Today, we interview 23-Year-Old Sports Agent Darren Heitner, CEO of Dynasty Athlete Representation. Dynasty's clients include a number of prominent professional bowlers, college coaches, baseball players, models and actresses and soon football and basketball players.
Darren Heitner has more experience in the sports agent industry than most people that are more than twice his age. He has created the first sports agent blog on the internet, SportsAgentBlog.com, which receives upwards of 5,000 unique visits per day from agents, athletes, media sources, and the general public. In the blog, everything from contract negotiations to endorsement deals are examined, providing the framework for a great deal of information upon which he has been able to depend.
In addition to the wealth of knowledge acquired from maintaining SportsAgentBlog.com, Darren has actual experience within the industry. He spent a summer in Atlanta, GA as an intern at Career Sports & Entertainment, where he learned the ins and outs of client services within a major agency. Darren is CEO and Founder of Dynasty Athlete Representation, a full service sports agency providing help with contract negotiations, marketing endorsements, financial planning, legal services, etc.
Name: Darren Heitner
Organization: Dynasty Athlete Representation
College Major: BA in Political Science. Currently earning a JD.
Prior Sports-Related Experience: Interned at a sports agency, captain of intramural sports teams, captain of high school Volleyball team.
So tell us a little about Dynasty. How did you first come up with the idea - fresh off your BA - to start a sports agency/become a sports agent, and then how did you go about creating the company and attracting clients?
It all started with gaining an internship at Career Sports & Entertainment, a full-service sports and entertainment company out of Atlanta, GA. I interned with CS&E in the summer between my Sophomore and Junior year of undergrad. From the first day at the job, I was given tremendous responsibility and used my 3 month internship to learn as much as possible about the sports representation industry. I have always been an avid sports fan, interested in law, and was a nationally ranked high school debater. I figured that the sports agent profession was right up my alley.
In an effort to stay abreast of sports-agent related news and get my name out in the industry, I started SportsAgentBlog.com (originally titled, I Want to be a Sports Agent) on December 31, 2005. It was my "New Years Resolution" that year to make sure that the site survived by continuing to post regularly. In the beginning, visits were few and far between. Eventually, the site really picked up steam. One of our original contributors and I decided that there was no reason to wait on pursuing our dreams of becoming successful sports agents, and in April 2007, we formed Dynasty Athlete Representation, an LLC in the State of Florida. Since then, I have bought that partner out, and I serve as the CEO of the company.
Attracting clients as a new entrant into any industry is a very tough task. The most common method of forming a sports agency is for someone to work for an existing agency for a while, build some credibility and clients under that agency, and then for that person to split off and create his/her own company. Since I decided to take an unorthodox approach and start an agency without ever working under anybody else, attracting clients was very difficult at first. Our first client was Mike DeVaney, a top PBA Tour exempt bowler who found out about my company through SportsAgentBlog.com. From there, many other top professional bowlers have decided to go Dynasty's way. Additionally, I have used some personal connections to build up our baseball and entertainment divisions. The inclusion of various independent contractors has allowed us to grow in existing and new divisions.
What sort of legal or certification process did you have to go through to become recognized as a sports agent?
In order to be a "sports agent", there is no actual registration. To be permitted to recruit collegiate athletes in many states, you must register and pay a fee in those states. A majority of states are now bound by the Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA), which allows those states to use a standardized form for registration. Those states charge various amounts, however. Personally, I am registered in the State of Florida. I actually discussed this process in a recent post.
A good number of your clients are professional bowlers. Was this due to a certain connection you had to the sport or did you see a void in representation for them?
Again, Mike DeVaney came to us looking for representation, and we were not going to be picky and say no. It was a great chance for us to get some experience in negotiating contracts, searching for potential endorsers, and managing a client base. There are very few bowlers, if any, who have hired outside representation. We definitely believed and still believe there is a void in that area. We also feel that PBA bowlers would have a lot more power if they were able to collectively bargain with the PBA...but that is a whole different long topic to cover.
Your Entertainment division is sure to raise some eyebrows among readers. Tell us about that wing?
When I first started Dynasty, I did not envision an Entertainment Division. I probably would not have created a corporation with the word "Athlete" in it, if one of our intentions was to represent models/actresses. That being said, I cannot complain with its creation. We have already obtained quite a few very talented and gorgeous ladies, and hope to expand more in the future. Dynasty will not limit itself to only models/actresses, though. Any potential smart and profitable business idea will be considered. I am actually in the process of trying to get a beautiful girl a shoot with Playboy. She is not currently featured on our website.
