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5 Steps to Successfully Transition From Pro Athlete to Entrepreneur

Dominic Blanco
Dominic Blanco

Learn what one former pro athlete recommends to other athletes considering venturing into entrepreneurship.

In 2014, I received the phone call that every baseball player dreams of – it was the Seattle Mariners, informing me that they had just selected me in the Major League Baseball draft. I had just finished high school, and now I was about to start my professional baseball career.

It was something I had worked hard my entire life to achieve. I spent three seasons in the Mariner's organization before joining the Minnesota Twins. After two seasons in Minnesota's organization, I was released.

To say I was devastated was an understatement.

Baseball was all I knew. I wasn't exactly sure what my next move would be, although I did know I wanted to begin an entrepreneurial journey and start a business. A lot has changed in my life over the past year.

I relocated to Los Angeles and started three companies: a professional athlete services agency, a creative agency and a nonprofit aimed at helping to improve the lives of children. I have a full plate, and I'm very happy with my decision to venture down this path.

There were five key steps during this transitional period that contributed to a successful transition from professional athlete to entrepreneur. My goal is to use my personal experience to help more former athletes successfully venture into entrepreneurship after their playing careers are over.

1. Take time to make sure you make the right move.

One thing I didn't do after being released was jumping right into my next venture. I wanted to be sure that the next move I made was the correct one, so I took some time off. I needed to not only make sure that I had a solid plan moving forward, but I had to digest the fact that my baseball career as a player had come to an end.

Baseball was all I knew up to that point. Everything I did in life revolved around the game. I knew that to make an intelligent strategic move I needed to take some time to decompress.

I took almost a year off. During this time, I worked on self-improvement, reading and consuming as much business information as possible. I focused on my health and fitness as well. I kept my mind and body in prime condition during this downtime. This helped me enter the next phase with a clear mind and complete focus.

When the reality of playing days coming to an end sinks in, it can be a difficult pill for many athletes to swallow. It would be very difficult to transition to a successful business venture without 100% mental clarity. The downtime before the next leap is important.

2. Determine what industry you want to be involved in.

I had a fairly good idea that I wanted to still be involved in professional baseball in some capacity and leaned toward athlete services from the beginning. I wanted to be able to help younger players navigate through all of the different aspects of being a professional athlete.

I knew that I could leverage my personal experience while also building a team of experts and create a one-stop agency for all player's needs. And that is exactly what I built, handling everything from contract negotiation to training and development, as well as off-field business advising. 

While mapping out APE Sports Group, the athlete-services agency I co-founded, I saw an opportunity to fill another need: creative services for influencers, athletes, celebrities, musicians, etc. That led me to also co-found the digital services agency 20FT Bear Media.

That additional business would never have been spawned if I didn't take the time to research the industry I was interested in. By taking the time to do so, I was able to identify another opportunity and execute.

I also co-founded a nonprofit that helps improve the lives of children. Philanthropy has always been important to me, and I knew starting a nonprofit was something that I needed to do as well. I went all-in and created a full plate for myself, but I wasn't intimidated.

Professional athletes make it to the elite level because they pour their heart and soul into their sport of choice. They love it, which makes it easy to give 100% at all times. The same applies to entrepreneurship. It's important you don't chase the money. Instead, lead with what will fulfill you and everything will come together. 

3. Identify the best location for success.

I was born and raised in Florida. It's where I played high school baseball, and it's where I spent my time every spring, getting ready for the professional baseball season. Florida will always be my home, but I wanted to make sure I was located in the best area for my business ventures.

Unfortunately, Florida was not where I needed to be for my companies to reach their full potential. After a lot of research and visiting, I was confident that Los Angeles was where I needed to be. 

I packed up and moved across the country. I knew that this was where I needed to be and where I would perform at my highest level as an entrepreneur. When I arrived in LA it was a new experience – everything about the area motivated me and still does to this day.

Just like a professional athlete is willing to play for any team and location, an entrepreneur needs to be willing to set up shop in a location most beneficial to the long-term success of the venture. The same willingness to do whatever it takes applies to both career paths.

4. Build an all-star team.

I know the importance of building a strong team first-hand.

From Little League throughout my time in professional baseball, I was on a team. The success of the team was in the hands of all – there wasn't one player on the field that was less important than the next.

We all had to have the same goal – winning –  and we all had to learn how to work together to be in the best position for our team to accomplish that task. The same applies to business; from day one, I was focused on building companies composed of the best teammates. 

I have no doubt in my mind that the initial success we have experienced is directly related to the people involved. Every person has a role and every role is crucial to reach our goals.

Games and championships are won because of the team coming together and playing as one. It's the same when building a business. Every team member, from the top to the entry-level positions, are important. When you focus on building the strongest team from day one, your chances of success are tenfold.

5. Approach the new chapter in your life like you approached your playing career.

One of the reasons I accomplished my childhood goal of playing professional baseball was because I worked harder than most. I did whatever it took to be the best. I made sacrifices that other individuals were not willing to make.

I give 100% effort at all times. I knew that if I applied this same strategy to my business ventures that I would be able to accomplish my goals, just like I did on the baseball field.

I understand that I will face ups and downs along the way, just like I did in baseball. I'm very thankful for the experiences and lessons I learned while playing professional baseball, because I have already seen firsthand how they carry over to the business world.

I have the same eagerness to be successful in the business that I had when I first started playing baseball. This is a new chapter of my life that I am thoroughly enjoying. I know there are plenty of other former professional athletes that are considering the jump to entrepreneurship.

While it's not easy, ex-professional athletes understand the importance of hard work and going above and beyond to reach the levels they desire. When the same mental approach is applied to entrepreneurship the odds of success are in the athletes' favor.

Image Credit: stretchc / Getty Images
Dominic Blanco
Dominic Blanco Member
Dominic Blanco is a former professional baseball player turned entrepreneur. Blanco is the President and CEO of Athletic Performance Experience, a professional athlete services collective, President and CEO of digital services and experience design agency APE. Media Group, and Co-Founder of Do It For Kids Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to improve the quality of life of the youth by exposing them to music, arts and sports.