Roberto Candelaria is the founder of Sponsorship Bootcamp and international bestselling author of Relationships Raise Money: A Guide to Corporate Sponsorship and the upcoming book Sponsorship for Influencers. He’s also the creator of Sponsorship Roadmap, Sponsorship Crash Course, and Sponsorship 901. His strategies have transformed the way influencers and organizations increase their bottom line by getting sponsored. A recognized industry leader, Roberto’s products and presentations have made him a renown, innovative expert.


In This Episode

“He who hesitates is lost.” Roberto Candelaria can personally attest to what ancient Roman senator Marcus Cato was trying to illustrate in his writings. He was lucky enough to get a glimpse of what he wanted to do in life back in high school but waited until it was almost too late to act. MODERN ONTREPRENEUR had the honor of hosting Roberto to discuss how a health scare was his wake-up call for igniting his passion and how he overcame financial hurdles and hiring challenges that came with starting his business.

Topic Timeline:

1:03 High School Ignited Passion

From high school choir bake sales to entrepreneurial sponsorship.

1:50 Sponsorship: Building Loyalty Via Other Tribes

Paying to access others’ highly engaged, loyal consumers.

5:28 Trust Yourself

Medical hardships hardened Roberto’s resolve to keep going and trust in himself.

8:18 The Power of Solving Puzzles

Taking a top down approach lets you see all the pieces.

9:11 Harnessing the Tools and Resources Available

Following proven systems with online business automation tools.

11:11 It’s Not All Roses; There Are Some Thorns to Get Past First

Taking on personal loans, bad hiring decisions, keeping up with technology, and more.

12:48 Don’t Be the Paid Beta Tester

Let others test the technology so when you use it, it’s tried and true.

14:46 Re-believe in Yourself

As long as one person re-believes in him- or herself, it’s all worth it.

15:45 Show Up for the People Who Need Us

The responsibility of a modern entrepreneur weighs heavily on Roberto’s mind.

It wasn’t all roses. There are ups and downs and side twists. It’s crazier than any roller coaster I’ve ever been on, but the journey’s worth it because I’ve learned from every mistake along the way. I just wish I would’ve started those mistakes sooner.

– Roberto Candelaria

Show Transcript

LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. I’m Landon Ray. Today, I have Roberto Candelaria, who’s the founder of Sponsorship Bootcamp and international bestselling author of Relationships Raise Money: A Guide to Corporate Sponsorship and the upcoming book Sponsorship for Influencers. He’s also the creator of the Sponsorship Roadmap, Sponsorship Crash Course, and Sponsorship 901. His strategies have transformed the way influencers and organizations increase their bottom line by getting sponsored. A recognized industry leader, Roberto’s products and presentations have made him a renown innovative expert. Thank you so much for being here.

RC:  Thanks for having me.

LR:  Yes. How long have you been at this sponsorship thing?

RC:  It started in high school my sophomore year by complete accident. Our choir had the opportunity to go perform at Walt Disney World, and they say, “Hey, go to sell chocolates. Go to the bake sales.” I was just like, “We need to raise $1,000 and every one of these chocolates I sell, I get 25 cents. That’s a lot of chocolate.”

I saw one of the posters in the high school with the football teams and the brands around it, and I was just like, “What is that?” My choir teacher was like, “Well, people pay for that.” I was like, “If they pay for that, will they pay for a choir concert?”

That was how I got into sponsorship, not knowing that it was sponsorship. I just knew that I didn’t want to sell chocolate to go to Disney. I would say my sophomore year, but professionally, I started my company in 2009. For the past eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to guide other entrepreneurs how to get funded.

LR: Funded by sponsorships.

RC:  Yes.

LR:  These larger corporate sponsors are hoping to get their brand out there on the back of whatever it is that the smaller entrepreneurial company is doing.

RC: Right. Yes, absolutely. When it comes to sponsorship, I think that there’s a lot of confusion about what it is. When it really comes to sponsorship, these brands are looking for how do I get an ROI? How do I build loyalty with a following? What I think a lot of entrepreneurs and nonprofits miss is that we have something that they don’t, and Ontraport has something that they don’t, which is access to a community, to a tribe that absolutely loves us and they’re just looking at us saying, “Hey, I want some of that. How I get some?” They pay us for the right to be able to have access to the people that we have access to.

