amar Johnson is founder of CBL (Community Basketball League), the first basketball league with a built-in income-generating SaaS platform for millions of non-professional basketball players.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
The east Valley.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
SportsPro HR, Inc. It was a personal management company for NBA players.
How did you come up with the idea for CBL?
I am a former player and I saw how innovation and technology was reviving and creating new industries, but I saw nothing happening in recreational basketball marketplace. I decided to give players an opportunity to have a professional player experience and play for a cash prize.
What was the biggest challenge in executing this idea?
Managing growth! I used to think that the saying, “growing a business too fast can put you out of business” was a myth or cliché. I don’t anymore after experiencing my business being on its death bed with me and my mentors working like a crazy triage unit of doctors working to save a life. Hell, I think we even flat-lined two or three times before being brought back to life!
What is your favorite part about running a business?
My favorite part is when our customers/clients really love what we are doing for them.
How did you get started in the tech industry?
It was out of pure necessity. In my business anybody can roll a basketball out on the court and call themselves a league and replicate our nice uniforms. Therefore, I knew I had to be more innovative and leverage technology in a way that wasn’t being done. That makes it harder to replicate and not look like a copy-cat.
What sparked an initial interest in tech?
I’m probably the most non-techy person in the world. My interest and learning of tech came mostly from some off-the-shelf products and having to create and managing my own websites because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it for me. I’m still a novice, but I’m also a sponge when it comes to tech.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I moved here 12 years ago and I love it here. Born and raised in Elkhart, IN and the growth here in the Valley has been crazy to me. I call Phoenix a brand new city and I believe the tech industry here is still untapped, unlimited, and in some cases unknown. There’s a ton of talent here!
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
It’s a great place for any type of entrepreneur. The weather is great, even in July and August to me!
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I really don’t have one. I love it here.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
As a community we all have to continue to champion diversity in lifestyle, business, and in our start-up community. Only 1 percent of African Americans, Hispanics, and women receive business/venture funding! That’s pretty sad! Some of us in that 1 percent just need a chance to show what we can do. I think it’s a myth to think that a start-up investment is riskier because of someone’s race or gender. Get to know our passion, our goals, and our commitment to success because it’s most likely the same as a prospective investor.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
The Gilbert House in the east Valley.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
I’m open to experience any place for lunch.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
Bobby Q’s or Rudy’s Bar-B-Q. I’m a total BBQ guy.
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
Starbucks or Barnes & Noble.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
The first time I went to the top of South Mountain.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
The heat is manageable.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Arizonans are great! Get out and meet as many people as you can, especially if you have a business or career interest. Most people here are very helpful and supportive.