A pioneer at the young age of 24, Sue Izzo was the first female sports agent to launch a sports management agency in a male-dominated and cut-throat-action sports arena. For over 20 years, Sue represented world renowned professional athletes, Olympians, ESPY winners, and X-Games gold medalists. Now, as Captain-ess America for Basic Bananas USA, she heads up facilitation of their popular Blast Off Marketing Workshop and other small business growth programs for business owners and entrepreneurs.




In This Episode

Sue Izzo met Franziska Iseli and Christo Hall, founders of marketing education program Basic Bananas, on a random “Eat, Pray, Love” trip to Bali, where the travelers-turned-friends decided to embark on a project — a USA branch with Sue as the lead. In this episode, Sue, a self-taught sports agent, marketer and rebel entrepreneur, shares the importance of mentors and how to get them, what drives her business, and what the Basic Bananas USA team is using to attract and convert more customers.

Topic Timeline:

1:19 How Sue Got Here

Sue didn’t get to be the head of Basic Bananas USA from a typical resume and interview. Instead, Sue met Basic Bananas founders on a trip to Bali — and the rest is history.

3:00 A Rebel With A Cause — and a Mentor

Abandoning her parents’ ideals of succumbing to traditional female roles, Sue loved the idea of being a rebel entrepreneur, but having more mentors would have been a great help. Here’s her advice on how to gain amazing, insightful mentors.

6:28 Valuable Relationships Need to be Valued

Sue didn’t have the funds to pay for mentors, but she kept up the relationships, cooked them thank you dinners, and always remembered to value her mentor-mentee relationships.

7:38 A Boxing Agent in the Pre-CRM Era

One of Sue’s favorite books, Robert’s Rules, involved a boxing agent who kept note cards with all of his clients’ personal details such as birthdays or favorite sports team — a precursor to a visual CRM like Ontraport’s Card View.

8:29 No For Now, Not No Forever

A self-taught sports agent, marketer and overall Renaissance woman, Sue says she got here by believing in being a good person, valuing people, and not taking no for answer.

10:07 Blasting Off and Converting Leads

Basic Bananas’ tactics for lead conversion involves a one day marketing tripwire course that nurtures leads into signing up for an 11 month, detailed marketing program for small business owners and marketers.

12:09 – An Uptick on Instagram

While Basic Bananas usually focuses on Facebook Ads and networking to attract leads, as Facebook advertising prices increase, Instagram has become a key player in the marketing game. But how?

14:21 Helping Business Owners Be Business Owners

Sue and her team help clients put the money-making things at the top, and cut out those that are just costing you money. They’re also on a mission to enlighten clients about the cutting edge technology at their disposal, from marketing software like Ontraport, to social media and podcasts.

16:00 Sue Isn’t Giving Up on Her Legacy

Sue hopes to leave behind a legacy where her mentees and clients can take a page from her book and just go do it, and when they’ve done it, they’ll say, “Because of you, I didn’t give up.”

16:38 Here’s the Recipe: People, Time and Resources

We have all these amazing role models and stories to look up to where persistence won. Combine that with a time when we have all the resources we need at our fingertips and we’ve got the perfect recipe for a modern entrepreneur.

Instagram. We’re seeing absolutely a big uptick on that, because Facebook ads have increased in price.

– Sue Izzo

Show Transcript:

LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. Today we have Sue Izzo. She’s a pioneer at the age of 24. She’s the first women sports agent to launch a sports management agency in a male-dominated and cut-throat-action sports arena. For over 20 years, Sue represented world renowned professional athletes, Olympians, ESPY winners, and X-Games gold medalists. Now, as Captain-ess America for Basic Bananas USA, she heads up facilitation of their popular Blast Off Marketing Workshop and other small business growth programs for business owners and entrepreneurs. Thank you so much for being here.

SI: Hello, thank you for having me, Landon.

LR: Yeah, it’s good to finally meet you.

SI: Yes, you as well.

LR: I want to ask you about X-Games gold medalist, but we probably should skip that for now.

SI: Sure.

LR: Tell us about what you’re up to these days and what’s exciting about that for you.

SI: Absolutely. In 2015, I had merged my sports management company with a larger agency, Octagon, and took a little time off. I had known Franziska Iseli and Christo Hall from Basic Bananas. I met them on a very random “Eat, Pray, Love” trip in Bali over eight years ago.

LR: Oh nice.