LR: By access, what is it specifically that they get?

RC: Sure. It could be promotional opportunities at an event, being part of a book launch, space on a website. It could be the official airline provider or the official hotel. There’s just a gamut of opportunities. I say as long as it’s legal and somebody can see value in it, it can probably be sponsored.

LR: Interesting. If I am selling snowboards online, who’s sponsoring that?

RC:  If you’re selling snowboards online, and actually I’ve never heard that one before, if I’m selling snowboards online, I’d be number one looking to the manufacturers, because manufacturers work with something called distributors. Distributors have something that a lot of people forget about, whether it’s snowboards or alcohol or musical instruments.

These distribution companies have something called co-op marketing funds, which means that the person that manufactured that snowboard, in this case, has a distributor, because they don’t take it to every single store. They have somebody that gets it there for them. This distributor has a certain amount of sponsorship dollars and co-op marketing funds to help push the sale of that brand to all the stores that are selling it.
If you were selling it, I’d be talking to the distributor for co-op marketing funds, but I’d also be looking to what other resources do these snowboarders need? Do they need gear? Do they need hotels? Are they going to be traveling if they’re competing? I’d be looking at the airlines. It’s about what is everything that that snowboarder would need to be successful in their career and making a list of all those things and then going after the brands that provide that.

LR: Interesting. Who do you talk to at the airline company to make that happen?

RC: Yes. Great question. With somebody like Southwest Airlines, it’s so much like a community outreach division, as opposed to somebody like a Delta or an American Airlines, there’s a department called Strategic Partnerships and Global Strategic Partnerships.

LR: You’ve got to know something about this industry to figure out who-

RC: Absolutely, and that’s what I love doing.

LR: That’s probably where you come in. I was just going to ask, what is it exactly that you do? You provide specific coaching to individual entrepreneurs about who to talk to, how to approach them, stuff like that?

RC: Correct, yes. Through online courses, we teach people how to get sponsored and we teach them what they want to have sponsored, how to have it sponsored, what benefits to offer, who to reach, and then how to actually make it happen. On the flip side, we also teach and consult with brands on who to give money to. It’s kind of fun for me because I get to be here and I’m just like, “Hi, you need to give money to these people,” and then over here, it’s just like, “Hi, these are the people you need to go talk to for money.”

I’m very fortunate to be in a situation that I could’ve never imagined because my parents were migrant workers. They picked cotton and carrots and onions, and so to go from that to me having the opportunity to work with $18 million in sponsorship, I’m just like, who am I to be able to do this?

LR: Very interesting. Let’s talk about your business a little bit. You’ve been at this since 2009.

RC: Correct.

LR:  I’m going to presume that you’re not different than everybody else and that it wasn’t just completely smooth sale from start to finish. Tell me, if you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice that would’ve made the biggest difference for you as you tried to build this business, what would it be?

RC: I think the biggest piece of advice I would have given myself is to trust yourself. I started my business at a time where I was going through some medical situations and I had 11 surgeries in 18 months. I was on an $832 a month social security disability check, $104 a month in food stamps, and I came up with every reason why I couldn’t succeed because of my situation. I eventually learned just to believe in myself.

I wish that I would’ve trusted myself sooner and not listened to the doctors, not listened to everybody else that was just saying, “Do you realize none of this is going to matter?” They’re like, “You’re going to die. This, this, this, this.” My family’s like, “Why aren’t you spending time with us?” I was just like, “Because I believe in something.”
I wish that I would’ve trusted myself sooner. I think even now, there are days where it’s just like, “Okay, let’s try something new,” and it’s just like, “But that’s scary as shit. What if it doesn’t work?” I wish I would’ve trusted myself sooner.

LR: Just interesting to be an entrepreneur and to have, “I wasn’t risky enough,” be your personal challenge, right? That’s basically what you’re saying, right?

