An Open Letter: The Farm Club, A Year Later

Posted on March 27, 2013

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To whom it may concern,

TheFarmClub.net as you probably know it has only existed since November, however this week will mark the first anniversary of The Farm Club, as a site, project, and idea.

The site began with very humble beginnings and grew out of pure ambitiousness to what it is today. I can not take credit alone for the growth of the site, but I feel that I can tell the story of the site best. As well as tell you what I have learned in the past year about myself, people, and this journey.

TheFarmClub.net began originally as http://www.thefarmclub.wordpress.com, and was started by myself and three of my peers after Calvin Johnson signed his $132 million dollar deal with the Lions last year. One of us posted an article on Facebook about the story, and after the four of us bantered for hours over Facebook comments, one of us (I think it was me) had the bright idea to start a “blog”.

The four of us agreed to it, and so it began. I had always wanted to start a blog of this nature, but in my past I was lazy and never really took it seriously, or anything seriously. However with 3 people holding me accountable I was finally able to find the motivation and work ethic needed to run a website.

The purpose of The Farm Club initially was to be the voice of the fan, cliché I know, but looking back I don’t think any of us, certainly myself, realized just how much of a small fish/big pond situation we were in.

We agreed that we would look for more writers as time went on, but for the time being we would stick to ourselves and see what happened, and on March 29th 2012, the first post was published to TheFarmClub.net by Matt Pocket, it was titled “Confessions of a Wrestling Fan“.

For the first month or so we continued just us four, we had a twitter account and Facebook account for the site as well, which we ideally thought would generate much traffic. Forgive us we were ambitious.

Between April and July, we averaged between 2,000-4,000 views a week. I thought this was awesome, but this wasn’t the viewership required to become a bigger website. We needed to recruit more writers and more voices, and that we did.

Using social media we were able to gain a few writers from the West Coast, and also during that time we gained two partners who would help us grow this site to what it is today.

Putting Writers on the Map

By October, we had around 13 writers and decided it would be a good idea to make a map of our writer base as a recruiting tool, and to my admittance showboat a bit too.

280596_4646832328235_1268495856_oLooking back now it wasn’t a bad idea, but we should have been focused more on growing the site internally and not so much trying to boast about it.

As October progressed our recruiting measures became more vigorous and by the end of November we were in the 60-70 range, and our map had really grown.

615370_4805847303510_130096587_oWe also brought aboard writers who would later replace those who started the website with me, and still help the growing operations of the site today.

Changing Faces

I want to take this time to make one thing clear, I hold no ill-will towards those who have left The Farm Club’s leadership in this past year.

The Farm Club was, and still is a very ambitious attempt to become a media source. I know that people have dreams and ambitions of their own, and I must acknowledge that those goals were not growing The Farm Club, and that’s ok.

If it wasn’t for their roles in the past, we would no doubt not be where we are today. They provided content, recruitment, and promotion of the site. They were just as crucial to this sites proliferation as I was, and for that I will always be thankful.

The sites leadership today consists of myself and several of my peers who I had no relation to prior to the beginning of The Farm Club, none of these guys, or myself, would be in this position we are at if it wasn’t for those who were around at the beginning.

How we got where we are today

As I said November is when this site really grew, prior to this we had changed our URL to the current one, in hopes that it would make us look more official. However, now it was time to move from WordPress.com, to a self-hosted site for good.

That transition was a bumpy one, none of us involved in the transfer had solid knowledge of what we were doing, and in hindsight I would have done a lot more research before making the move. But that’s life, you have to take action and adjust as you go. That is what we did.

So in mid-November we became what you see today. A self-hosted website, our traffic still remained around 10,000-12,000, which was considerable growth from the beginning, but still not where we needed to be.

That changed in January, when we really started to organize ourselves and brainstorm content for the site. This dedication, work, and talent from all involved saw our site reach 40,000+ views for the month in January of 2013.

It was, and still is crazy to think about, we went from 2,000 views a month to 1,400 views a day. Little money spent, and certainly no money spent on traffic. This was all done by bootstrapping and plugging away.

Which is why I thank the readers of our site so much, and even more those in my social network for putting up with my constant plugging of the website. That is why I will always listen to and act on any criticism or given to me by my social circle. They are just as much a part of this as myself.

Today we have a new logo, new faces, and new site, all because of those who were willing to put in the time and effort to build The Farm Club. We are no longer “a blog” but I must recognize that those humble roots gave way to what we are now, a sports media hub that has kept the same idea as it was in 2012, network and promote aspiring writers.

What I have learned, and what you can learn

Throughout this year I have learned a whole lot about myself. I learned that it isn’t cliché to say that anything worth your time, won’t take hard work.

I am sure I am not alone in this, but I can’t even count how many nights I spent walking home in the cold from the computer lab at Central Michigan because I have no car, how many nights I had to stay up late to work on something, and how much I have sacrificed to get to this point today.

I have also learned that anyone is capable of accomplishing their goals if they believe and are committed.

Their have been parts of my life when I have been told by my step-father, and individuals I thought loved me, that I was no good and that I would never accomplish anything. I would be lying if I did not owe them a thank you, their words expedited process of becoming the man I am today.

Another lesson learned is that empowering and leading alongside individuals is truly the best way to lead. No one wants to be bossed around,  in fact the reason this site has grown to what it has is our dedication to creative control and letting the writer work when and how much they want to.

This site would be dead in the water had we bossed people around, and I certainly would not feel as good about myself as I do today if I knew that I was a teller, and not a doer.

The biggest thing I have learned though is trust, I made a few mistakes in this journey, but the biggest in the beginning was not trusting people.

When I say not trusting, I mean not trusting that they had the same vision I do. Which is clearly not the case, everyone involved in this site at this time believes in it as much as I do. I have learned that, and by doing so I know this site will become a force, it won’t be today or tomorrow but it will happen mark my word.

That is what I must stress the most, when you are building something and bringing in people to help with the growth of that something. You must trust them, they wouldn’t be around if they didn’t want to be, and you must embrace those people and learn from and with them.

As I conclude this letter  I must leave you with one thing.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t fear being scrutinized, don’t fear what naysayers have to say, and most certainly don’t be afraid of failure. Hell, I am sure people will scoff at me just for posting this letter, but I felt I owed it to myself and those who have changed my life.

There have been a ton of failures in the road to where The Farm Club is today. But instead of stopping, we learned and grew from it. I don’t regret much, if anything from this experience. I have proven to myself that I, and anyone, can do anything if they utilize their resources and aren’t afraid to take risks, and like I stated earlier I have learned what it means to truly trust others.

If there is anything you want to start, or any goal you have, do it.

I see it all the time, people who are taking risks on a daily basis and those people are the heroes.

Not the critics, not the naysayers, and not those who rather put-down those who are attempting to live their dream.

I know I, and those working with me, will sometimes be the butt of jokes from people. But you know what, we made something. We put people at events, we got people jobs, we have networked people, and most importantly we have made something completely bigger than ourselves.

We have made meaning and no one can take that away from us.

Sincerely,

Stefan Jagot

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