asked what continued to lead him to the sports industry, Ryan said, “My ultimate passion was sports since I was a kid. I played sports all my life and after college, if you’re not going to go pro, you try to find a way to get involved in the industry.”
“I was drawn to it as the internet was getting big, I was in the business, and sports were my passion, so I brought all three together. I started by doing athletes’ websites for MLB players like Rickie Weeks and Zack Greinke. When Lebron James was a senior in high school, I contacted the company that did LebronJames.com and told them I’m doing some athlete websites and I’d like to help you out with search engine marketing.”
Ryan was able to expand his reach across the industry because he was willing to put himself out there and show some of the best athletes in the world that he could provide a service for them that would continue to grow their brand. Recently, he has been a part of several new enterprises including helping launch ThrowUpTheX, the official brand of Dez Bryant, as well as becoming a partner in LUMATIV, an innovative, wearable technology company specializing in designing and producing illuminated apparel.
Through it all, he has continuously come back to the importance of networking and building strong, mutually beneficial relationships.
Ryan said, “Networking is the biggest thing in this industry. You have to network. Sitting at home waiting for things to happen isn’t going to work. I go to a lot of Super Bowl events, All-Star games, trade shows, pretty much anything involving sports. I go to a game anytime I’m in a city. Being around the industry, you never know who you are going to meet.”
He continued to state, “It’s one of those things that once you establish the credibility, it’s a lot easier to go up to a player and say ‘Hey I work with this guy, I work with this team, rather than just saying I’m trying to break into the industry.’” You have to start somewhere, but eventually you have to establish the respect and credibility that comes with the quality of relationships you have developed in the industry.
Another important factor in Ryan’s success has been the ability to find the right mentor. It’s not just about finding anyone, but making sure that you find a mentor who can help you get to where you want to be.
“You find a mentor, whether it’s an owner, agent, someone that’s in the industry that is where you want to be. It’s kind of like the vision board effect. You put down everything you want in the future and life and it’s the same thing in sports. Some people may aspire to be a GM or owner or trainer or agent. The important thing is finding someone that motivates you. You have to find mentors.”
For Ryan, he found a mentor in Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Ryan was introduced to Mark after an Orlando Magic game several years ago, but it was his willingness to continue to reach out to Mark that allowed a relationship to develop the first time Ryan visited Dallas. What could have been a one-time meeting turned into a mentor relationship with someone he respected and aspired to within the sports and entertainment industry.
Ryan describes Mark as “a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy who goes out and has a fun time with no entourage. He would do anything for somebody he doesn’t even know. He is a billionaire guy that was willing to help someone new like me in the industry.”
Ultimately, Ryan believes that it is someone’s willingness to help others that leads to success in the industry.
“I’m always the type that likes to do things for people, so it has always been my thought process to show them what you can do before you ask. That’s what I do. I offer, hey let me build you a website that will generate more opportunities for you. Everyone these days has their hand out. But if you do enough good things for people, it ultimately comes back. That’s the key. You want to show people what you can do and go out of your way, even if it costs a little time and money to do something, it definitely goes a long way.”
When asked what advice he would give young sports industry professionals looking to make a difference, he said “I wouldn’t worry about the money first. Everybody likes the celebrity in sports. You want to get your foot in the door any way you can. Whether that’s interning, doing a site for free, doing social media for free. You have all these people trying to get an internship and you only have a few available. You have to be different and offer something different than what other people can offer and not necessarily worry about the money at first, simply because of the amount of people wanting to get in the industry.”
Asked what his favorite part about working in the sports industry was, Ryan concluded that he enjoyed the ability to work and hang out with some of the guys he grew up watching and being inspired by. For Ryan, finding the right mentor, working to build meaningful relationships and being willing to help enough people has provided him these opportunities, and we thank him for taking the time to share his insights with everyone at Front Office Sports.
Ryan can be reached on LinkedIn here or on Twitter @RyanTotka