Briefly highlight some of the other divisions and clients for us.
As CEO, my hand is involved in all of our divisions; however, I like to call myself an entrepreneur instead of a manager, and I give all of our division directors plenty of space to act creatively and make their own decisions. That being said, my main oversight is on the Baseball and Entertainment divisions. We touched on Entertainment already. As far as baseball goes, I am currently actively recruiting potential new clients already with Minor League organizations and future 2009 and 2010 draft picks. Our current clients had a remarkable year. Dan Leatherman and Kyle Gunderson won a ring with the High A Potomac Nationals after winning the Carolina League. Robert Lara was named an All Star with the AZL Padres. We are in the process of recruiting guys for the 2009 NFL and NBA draft and are placing basketball players already under contract with Dynasty in both the NBDL and CBA. Our Coach division is growing and we are about to launch TheCoachesBlog.com.
Tell us how you built your team at Dynasty. What do you look for in prospective employees?
Varies according to staff member. Austin Walton was our very first intern (showing that there is room to grow as an intern in our company...we take the intern selection process very seriously). Bruce was referred to us by Mike DeVaney based on his connections in the bowling industry. Many of our employees found us, whether it be through Dynasty's website or SportsAgentBlog.com.
In terms of what we look for: hard workers who are passionate about their job. They need to read Dynasty's credo and fully believe in it. I hope that all of our employees bleed green and gold (our company's colors).
We've seen an article on the day in the life of Drew Rosenhaus where he is one the phone, texting or jet-setting around the country to meet with and talk with clients. How does your average day compare to the marquee agent in pro football? Take us through an average day.
There is no average day. Especially in my life. I workout every day, run almost every day, I am in my second year of law school, constantly traveling to meet potential and current clients, maintain a solid social life, and write daily pieces for SportsAgentBlog.com. Sound fun yet? I also manage to brush my teeth sometimes. I cannot wait until I can devote my entire day to working on the agency (once law school is over), but in the meantime, I'll keep my lifestyle and see what happens.
What factor, if any, does your age play in dealing with clients and the companies to whom you advocate on their behalf?
Surprisingly, my age has turned out to be a benefit in all areas. At first, it was tough to convince parents that we were the real deal with a 23-year-old at the helm. But now that we have a strong client base and have done a strong job representing the clients that we already have (their testimonials to other potential clients has been our best method of recruiting), I truly believe that age is no longer an issue. In fact, many people admire the job that we are doing (it is not just me, but Jason Belzer, Austin Walton, and Matthew Watkins are in their early 20s) and believe that we are very passionate at our age and will go above and beyond what some of the older agents may do for their clients. As I tend to say, we have not made our millions yet, so we are going to bust our asses to get to that point. As a consequence, our clients will be benefitted by our drive to succeed.
What most prepared you for diving headfirst into the business?
The most important part of starting any business is having friends and more importantly, family, along with you to support you on the ride. Having some capital is also important. I had started my own promotions company as an undergrad at the University of Florida and made enough money to fund Dynasty's start-up without any outside investment. But knowing that my family was there in case I needed anything along the way has helped tremendously...at least in a psychological sense. Many agents in the industry have also been very supportive of my ambitions. There are too many of them to thank.
Anything you would have changed during college to better prepare you? Relevant courses or internships you'd recommend?
I would not have changed a thing. I was a Political Science major with Minors in Mass Communications and Geography. The only classes that may have helped me prepare to be a sports agent were those taken in the Mass Communications field and Legal Issues in Sports, which was not a part of my Major or either Minors. I had a very relaxing and enjoyable undergraduate experience. People ask what is the right Major for a sports agent, which undergrad should you go to, which law school should you go to, etc. I Majored in Political Science and go to a law school that does not have a single Sports Law class. I hope that shows that there is no right answer.
What's the most rewarding part of the job?
Believing that I am making the world a better place by helping others and waking up every morning knowing that I am going to be working throughout the day in a field that I absolutely love.
Not having to drive to an office...something that I do not plan on changing any time soon.
Biggest hassles or obstacles?
When a client does not have a good performance or gets cut by his team.
What advice would you offer those looking to follow in your footsteps?
Think outside of the box, be creative, and be persistent.
See all our "So You Want to Work in Sports?" Features Here.