For The Love Of The Game

How one woman scores in the sports entertainment industry

Cydni Bickerstaff is no rookie to the sports arena. As the daughter of veteran NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, currently with the Charlotte Bobcats, she grew up surrounded by athletes. As an adult, she combined her affinity for professional sports with her entrepreneurial ambitions to form Bickerstaff Sports & Entertainment.

Based in Washington, D.C., Bickerstaff Sports & Entertainment is a full-service sports marketing, management, and event production company. Incorporated in 2001, the firm specializes in marketing and promotions, sporting events, athlete appearances, sponsorships, and other events. Bickerstaff Sports & Entertainment has a staff of five full-time employees with account executives in Los Angeles; Dayton, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Dallas.

The company’s client base includes the 100 Black Men of Maryland, The Coca-Cola Co., and NBC Sports. Revenues for 2003 reached $1.6 million. The firm has been instrumental in organizing events for the Capital Jazz Fest, the State Farm Bayou Classic, and the NBA Jam Session, which takes place during All-Star Weekend. Anticipating an influx of similar projects, revenues are projected to reach $2 million for 2004.

Bickerstaff started bidding for projects directly from her home, equipped with only a laptop computer and printer. To cover startup expenses, the entrepreneur started the lengthy process needed for a bank loan. However, since time was of the essence, she decided to go another route and borrowed $10,000 from her parents. She was also able to accumulate an additional $500 on personal credit. These funds went toward salary as well as the purchase of a new computer, scanner, stationery, and business cards.

A graduate of Hampton University, Bickerstaff later went on to earn an M.B.A. in sports marketing from Florida A&M University. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she was senior director of client development at a collegiate sport marketing firm where she coordinated trade shows and fund-raisers, and planned various events.

The 35-year-old says that it is a challenge knowing that every aspect of the business rests on her shoulders. Like other business owners, Bickerstaff juggles managing time, cash flow, employees, and clients. “I must be accessible at all times, and I don’t always have the leisure of taking a day off,” she says.

Bickerstaff also finds it difficult to hire qualified employees. She says applicants’ résumés do not always reflect their true abilities once employed. In an effort to attract more suitable applicants, she posted jobs online, placed ads, and relied heavily on references provided by other people. She also hired contractors for various assignments and brought friends in the industry aboard.

Bickerstaff’s goal is to make her company a premier sports marketing and events management firm. Although it is not her priority to have an account executive in every state, she is working toward establishing a presence for Bickerstaff Sports & Entertainment in strategic locations across the country. Bickerstaff looks forward to the future, “God puts things before me, and I put all of my trust in Him.”

Bickerstaff Sports & Entertainment; 2828 10th St., NE, Washington, DC 20017; 202-797-3630; www.bsesports.net

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