SI: I was really a big fan of Basic Bananas, which are small business marketing educators. And they had approached me about joining them and opening up the US branch for Basic Bananas. And, so, I joined them about a year ago and it has been so much fun working with all different types of entrepreneurs and small business owners and helping them with their marketing, and understanding their ideal customer, online offline marketing strategies, you name it, we’ve been covering it.

LR: Yeah, it’s awesome. I have known Franziska and Christo for a long time now and their programs are amazing. They’ve got it so organized and everything explained in a way that basically every small business can kind of understand and get into action around, that I feel like they do a really good job, so it’s exciting to have them over here.

SI: Absolutely.

LR: Actually my sister-in-law now, did you know, is working with you guys?

SI: Yes, my partner in crime, Valerie.

LR: Actually I guess they’re not married yet, are they? My brother’s girlfriend, but hopefully sister-in-law.

SI: She’s pretty much your sister-in-law.

LR: Oh my gosh, she’s been around a long time. So tell me this, you’ve been at this for a long time, Basic Bananas for three or four years or a couple years you said.

SI: Yeah.

LR: And about 20 years in sports.

SI: Yes.

LR: Significant career now. If you could go back and kind of give yourself a piece of advice that would have made the path smoother, or easier, faster, what would it be?

SI: Sure. Probably, for me, I was self taught. I did not go to school to becomes a sports agent. My parents told me to go to school to become a school teacher so when I got married and had kids I could stay home in the summers.

LR: Sure.

SI: Yeah. For me, I love that road, of kind of being the rebel entrepreneur. I didn’t have as many mentors as I wish I had. I think that that’s really important for young people to go find people that have done it before them, to seek advice. Also, I’m 100% Italian so I’m very passionate, so maybe taking a little bit of passion out of or emotion out of business, because when I was going to bat for one of my clients it was anything goes.

LR: Right. Tell me about mentors. It’s an interesting challenge to both find a mentor that is worth investing the time in learning from, somebody who’s actually done it not just says they’ve done it, but then also to get them interested in spending time with you. How do you propose that somebody who’s starting out find that magic balance and get them motivated to help?

SI: Absolutely. I think that people today are so fortunate with LinkedIn. That didn’t exist when I was starting off in business. For me it was just figuring out who a marketing director was and reaching out to them if I admired the work that they did, in asking if I could have coffee with them or what have you. I think in today’s world you want to know what you want to get out of something, like what skills or accomplishments has this person achieved that I want to learn from? And then come to them with kind of your three takeaways that you’d like to develop over time with this relationship. So, I say, preparation of knowing what you want to get out of it. I also think you need to deliver. So, if someone’s going to give you their time and give you this insight you don’t want to let them down. You want to be sure that you’re ready for a mentorship, and that you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work.

LR: You know when I think about somebody approaching me and saying, “Hey, will you be my mentor?” My answer to that would be no. But, “Hey, will you have coffee?” is more likely. And then I can imagine, again, if they said, “Will you be my mentor,” at coffee, I’d be like, “Actually no.”

But if they said, “Hey, help me out with this one problem, or what do you think about this?” And they came back to me and said, “Hey, this is what I did with that information.” And actually just had it engaged in a normal human way, and somebody that actually took a piece of advice or an idea and ran with it, that starts to get engaging and kind of interesting, right?

SI: Absolutely, yeah. Whenever someone calls me and says, “I want to pick your brain.” I just think of like a dead bird and someone plucking …

LR: Yeah, my brains picked all day long.

SI: It’s so picked, forget about it. Don’t ask me any questions after 5:30.

LR: Exactly.

SI: Like I say that’s why the preparation is important. Knowing what you want to get out of the conversations and the relationships. For me, one thing that I did with my mentors when I was first starting off, I was temping in the morning and then I was working on my sports management company in the afternoon and so, I couldn’t compete with people that were paying for mentors or things of that nature. So I showed up, I was prepared and then, as my thank yous, I would cook them a pot of marinara sauce and deliver it to their office, because it was a personal relationship and cooking for me as an Italian is everything. I was really appreciative, and I didn’t want to let them down, and I wanted to make sure to … I always kept in touch with them. Throughout my entire career. I feel very fortunate for the people I have been able to work with, and who have guided me, and took a chance on me.

LR: That’s interesting, and that’s valuable advice to remember to value those relationships and not … I feel like in the social media world many relationships are pretty much throw away. You meet somebody as quickly as you let them go. Not our real life relationships necessarily, but online it can be that way. Yeah, to really turn that into an actual relationship that you value, and nurture over time is important.

