Headshot of Tiffany Kelly, CEO of Curastory.
Tiffany Kelly, CEO of Curastory, developed her platform to boost the growing creator economy. — Curastory

Tiffany Kelly was working for ESPN as a data scientist when the NCAA made a pivotal announcement: Its Board of Governors would begin the process of opening up opportunities for America’s 450,000-plus student-athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

She realized the creator economy wasn’t slowing down. In fact, individual creators and small niche media companies would continue driving content consumption, especially in the sports industry. That’s when she developed Curastory, an all-in-one platform that allows video creators to shoot and edit high-quality videos, monetize shows, and distribute content across their social media channels.

“Curastory was soon born to allow anyone to build businesses behind their videos, just like Anchor.fm/Spotify Ad Network has done for podcasting,” said Kelly, who brought together a team of sports and entertainment experts from ESPN, NBA, NFL, NCAA, USOC, and MLS to build out Curastory.

[Read more: Leveraging the ‘Creator Economy,’ Platforms Like Pinterest and Shutterfly Drive Growth While Helping Entrepreneurs Scale]

Using past experience to drive future success

Kelly credits her experience in both sports and math, as well as working for a company like ESPN, for impacting her ability to generate income for Curastory.

“If I didn't have my experience at ESPN, I wouldn't be able to build this business,” she said, detailing both the network she created while there and also how well she learned to understand the media business models.

Using past professional experiences to better understand and anticipate your audience’s needs will set you and your business aside from others.

“It has infinitely helped when building for users, listening to their problems, and understanding signals from noise because of my experience,” Kelly said.

I think I speak for all founders when [I say that] we are not patient at all behind the scenes. You're constantly monitoring expenses and, of course, making sure the business is still running smoothly with the runway being closed. It is not easy.

Tiffany Kelly, CEO, Curastory

Practicing patience through the fundraising process

Patience is one of the most important qualities of a good business owner, but being patient can be difficult when it comes to the fundraising process — especially early on in the business. Though she founded Curastory in 2019, it took Kelly months of tireless fundraising on Wefunder to raise $250,000 to start building a minimum viable product. In February of 2021, she officially launched the platform and participated in Techstars’ Sports Accelerator program later that year.

“I think I speak for all founders when [I say that] we are not patient at all behind the scenes,” said Kelly. “You're constantly monitoring expenses and, of course, making sure the business is still running smoothly with the runway being closed. It is not easy.”

Kelly advised fellow entrepreneurs to prepare for the fact that it will likely take three to four years until the engine really starts moving, “so prep for living expenses accordingly.”

“If you're a first-time founder, be ready to not be able to really recoup expenses and afford industry-standard salaries for the greater portion of three years,” Kelly added. “I hope everyone can raise the investor capital they [need] to not have to bootstrap, but that's not the reality for most of us.”

[Read more: How 3 Buzzy B2B and B2C Startups Scored Millions in Funding]

Keeping up with market trends

Operating a company that acts as a marketplace brings many obstacles, as marketplaces are ever-changing and require a high and consistent level of attention. For instance, when the NCAA adopted an interim NIL policy in 2021, it opened up a new student-athlete content market worth $1.1 billion. However, Kelly believed that with the decentralization of media, audiences would become even more fragmented and, as a result, harder to reach.

“I think the biggest challenge with marketplaces … [is] making sure supply and demand [are] always in equilibrium,” Kelly explained. “Monitoring the marketplace closely, launching tactics and discounts to always keep it there — it's something you have to consistently overcome.”

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