RC: Oh yes, absolutely, because I think that we see the risk that some people take. I was comparing my risk to people that were way out of the league where I was. You see somebody who’s got however many hundreds of thousands of followers and a big email list and I’m like, “I don’t even have two people on an email list.” It was realizing that the risks that a person takes with two subscribers is not the same that a person takes with 200,000 subscribers and to not compare myself, that something that seemed like a big risk to me really was. I don’t know if that makes sense.

LR: Yes, so to give yourself a break a little bit about being fearful, I guess.

RC: Right, yes.

LR: Yes. Interesting. You feel like if you would’ve just dove in, things just worked pretty well once you dove in and made it happen.

RC: Absolutely. The sooner I decided to say, “You know what? You can do this,” and to believe in myself, it wasn’t all roses. There’s ups and downs and side twists. It’s crazier than any roller coaster I’ve ever been on, but the journey’s worth it because I’ve learned from every mistake along the way. I just wish I would’ve started those mistakes sooner.

LR: Yes, good, so you can’t start soon enough. What do you feel like your unique skill set or talent is that’s had you have so much success in such a short time?

RC: For me, it’s the ability to solve puzzles. I can see a business. I can see their sponsorship. I can see what they want to do online. It’s obvious. It’s A, B, C, to be able to do that for everybody else and to just see the connection and to see the community and to, I guess, look down from a hot air balloon at a situation versus being in the situation.

LR: Interesting, and you’re able to do that, you think, with your own business, as well?

RC: No.

LR:  No. It’s really hard, isn’t it?

RC: It’s really hard, and I think that the importance of great coaches and great mentors is that I don’t think any entrepreneur can do everything themselves. I wish that more people would ask for help. I think it’s impossible to do it yourself.

LR:  To be your own coach.

RC:  Yes.

LR:  What is working now for you to grow your business? You have a business. You’re trying to get people to buy your programs. What’s the most recent breakthrough you’ve had? What should our people be thinking about doing in their businesses?

RC: It’s funny. This is going to sound like an Ontraport commercial, because it kind of is, is that when there’s tools and resources that you have, to be able to use them. I jumped onto Ontraport about two years ago, and for the first six months, I was just like, “Okay, I’ll get to it one day. I’ll get to it one day.” As I truly started to use it and harness the power of it, I was just like, “Why did I wait?”

LR:  Seems to be the story of your life.

RC:  It is.

LR:  Why did I wait?

RC:  It really is. I found an amazing Ontraport certified consultant and she’s been guiding me. What’s really working is following proven systems and being able to work in the partner center in Ontraport, and then also being on stages, just communicating with people, sharing my voice, and just being truthful, even when it’s scary. That’s really what’s been working is just showing up in the world when others won’t.

LR:  Implementing proven systems in your business.

RC:  Absolutely.

LR:  Like what? Name one.

RC:  A proven system to me is brand advocates. I’ve been teaching for years, “Here’s how you use brand advocates,” and, “Here’s how you get people to work,” and then for whatever reason from consultant’s viewpoint, one day I was just like, “Well, why am I not doing this for myself?” I’m teaching everybody else to do it, and they’re paying me to teach them how to do it. Why am I not doing it myself?

We recently set that up with my most recent book launch. It’s just been amazing. We had 38 people in my community that were just like, “Yes, we’ll promote you.” Don’t want affiliate commissions, don’t want anything. It was just like, “Wow, this proven system that everybody else is buying from me, why don’t I try it again myself?” It’s just been great when somebody’s done something to see their result and to be able to act on.

LR:  Yes, beautiful. Let’s talk about some of the challenges you face. I still haven’t heard anything that sounds like real problems. You’re like, “I should’ve started sooner because it was all just so easy.” What are you wrestling with right now? What are you struggling with? What are you trying to learn?

RC:  Yes. I’d say the first real big challenge was when I started my business, I took out a $10,000 loan from my mom. Thank God she believed in me. I made the mistake of hiring a web designer, and this is back when they were like, “Is it going to be WordPress? Is it going to be Joomla? Is it going to be Drupal?” Nobody knew, and the web designer ran off with my money.

LR:  Yes, as one will.

RC:  Yes. I was like, “Man, I borrowed that money from my mom.” That was really rough, because I didn’t know how to tell my mom that I wasted her money, I felt. I’d say that fast forward, now that we know that it’s WordPress and all these other things, the big challenge right now is keeping up with technology and social media. It’s like as soon as we figure out social media, it’s like, “Bam, new thing.”