SI: Yeah, one of the first books I read in sports management was about a boxing agent. It was called Robert’s Rules. It was so long ago, and I remember he would write out note cards with the potential sponsor or contact’s birthday, anniversary, what college they went to. So every time there was a moment that one of those dates came up or a favorite sports team played, he would reach out because the whole customer relationship. It’s not just when you want something, obviously. It’s maintaining that, and being sincere through that. I have a wonderful rivalry with the head of Nike Golf, strictly over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and this has been going on for years back and forth. We don’t do business together anymore but still it’s classic.

LR: Sucks for you today.

SI: Totally. Yeah, the US Open was fun.

LR: Tell me about what you feel like your unique skill set is? How’d you get successful? Now coaching dozens, hundreds of entrepreneurs a year.

SI: I always have believed that in order to be the best professional you needed to be the best person. That’s how I’ve kind of approached everything. When we do that, we kind of give our all, we’re ready to really do the work. I value people. I love investing in people. I think that’s kind of one of my skill sets, being chameleon-like and being able to relate because it all starts with the person. So that’s definitely one attribute I have. And then I would definitely say always curious, always learning. I’m just a dork in general. And also probably ‘no,’ the word ‘no.’ I always said, it’s no for now not no forever. Just didn’t really take no for an answer, very persistent.

LR: That’s good. That’s funny. Lena Renquist, our President of our company, says something similar about no. She says, “No doesn’t mean no. No means they don’t understand what I’m saying yet.”

SI: Absolutely, 100%.

LR: Knowing a little bit about what the process is, the way that Basic Bananas, which is, like we said, it’s a very significant sort of coaching organization in Australia and now expanding to the US. They basically do these intro sessions where they sell I think what? $30, $40 tickets to like a half day.

SI: Yep.

LR: And then they do a bunch of great education and then drag people into their programs. My question is, what’s working today to get people into those intro sessions?

SI: Oh absolutely. So, the Marketing Blastoff Workshop is what you’re referring to, and that costs $27, and we have those workshops going on in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, and now Austin, Texas; San Antonio, and Houston.

LR: Oh man it’s happening.

SI: It is happening, yes.

LR: Wow.

SI: That three and a half hour workshop is definitely an overview of marketing, everything from taking a look at your brand, your positioning, who your ideal customer is, your online and offline ecosystem. So, it does one of two things. Either you learn something, you walk away with a lot of light bulbs going off. Or, it also reiterates things that you already know that you need to implement, because we know the difference between knowing and implementing are two different things.

LR: Sure.

SI: And then what happens there is that we have our 11-month program, which is the Clever Bunch, and that meets in person every single month. And with that, we go through 43 different modules of marketing in a sequential order. So, we start with the backend of where you’re at right now, what’s your brand positioning, vision, and then we carry that all the way through from everything from your design to what you stand for, what you want to be known for, your perception, pricing pyramids, copywriting, funnels (especially Ontraport funnels, a big fan of that). And we see our business owners thrive when they start working with Ontraport, so it makes life a lot easier.

LR: Awesome. How do we get people in those $30 sessions?

SI: We market heavily through Facebook ads.

LR: Facebook ads?

SI: Absolutely. We’re also aligned with a lot of different organizations. I belong to WISE, which is Women in Sports and Events. Also Elevate, which is another women’s networking organization, so they’re promoted through those as well. And then you can go to our website, which is basicbananas.com/USA.

LR: Yeah. So, in terms of working, it sounds like Facebook ads and networking is the key to the business right now.

SI: Yes, absolutely. It is. And also Instagram. We’re seeing absolutely a big uptick on that, because Facebook ads have increased in price.

LR: Oh my gosh yes.

SI: Yeah. And also our audience, young entrepreneurs are very visual so they are on Instagram. And I use LinkedIn quite a bit.

LR: Now tell me this. So I follow Christo and Franziska. It seems to me that they’re just always posting pictures of themselves jumping in the ocean and …

SI: Totally.

LR: Riding their motorcycles around. How does that turn into business?

SI: I always say to Franziska, “I really want to study your brain later on.” I’ve never met anybody who is so productive like she is. Every single minute of every single day. She just loves what she does, so it’s constant. And you know you look at their Instagram like you’re saying and you’re like, “How are you guys traveling the world, and running this business, and growing it the way you are at this pace?” But they’re doing work all the time. They’re great communicators, and they have built an incredible company culture that empowers the employees. It’s a family; it’s a tribe. And so, everybody is there to lift them up and taking it to the next level.

