Below is a ten-question, exclusive interview conducted with Evan Kanter. Kanter is the creator, as well as current owner of Autograph-Cards LLC. The interview ranges from Kanter’s break into the business, and stretches out into what Autograph-Cards LLC have accomplished, and what Kanter hopes Autograph-Cards LLC will do in the future.
Q: Who are your favorite sports teams and players?
A: I am a big fan of New York Sports in general. My rooting interests are the Mets in baseball, the Knicks in basketball, and the Rangers in hockey. As for football, I am both a Giants and a Seahawks fan. If they play each other, I would choose the Seahawks to win.
Q: How did college work (and possibly major) help prepare you for Autograph-Cards LLC?
A: Autograph-Cards.com was built as a fun website and a hobby before it was ever a company. I used to send away to get autographs from my favorite players and received personal responses fairly regularly. A friend of mine suggested I build a site for my autograph collection since I enjoyed it so much. The collection I had was getting bigger and bigger; and it sounded like a good idea at the time. As it turned out, there were no autographed card websites around in 1999, so I built the site that I wished was around for collecting autographed cards. It was the first site of its kind and had a pretty unique niche with the site looking fairly similar to the way it looks today. Of course the amount of products drastically increased over time, but the overall look and feel stayed consistent with my original design.
I went to Undergraduate college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and ended up with a double major in Business Management and Computer Science. Both of these skill sets were obviously beneficial for running Autograph-Cards, LLC. That being said, I learned a lot of the programming for the websites from previous jobs I had as a programmer for building third-party websites for companies. Most of the management training was learned on the job and was a function of trial and error. Most importantly, it was my love of sports that kept me going and has motivated me to continue to work hard every day.
Q: When did you envision creating Autograph-Cards LLC?
A: I only decided to turn the website into an actual company after the end of the first year. Until that point I ran it as a hobby. We did not build Autograph-Sports.com until 2005.
Q: How long did it take to develop all of the company’s websites?
A: Each website took many months to build, test, and add inventory for. As I build newer sites, they continue to take longer and longer to complete. The first two sites took less than 2 months to build each. Our most recent website, Team-Superstore.com took over 6 months to build. The size of the websites and the amount of products they carry continue to grow, so I have to make sure to test thoroughly before launching. Personally, I build websites to not need overhauls later on, so while it does take a while to build the first beta version, the frameworks of each of the sites remain intact since their build dates.
Q: Which website of the five that is under the Autograph-Cards LLC umbrella is most important?
A: I am very satisfied with all of my websites. Each website is built with a purpose and so they are equally important in their own areas of specialty. The one I tend to favor is Team-Superstore.com since it was built most recently and encompasses all different parts of our business by combining everything team related into one website. We are also adding hundreds of new products weekly to this site.
Q: What is the most valuable memorabilia item that Autograph-Cards LLC has ever sold?
A: Exclusively, our format is to work either directly with the athlete, his agent, or directly with the company that brought the athlete in for a signing. All Sports Memorabilia items on our website are 100% guaranteed authentic. For the most part, the focus has been more on current and past MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA players. That being said, we have sold quite a few high-end pieces including Upper Deck Michael Jordan and Lebron James Jerseys, Championship Team-Signed Helmets, and some really nice Kobe Bryant Memorabilia.
Q: What is the most fun aspect of owning Autograph-Cards LLC?
A: Day-to-day, I enjoy being creative and coming up with a cutting edge feature, program, or website that nobody else had thought of yet. Of course talking about sports all day with tons of sports fans, and meeting famous athletes at signings are fun benefits that I enjoy.
Q: What advice would you give others into looking to break into the sports business world?
A: I often times receive this question more in general about business. I have found 3-month internships to be very suitable at giving initial experience in the industry of your choice. We have had the pleasure to have quite a few interns at Autograph-Cards and I try to help them out as much as I can. I had several internships when I was younger and found the experience I learned to be wonderful and eye opening. It prepared me for the future better than my classes did.
Q: What makes Autograph-Cards LLC stand out above other sports businesses?
A: It is my hope that we stand out, but I believe our customers will be the ones to decide. We have some great people working with us and for us; and I believe they are the biggest reason we are still around after 10 years. Day-to-day, our customer service operation is a primary focus for us and we try to stay connected with our customers as much as possible. Furthermore, we have begun to automate many of the necessary but redundant functions of our company, and that allows us to offer lower prices and to handle things easier from a management perspective.
Since I mold the company in my image, we tend to be a much more entrepreneurial and growth oriented than your average sports company. My continued focus is to innovate and experiment with new ideas. I believe that some of our best ideas have not been thought of yet.