As a diehard baseball player growing up and playing in North Muskegon, Alex Slocum would sometimes “swing for the fences” and take his best shot at a home run.
Now studying at Muskegon Community College, he pitched a seemingly long shot idea this spring for a sports business venture that has just earned him the prestigious $10,000 Nick Sarnicola Award, which the College presents to an MCC student whose entrepreneurial concept is judged the best in an annual competition.
Sarnicola, who established and endowed the award in 2017 through his Next Gen Foundation, announced the winner via Zoom on an April 29 call with MCC Entrepreneurial Studies Instructor David Stradal, Next Gen Executive Director Patrick Adams, and the competition finalists.
“Thank you for believing in me,” said Slocum. “Thank you for believing in this idea. This is something I always thought would be a dream job kind of thing to do. Getting $10,000 to do it is nothing short of a miracle.”
Slocum, who graduated in May with a Graphic Design Entrepreneur associate degree, has temporarily named his winning business concept the Standing O Studios, an homage to the colorful sports abbreviation for a standing ovation.
“The idea of the business is to create a small Midwestern, small market-based media company that focuses on reinventing authentic and creative content, as opposed to the bigger dogs, like ESPN, that will repeat the same headlines every single day,” explained Slocum. “If we can have more story lines that focus on small markets, then maybe those small markets become bigger markets.”
Slocum sees a coverage gap that he hopes to fill.
“The reason the void was created can be anybody’s guess, but if I were to take a shot at it, it would be the idea that the conflict creates views,” he noted. “And that’s probably true. Because all the sports shows have turned into that. If you have two sides of a coin, people tend to lean on one of those sides, whatever that may be. I plan to offer more creative, genuine and fun stuff, talking more as a fan than as an analyst.”
“I love the niche,” said Sarnicola of the winning idea. “It’s a very intelligent niche. It has multiple income stream opportunities. I think it’s a business that could be acquired from other companies. It’s also a high-profit margin business.”
Slocum explained that Standing O Studios will be a two-person operation at the outset involving both he and his lifelong friend, Dalton Fuller, who is currently completing his studies at Michigan State University. The business is a year away from launching but will hit the ground running.
“The biggest difference the Sarnicola Award is going to make is that I won’t have zero dollars when I start,” said Slocum. “The Sarnicola Award allows me to get all of the equipment I need – the computers, monitors, green screen, office space, and desks. I have been working off a laptop for my whole college journey.”
Slocum chose MCC because he was unsure of his career path at the time. Within a year on campus, he discovered the program that combined graphic design with entrepreneurial studies and that capitalized on his technical skills and interest in art. He singled out MCC instructors Christopher VanOosterhout, Kevin Kyser and David Stradal for providing him with their knowledge and needed encouragement.
Sarnicola, who along with Jon Rooks is a namesake of MCC’s Rooks-Sarnicola Entrepreneur Institute in downtown Muskegon, shared a final bit of advice with the nascent student entrepreneurs on the Zoom call.
“Being able to make a business out of the things you love, there’s nothing else like it from a career perspective,” he said. “Continue to innovate, continue to work, continue to learn. Most importantly, continue to dream big and to take even bigger action. Because action is required. Dreaming is only a part of the equation. I can promise you this, the answers will appear. You may have no idea how you’re going to get to the destination that your heart is leading you to, but the answers will appear. There’s an old saying, ‘When the why is clear, the how doesn’t matter.’ You’ll figure it out if you are super passionate about the direction you’re going.”
Sometimes, along the way, long shots can become sure things.