LR: But specifically like on Instagram, how does a post about Franziska jumping in the ocean turn into somebody going like, “Yeah, I’d like to come to your Clever Bunch, or your intro session?”

SI: Well, I tell you: freedom. Because she’s created a business that she doesn’t have to be locked behind a desk between 9-5, and I think ideally that’s what we all want when we create businesses.

LR: So people they just research her. They’re like, who is this chick? Oh, it’s Franziska Iseli.

SI: Absolutely.

LR: Interesting.

SI: And I think they always provide value. If it’s not through their personal posts, it’s definitely through the Basic Bananas Instagram as well as our podcast, which is Pick of the Bunch, which is amazing, and that’s free on iTunes.

LR: Okay, so podcasting also?

SI: Yeah, podcasting. 02.Sue.Izzo_1.2

LR: And then you have a Basic Bananas feed of its own, Instagram account.

SI: Yes, we do.

LR: Interesting. Okay good.

SI: Yes.

LR: So tell me this then. As somebody who’s building a significant new organization here in the U.S. using this framework that’s obviously been built, that’s just the content, building a business is still building a business out here.

SI: Absolutely.

LR: What do you feel like is your cutting edge? What are you learning about right now?

SI: In terms of growing the business, I think where we go from a $27 workshop to a year long program is helping business owners understand the investment in that. Because when we get into business, we are almost in a reactive state. You talked about it earlier this morning about systems, and we always say that, if you do something more than once you need to write it down on paper what that system is, and have that opps manual. So we try to help business owners understand that the investment of working on their business and not just in their business, that is how you build a business, that’s how you scale. So, communicating that and also accountability in business. That’s something too, where it’s so easy to-do list how we go to the easiest tasks first and put off the difficult and what we don’t later. So it’s helping business owners understand, put the things that make you money at the top of the list versus the things that are costing you money. And I think sharing so much of the technology and programs that are out there for people to use. Because, like you were saying earlier as well, you don’t need to be punching the buttons yourself every single day. There are amazing ways to automate and create systems, so that’s been really fun to be sharing with everybody.

LR: You’ve been at this a while, now you’ve got a whole kind of like new second career.

SI: Yes.

LR: If you think forward 10, 15, 20 years, whatever it might be, what do you hope your legacy will be?

SI: Definitely I want people to say, “Because of you, I didn’t give up,” and take a page from my book, which is just go do it, get it done. But with a little bit more of the ‘how,’ because I think there’s a lot of inspirational people out there, but they don’t tell you how to do it. So it’s really the legacy of caring and changing people’s lives and the ripple effects.

LR: Yeah beautiful. And what do you think it means to be a modern entrepreneur? We’ve named this podcast after this thing.

SI: I love it.

LR: What is unique, you think, about this sort of moment in entrepreneurship that may not have been so five years ago?

SI: I think it’s such an exciting time. Anything is possible and all the resources are out there, so I think it’s just the timing of this, and the momentum of being an entrepreneur couldn’t be anymore exciting. We have so many amazing role models. And the other thing that we have are learning about these role models that tried 10 times and failed, but then finally made it, so that persistence. So there’s amazing stories out there.

LR: That’s interesting.

SI: Yeah absolutely.

LR: Yeah, and some of those stories that was always true, but you didn’t always know.

SI: No.

LR: Now you can kind of watch it in real time sort of.

SI: Absolutely, I mean Sara Blakely with Spanx. If it wasn’t for the production place she went to and the gentleman going home and talking to his daughters about this woman that came in with this concept, he probably wouldn’t have made her Spanx. People didn’t believe in it. So, it’s unbelievable the stories that are out there of how many times people were turned away until they got that break.

LR: And that turns into basically motivation and inspiration, you think, that helps people today, kind of like a support system that wasn’t there not so long ago.

SI: Absolutely. Yep. Exactly. Absolutely.

LR: Yeah, I hear that.

SI: Yeah.

LR: Well cool. Sue, thank you so much for being here.

SI: Yeah, thank you.

LR: Really great to have you.

SI: Yeah.

LR: Would you sign our wall?

SI: Sure.

Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?

Check out the previous episode featuring founder of Assist You Today, Robert Knop.

About Aslan Williams
Aslan Williams grew up in a small, southern town, tailgating at football games and watching sunsets over the Mississippi Delta. Since leaving her southern roots four years ago, she has lived in five countries, practicing yoga, teaching English and honing her marketing skills at various International internships. Now, as a recent graduate from UCSB, Aslan is applying her degrees in Communication and English in her role as Content Engagement Coordinator at Ontraport.