About Pickstar’s CEO James Begley:

When James Begley was playing AFL, he wasn’t among the top few athletes commanding big money sponsorship deals. Like most of his teammates, James was on the lookout for more paid opportunities, and the chance to broaden his experiences and engage with the community.

Following his sporting career, James joined the corporate world and found there was a huge demand to engage sports stars, but few people knew how.

Some would spend hours calling and emailing player managers, others would ask their friends if they knew any athletes who would “help out”, or they would try and contact sports stars via social media. Many people gave up, thinking that they couldn’t afford a sports star.

The booking process was a headache for the community and athletes alike. Seeing the problem from both sides, James began planning a centralised marketplace that would help people connect with sports stars, and handle the process from start to finish.

AFL pros turned startup founders James Begley and Matthew Pavlich 


Tell us about your business and what you do.

Pickstar is an online marketplace that connects elite athletes with commercial opportunities, so we’re all online and we’ve been going about three years now. The idea is that we work with any budget and we take the clients brief and that gets tended out to the 700 plus athletes that are on our system.

What’s one of the strangest requests you’ve had?

You know we’ve had a few strange requests one of the interesting ones was we we’ve had some rugby league players attend a buck show we’ve had some laser hair clinics request an athlete to remove the tattoo we’ve had some AFL players attend a wedding. So yeah we’ve had a real cross-section of requests and most of the time you know there are some athletes out there who are willing to do it.

How important is your work culture and what’s yours like?

Workplace cultures is critical where it came of rate so I guess you know there’s that cliche is you know we have a no d#$k head policy. If there was one person within our trio that was you know toxic or bad for our culture it would make a huge impact. So I think with small business the key with culture is having some really positive rituals in your week having a really open honest environment where you know you can talk directly to the person you know that you’re working with. This you know we’re not going to hide behind emails but you know there’s no excuses to why you kind of turn around have a chat to the person that you’re working alongside. So good cultures method especially when you’re trying to grow as you recruit and induct people. You want to be really clear on what your culture is so that when you’re inducting them you can make an assessment as to whether they fit withyour culture or whether they not going to fit.

How important is social media is in your business?

Social media for our business is huge it’s been an avenue and a channel where we’ve been able to broadcast our brand and talk about what Pickstar does and help educate our audience. It’s a space that’s not quite as cheap as what it used to be, I think engagement on Facebook and our social channels has reduced significantly so being smart and having a clear strategy with your social plan has been crucial. Andrew Montesi actually heads up that division within our business and he’s been responsible for generating a lot of interesting content. We’ve found that you need almost several alter egos for your business so it plugs in to the different social channels into Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin you’ve got to treat them more differently and they’ve serve different purposes so for us it’s about understanding what that purpose is and then making sure that the content that we’re delivering on each of the channels is relevant to that space

What is some advice you would give to a leader in a small to medium-sized business?

They have to be hugely adaptable you’ve got to wear many hats, we’ve got a lead by the way you behave you need to keep spirits high but you also need to make sure that you’re looking at the finances the marketing like you have to be across everything. So, you are the most important person in terms of driving the culture of the business no one else around you will effectively drive it you’ve got to do that the second thing is that you need to understand that you’ve got to be resilient. Again because small businesses is a roller-coaster and if you can’t smooth that out in your own minds and understand that you you’ll always get through the hard times and that the good times need to be enjoyed. If you can’t do that then you’re probably not going to survive in a small to medium size business because you know it can be really energy-sapping too. So though embracing the good times is vitally important I think if you want to go and work for a big corporate and be a part of a big machine you’re not going to get the wins the small business get being in small business though has stress and pressure that doesn’t exist in big companies so if you can’t enjoy those little milestones within a small business it means that you’ve got all the downside and none of the upside. So we make a real point of celebrating every single invoice that we send out. You know if it means that we’ve got to have a long breakfast and just have a chat about things outside of work because morale is a bit low then that’s what we do. On the flip side if we don’t have money coming in the door then we don’t have a business so the pressures on, yeah this one’s a bit funny.

If you were to describe your business as a movie, what movie it would it be?

Good question what movie would best describe our business probably old school if you’ve seen old school. You know we have a bit of fun.

What is happening in the next few months?

We’ve got a massive web site to launch which we’ve been talking about for a little while so we’re really looking forward to going live with our new system. Were expanding into Queensland, New South Wales and having some great success there and we’ve even got eyes on New Zealand, South Africa in the medium term so yeah plenty of things to get right.

Who would you like to do business with now or in the future?

We would love to do business with any large organization that has multiple needs for athletes over the course of the year so like you know McHappy Day McDonald’s. If you’re out there come and knock on our door. I know we’ve already done a little bit with Macdonald’s, but they would be a great example of it of a big client right through to the small amateur sporting clubs which we love assisting. You know securing sporting talent whether it’s for keynote leadership talks or skills clinics with really small budgets so having the bookend clients for me is a great example of our system at work which makes me just proud of what we’ve created. You do some stuff with some Councils and schools or an association is a real sweet spot for us. We find that they have many events in the course of the year they’ve got to deliver value to their clients which there are members essentially and they’ve traditionally used sporting speakers a lot so it’s been a bit of a find for us to realise that associations councils in the industry body is quite a lucrative and valuable part of our revenue stream

One last one, a YouTube video that you would recommend to watch the might have changed the way you think?

Im really biased in this place because Simon Sineck the why, which is 20 minutes of gold and I think he recorded it was just a bit of a talk that he did that was filmed about nine to ten years ago now where he talks about purpose understanding what your purpose is and and how people make decisions. I think it’s been a huge influence on the way that I’ve approached both my businesses over the last ten years. It really was one of those moments we you watch it and then your world changes because of it in structure things differently and you make decisions differently because of that eighty minutes so yeah Simon Sineck the why I think it’s had over a million views.

How do people get in contact with you or Pickstar if they need to?

There’s a range away from during contact with us is our web website www.pickstar.com.au on Facebook see, just search pick star and also Instagram and if Lexus or if you want to come up on to your door where the office where in Leigh street in South Australia in Adelaide,  because it’s a really vibrant part of the city we love it there’s lots of small to medium-sized businesses around here that are doing some really cool things so you know we’re really enjoying our our coffee and lunch culture.