Make a Name for Yourself
These two entrepreneurs use marketing and business acumen to build brand identity.
A few hours before he goes to work, esports commentator Gus Domingues (aka Upmind) preps his signature red hair, carefully shaping and poofing his ’do just so. Standing before a mirror, he hypes himself up by practicing the introductory patter to the soccer match for which he’ll serve as a play-by-play commentator.
“Your hair can be your branding,” he says. “You can’t name another commentator with an afro. So some people know me as just that.”
For Domingues, 20, providing esports commentary isn’t just about looking good. It’s a step toward his life goal of being on ESPN. He didn’t get great grades in high school, but he wanted to be the first in his family to graduate from a university. At the same time, he wanted to pursue his play-by-play career. That’s what led him to Full Sail University, home of the 600-person e-arena called The Fortress. Its Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting launched a degree program in 2018.
Florida has a great scene for esports events. Live events, Domingues says, are “amazing, especially down here in Florida. The culture at local tournaments, whether it’s Super Smash Bros. or Counter-Strike or any other game, the culture is palpable. You can feel the diversity, even in the broadcast booth where I’d be commentating with a person of a different ethnicity every single time.”
The state, and Central Florida in particular, has embraced esports innovation, from grassroots events at Orlando sports bars to the work of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, all the way through to higher education degree programs and gaming companies like EA that operate in the city.
As a recent graduate, Domingues is focused on landing high-profile events working with upper-echelon teams. His next step? Bumping up his subscriber numbers. “You don’t just commentate,” says Domingues, “You have to make YouTube videos; you have to do Twitch streams; you have to do great on Twitter, maybe TikTok.”
Jan Bednar grew up mostly in the Czech Republic, in a village of 5,000 people. But when he visited Fort Lauderdale as a teenager to take an English language course, he fell in love with Florida.
He returned to his hometown but itched to pursue the American dream. So at 17, he moved to Fort Lauderdale to play left wing for the hockey team at Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic prep school. Bednar went on to graduate from Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor’s degree in business information systems in 2014.
From his FAU dorm room, he launched an international packaging service that shipped U.S. products overseas. He started with a $100 website but later joined FAU Tech Runway, a program that helps young entrepreneurs. There, he began developing a business plan in earnest.
In 2015, a local small business saw a newspaper article about Bednar’s company and asked if he could manage its online sales business.
Bednar found many small businesses that had outsourced their e-commerce functions weren’t happy with the service they received — service was slow and orders weren’t accurate. He knew that he could do better, so Bednar morphed his business into ShipMonk, using $100,000 that he’d won from business competitions. His initial sales force, he says, was a college friend.
As ShipMonk landed customers, the company developed a proprietary software management platform so merchants could navigate orders, inventory and warehouse management with just a few clicks. The startup also prioritized speedy, friendly service at the hands of its “happiness engineers.”
A key part of his strategy the first five years, Bednar says, was avoiding debt. ShipMonk’s move into e-commerce services turned out to be timely, as smaller businesses embraced online selling, and now boasts more than 1,000 customers. In 2020, the company generated more than $140 million in revenue. Bednar employs more than 1,000 and operates distribution centers in California, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
If there’s a key to his entrepreneurial style, he says, it’s his willingness to go out on a limb. “A lot of people just don’t want to get uncomfortable, and I think that’s what makes the difference in how you win.”