I think that the other big challenge is finding peers where you’re at. It can be lonely being an entrepreneur because you don’t know who’s going through what you’re going through, and sometimes people just want to make things look perfect and they’re not. I think a big challenge is being able to communicate with people truthfully and know that they’re going to be truthful with you and that they want to help you, because this journey’s not easy at all, and so I think that people need those peers.

LR:  You’re trying to keep up with technology. It’s coming at you.

RC:  I’m tech-no-nology.

LR:  You’re not into it?

RC:  I broke a website the other day. We found this new WordPress theme, and I decided it was going to be cool, so I installed it on what I thought was a staging site. I broke the entire website.

LR: It happens.

RC:  Yes. It wasn’t cute at all.

LR:  There’s too much to take it all on, right? You can’t do everything, but how do you decide what technologies to experiment with in your business, and what’s worked recently for you?

RC: How do I decide is I never want to be the paid beta tester. What I mean by that is there’s all these phones that come out with all these latest and greatest updates, and then we know that the first 24 hours or so, they’re getting all the quirks out. I never want to be the person paying for somebody else to figure out their mistakes. I look for my friends, for my colleagues that are having results before I make decisions, and I think that’s part of the risk-taking is that from a technology standpoint where I know that’s a weakness for me, I don’t want to be the first person to jump in. I’m looking at what they’re doing.

LR:  And what they keep doing, right?

RC:  What they keep doing. What’s working right now is bots.

LR:  Facebook chat bot?

RC: Facebook chat bot, mini chat. I saw it at first and I was like, “Why would somebody want to talk to a robot? This makes no sense.” I don’t like getting a robot message, but we implemented it, and people are opting in and they’re opting into our programs and they’re buying things. The other thing I’ve learned is just because it’s a technology that I don’t know how to use doesn’t mean that my customer doesn’t know how to use it. I’m learning how to listen more to our base and what technology that they want, even though I break technology.

LR: Yes. Awesome, so you’ve been at this a little while. You’ve obviously years to go in your career, but do you have a sense yet of what you’re all about here, what the legacy is that you’re building?

RC: I’d like to say that my legacy is that if just for half a second or one second, whether it be sponsorship or anything else, if we can help people re-believe in themselves for just a half a second, that they’ll change the world. I like to say that part of my legacy is helping believe re-believe in themselves, reconnect in themselves, because we live in a very crazy world right now and as an entrepreneur, I know that there’s times that families don’t support us, friends don’t support us.

Through our events, even though they come for sponsorship, but if they can have that possibility for half a second of, “I can do this,” I think that’s what changes the world because that changes their kids, that changes their kids’ kids when somebody can believe in themselves.

LR:  Yes. We’ve called this thing Modern Ontrapreneur. We’re trying to figure out what it is that’s most unique and interesting about this modern moment in the history of entrepreneurship where things are so wild and unknown. What do you think the unique opportunities and maybe responsibilities are for an entrepreneur today?

RC: I think some of the unique opportunities is that we have so much technology to help us reach people faster. If I go back to 2009, this social media thing didn’t exist. Facebook Live started in April 2016. None of this existed. I think the opportunity to be able to reach your audience faster is something that we’ve never seen before. I also think that the responsibility of that is with this technology, what are we doing to actually show up, to make our mark, to make our difference, to make our impact?

Well, whatever people feel that is for them, what are we doing? We have more access than ever before. I don’t want it to be in vain. We have a responsibility to show up for the people that need us. If not, then why is there this technology? I don’t know. That’s me.

LR: That’s great. Thank you so much, Roberto. It’s been a pleasure to have you here. Would you sign our wall?

RC:  For sure.

LR: Thanks.

Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?

Check out the previous episode featuring Aprille Franks-Hunt of Women Recharged.

About Tatiana Doscher
Campaign Strategist Tatiana Doscher is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a dual B.A. in Communication and Global Studies. After working with several small and local businesses, Tatiana joined Ontraport’s Marketing team. She loves running, hiking and enjoying Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches.