During my first Awards post – for top website – I mentioned the amount of talent we have in our hobby. Thankfully with the emergence of our website we’ve been able to meet some of the most talented people in our hobby. Today I’m sharing an interview I had with the Sports Box Breaks team – Kevin and Jason. These guys have a great combination of hobby knowledge and technology awareness. I’m excited to give you the chance to learn more about them~
How has 2017 been treating you so far?
JASON – 2017 has been going well. The lack of releases is causing us to rehash some older stuff but our breakers are loving it.
KEVIN – So far this year has been going well for SBB. As Jay mentioned in his reply, we’re in a slow release cycle right now.. So we’ve been doing what we can to keep up an active break schedule.
How did you get started into breaking?
JASON – A colleague at work told me their boyfriend was into breaks. I checked out a few sites and participated and loved it. Kevin is a great computer whiz so it made sense to come together.
KEVIN – I had absolutely zero knowledge of breaks, or cards for that matter up until just a few years ago – Jason is very much the card side of our operation.
Funny story on my own personal introduction to breaks.. one day back in late 2013, Jason and I were actually out having dinner at a restaurant. He pulls up his phone, and launches UStream to watch this “break” he was bought into. I had no idea what was going on, but as Jay explained and I watched I thought it was a very cool concept — and he ended up scoring a Deion Sanders auto’d Mini-helmet pulled from that break.
That dinner was our original discussion about using my skills on the web development and online marketing side, along with Jason’s card knowledge to start up our own breaking operation.
What did you find most appealing about the business?
JASON – Getting my personal “rip fix” by pulling monsters for others.
KEVIN – I was fortunate enough to get involved in eCommerce and the internet from a business perspective almost since the start, we’re talking 1996/97 era. Over the years I’ve had several online ventures, but things tend to run their course in the online world, which is really about the only constant you can expect… change.
With the 2 of us starting up SBB a few years ago, it was a way for me personally to get back to something I was passionate about, and to see this new venture develop into something.
Is this a Part-Time or Full-Time gig for both of you?
JASON – It was a Part-Time gig as I am a professor at a local college. Yet it s a Full-Time effort!
KEVIN – I guess it would technically be “semi” Full-time for me, as I do have a few other business interests, but SBB would be the bulk of that. As Jay mentions, it’s a full-time effort for sure!
Outside of competition, what has you worried about the breaking marketplace?
JASON – Exclusive rights by companies. For instance, we have seen a major dip in our basketball this year without Ben Simmons being live in Panini products.
KEVIN – The thing that comes to mind more recently is the allocation on 2016 National Treasures Football. We would be stuck with those qualifying products (NT College FB, Immaculate College FB) and not be able to move them, just to be able to get our hands on NT Football (NFL).
Forcing certain products on buyers to get Premium allocated products is certainly nothing new, but this particular allocation and the qualifying products needed is taking things to a whole new level. Let’s hope this trend doesn’t continue.
How have card manufacturers made breaking easier for you? More difficult?
JASON – Some of the hurdles you have to leap without being a brick and mortar company really makes is a challenge for us. We barely do any hockey do the to the fact that we cannot get it from our distributors and you cannot compete if you have to buy full retail.
Another issue is the amount of massive product the companies put out some of it is so lacking we cannot sell it and then we are stuck with it. I can think of a few expensive door stops we have sitting on the shelf. I wish the companies would offer a buy-back program.
KEVIN – I echo Jason’s reply on this one almost word for word. Some type of “buy-back program” either from the manufacturer, or the wholesale distributors would really make sense — yet none of them do it that I’m aware of.
We (the breakers) are taking big risks spending thousands of dollars on untested new products, and at times end up with product that sits on the shelf and won’t sell. If there was a program in place that bought back at a reduced price, say you’re taking a 20% hit… but this was baked into the sale of that product up front, knowing that you could do a buy-back and get 80% value back if you just have a dog on your hands that won’t sell.
Obviously this is wishful thinking, but might just force a higher-quality product to be produced if such a program existed.
In regards to your breaks, what are the rules that you absolutely WON’T compromise on?
JASON – We do weighted randoms for a card that is randomed. I like this method because it encourages people to buy multiple spots in a break. I also feel it rewards our breakers that have stepped up and helped the cause.
KEVIN – We can’t compromise on absorbing unsold spots in breaks for ourselves. Our selling model is slightly different than most breakers, where we sell ALL spots to an actual live break participant for every break we do.
This occasionally results in slower break fills, but it’s how we’ve been conducting our breaks from Day 1 and it works for us.
How do you typically handle customer issues and/or breaks that don’t fill?
