7-word motto launched lucrative bar for women’s sports

7-word motto launched lucrative bar for women’s sports

In early 2022, Jenny Nguyen sat down to write a business plan for what would become The Sports Bra.

That’s her one-of-a-kind bar in Portland, Oregon, which only plays women’s sports on its TVs and pulled in nearly $1 million in revenue in its first eight months of business. At the time, it was a hypothetical venture — and Nguyen wasn’t confident that it would work.

One of the questions her plan had to tackle: Who would be The Sports Bra’s competitors? “I wrote one sentence and it was: ‘The only competition is the status quo,'” Nguyen, 43, said Tuesday during the CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event.

Sports bars dot the streets of every city, but Nguyen felt those businesses too often ignored any women’s sporting events. By building something different, without a role model to base it on, she didn’t have to deal with anyone’s conventional knowledge of what would or wouldn’t work — and the blank slate was “liberating.”

“When there’s no blueprint and you’re able to write your own plan, you can make mistakes … The opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, it becomes kind of freeing,” Nguyen said.

That one sentence has since become something of a motto for the business, even appearing on The Sports Bra-branded merchandise in the year-and-a-half since the bar first opened its doors.

Nguyen spent a lot of that time tackling the inevitable challenges of a first-time business owner. Just getting funding to launch The Sports Bra was tough: She was denied business loans by multiple banks and small business associations before raising more than $105,000 in funds from a viral Kickstarter campaign, she told Make It in April.

Even once she got those funds, she wasn’t sure how long it could stay open. Her decision to stay the course came down to a simple concept, she said on Tuesday: She’d ultimately regret giving up more than failing.

Her worst-case scenario involved losing her life savings — she plunged about $27,000 of her own money into the business — and moving into her parents’ basement, relying on her background as a chef to get back on her feet.

“That’s a big starting from scratch, but it wasn’t dire,” said Nguyen.

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