Happy New Year! It’s been a few weeks since my first post. We’ve all been extremely busy here at the track working hard to support what has become the busiest month of the year. December Rocks! From company parties to holiday visitors and vacation time, things have been really busy around here. To add to our insane December, we have been working hard on closing some funding for some much needed expansion and improvements.
When I say working hard on closing the funding, I’m not kidding. Funding a new business like Unser Racing with less then two years of operating history is a challenging task in these economic times. Challenging may be a bit of an understatement. Next to impossible is probably more accurate.
To put it into perspective, I started looking for funding over 2 1/2 years ago. I had a pretty good business plan in hand and a grand idea that I could fund this whole venture on a combination of debt financing through banks supplemented with some private equity investments. I never really stopped looking either. To date we have gotten one small loan to purchase our youth fleet last year and that’s it. Little did I know what I was in store for when I set out on this funding journey.
In early 2010, well before any location had been selected, armed with the business plan and a good power point, I started calling on banks, private equity investors, and a few VC firms. I received some positive initial interest but as a unique business model and a revenue stream that is completely dependent on disposable household income or a company’s party/event budget, there wasn’t a lot of faith that we could build a sustainable and profitable business.
After getting laughed out of a dozen or so banks and speaking with several private investors, I resigned myself to the fact that this wasn’t going to be easy and happen as planned with outside money. Some of the most entertaining comments that I received included; “Are you out of your mind,” said the VP of prominent local Colorado bank in front of a loan committee of 5 other bank executives as he hysterically laughed and pointed to the exit door of his conference room. “This all sounds good and we would love to work with you but our bank doesn’t lend money or for that matter work with any businesses that haven’t been operating for at least 2 years,” said an executive from one of Colorado’s largest bank’s. “There is no way for us to validate your forecasts or pro-forma projections,” said one of the nations largest banks which to this day still claims to be one of the best and most aggressive small business supports. “No kidding,” I responded. “That’s why they call them projections and forecasts!” That pretty much sealed the deal.
I’ve saved all 19 rejection letters, bankers business cards, notes, comments, and small business banking packets as a monument of rejection. I’ve got a pretty good pile of private equity and VC rejections included with that bank pile not to mention the offer letters requesting a 75% ownership stake for a very small and insignificant investment amount. I guess it didn’t hurt to ask! Now I know what actors feel like when they are trying to break into Hollywood. Expect 99.9% rejection and maybe, just maybe you will get that lucky break and get a call back. Well, I’m glad to say we finally got that call back and funding and expansion are on the very near horizon.
We have also been working behind the scene’s to get a liquor license so we can open a track side bar. Driving and drinking only not the other way around! So on Wednesday of this week, after more then 5 months of bureaucratic wrangling, Daniel Carpenter, my GM who was responsible for the entire application process and I stood before the Adams County Board of Commissioners testifying why it was a good idea for them to approve our tavern license request. To be honest with you, I was pretty worried about it not knowing what to expect or what “issues” may surface. I didn’t sleep well the night before. To date, we haven’t had a very positive experience with Adams County. (more details on that in the future) I’ve been pretty vocal about my battles and wondered if any of my public rants would come back to haunt me. The outcome couldn’t have been better. The Adams County Attorney and the Adams County Board of Commissioners were very supportive and very positive. They unanimously approved our liquor license and handed out several compliments on our unique business and our solid operations. In addition, the board was very gracious and thankful to have us operating in their county. Thank you Adams County! I slept great Wednesday night.
So with funding closing in the next few weeks and several construction and expansion projects beginning, we are really excited about 2012 here at Unser Racing. Good bye stuffy hallway area and hello new viewing area with a full sports bar and coffee shop, comfortable seating, a VIP lounge area, new entertainment area, new conference rooms, on track and infield seating and viewing, new track layout and barrier system, and a new entrance featuring several of Johnny’s and his family’s racing artifacts. This all won’t happen overnight so be patient with us.
Here’s to 2012. I would love to propose a toast but I’ll wait for the bar to open and charge you all $3 for that beer before we raise our glasses.
From the Unser Racing family to yours, have a great and prosperous new year.