JASON – We try to handle our customers with respect and care. We have yet have a break not fill however we do have breaks that take weeks to fill. We understand that it is frustrating, but we try to explain we are doing our best to fill them.
If we are at a stalemate we will give a huge coupon, giveaway break credit, or list them as auction on ebay.
KEVIN – I come from a pretty extensive background in handling online customers, so dealing with customer issues comes somewhat as second nature. We always try to handle any customer issues with a high level of professionalism.
As for breaks not filling – at times do run into breaks that take a VERY long time to fill, but we throw every promotion and marketing tactic we can at those cases to get momentum flowing on sales.
One of the things we occasionally have to explain to our break participants is that we’re fully invested into the cost of these cases, and these investments are substantial. So we most certainly can’t just give up and say “oh well.. we tried” and then refund everyone that holds a spot.
That is somewhat of a common misconception of buyers that the breaker can simply just Cancel a break, and eat the full cost of that case. It takes a bit more work and explanation to get the buyer to understand we’re fully committed to each and every case, but it’s worth the time put in to get to that level of understanding.
How about sorting? Do you hire others to sort or are you content with at piece of the business?
JASON – We are really not big enough to hire someone to sort. The sorting definitely gets old fast. Especially the 3000 piece sorts.
KEVIN – We break from 2 physically separate locations, and handle all of our own sorts. To add another layer of complexity, we also then combine the 2 batches of shipments together to send each breaker that might have been involved in multiple breaks during the week only 1 package. Needless to say, this process can be a bit crazy at times.
If we were maybe 30% bigger in size than we currently are, we would likely have to seek dedicated sorting/packing/shipping help.
What makes you different than any other breaker?
JASON – We have a bunch of different things. The most significant is our loyalty program. We have a program set where breakers can earn up to 12.5% off all of our breaks for an entire month. I think it is better than points because the discount doesn’t get “used-up.”
We also have monthly giveaways of break credit based on the loyalty program. Finally we have a notification system set so when i new break is listed you can receive an e-mail.
KEVIN – Much like Jason said above, a lot of our differences come in terms of programs to reward the customers for sticking with us month after month. We put a lot of thought into these programs, and those of our breakers that can recognize the monetary value of a persistent discount that stays with you for an entire month absolutely love the program.
Additionally.. My world has been website development for many years, so always trying to think of outside the box and come up with new website features to differentiate ourselves is something that’s always on my mind.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time (not-breaking)?
JASON – Watching sports. I am a SF Giants, Lakers, chargers, penguins, alabama fan.
KEVIN – A bit of a TV series junkie, and probably watch far too many series on a regular basis. Also do love to get out and play Poker when time allows.
Do you PC any player/team?
JASON – Will Clark and Ondrej Pavelec
KEVIN – This is Jason’s world entirely.. He’s the collector in this operation. Aside from sports cards, ask him about his classic toy collection 🙂
What is your favorite product of the year?
I love inception baseball.
Are you married? If so, how does your spouse support you in this profession?
JASON – Yes I am. My wife, Katie, has supported us since the beginning. She actually made us our first sorting boards.
Do you have any tricks to managing your time – whether with your break schedule or just daily life?
JASON – I am OCD. So I try to be very organized. Especially since I have another job. Some days I leave my day job, eat dinner, and am into going live or sorting.
KEVIN – Both Jason and myself are very detail oriented when it comes to SBB. Being organized and finding simpler/ more efficient ways to complete tasks is key.
If you were advising a breaker that was just starting out, what is one piece of advice you’d give them?
KEVIN – When we started doing research on getting into breaks as a business, we thought we were getting into something super easy. I mean hey, you only have to generate 30 or so sales to crack open a case… should be simple, right?? Wrong.. Dead wrong. Lol
If I were giving a new breaker advice I would say stay the course, and hustle to make those sales. Don’t just depend on going Live on your stream and expect that customers will come to you, because quite honestly they won’t. You really have to be out there promoting yourselves in several avenues, not just through your live streaming channel.
Also… keep your costs LOW! This is a business of extremely thin margins, and every dollar saved monthly is a dollar back in your own pocket.
What is one thing you’d do differently if you could start your breaking business over?
JASON – It took us a while to get on ebay to try and pull in breakers. This is a very tough business to get people to trust you and spend their money with you. So we tried a lot of things to get that to happen and it places us where we are today.
KEVIN – I don’t know if there’s much I would say we should have done differently, as you really just need to get in there and see what works for you. It took us awhile to find our footing, and even to this day there are times I feel like we’re still doing that to a certain degree.