ND Founders Profile #87: Winning Strategy: This FouNDer Is Teaching Non-Sports Fans the Art—and Power—of Sports Small Talk

Author: Melanie Lux

Nd Founders Square Photo 1 Fb12 15


Company Founded: Last Night's Game Year Graduated: 2021
Title: Co-Founder Degree: MBA, Mendoza College of Business
Location: Las Vegas, NV Residence Hall: N/A

Amy Buchan Siegfried has a confession. She is not an athlete. She tried playing soccer as a kid, once, but after being kicked in the face, she traded her cleats for ballet slippers.

So it seems rather surprising that she is the co-founder of a company whose sole purpose it to teach women—and admittedly a few men—how to talk sports. That company is Last Night’s Game, an online community Siegfried founded in 2015 with her brother Scott Buchan after she recognized a huge gap in the market:

Women who didn’t know or understand sports but needed to be able to talk about teams, players and playoffs at work, on dates, and in various family situations. There is a side of sports that is approachable for all like the human-interest side and the odd co-mingling of sports and Hollywood (think J-Lo and A-Rod). And yes, it’s a real thing. Siegfried realized how intimidating sports were for her friends and how her own sports knowledge was a huge advantage in business.

“Having grown up with a brother who played a plethora of sports throughout his school years and later in my time working for a professional baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, I know sports. More importantly, I know how to start a conversation about sports and use it to segue into other conversations. This hidden talent really leveled the playing field in business. You become ‘one of the boys’ when you’re knowledgeable about sports, but the true secret weapon is you don’t have to know everything about sports or be ESPN to get by,” she explains.

When her female friends started asking her for help, Siegfried wondered if there was a business in sports conversation. When she first brought it up to her brother, he reminded her he was still in high school and that neither of them was in a place to start a business. She tucked the idea away when she moved to Singapore with her boyfriend (now husband) for two years.

On their return to the United States in November 2015, the couple landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Siegfried searched but no one seemed to be hiring due to the holidays so at Thanksgiving, she circled back to her brother about starting a social platform to help women become conversant in the language of sports. This time he said yes. “By this time he had a full-time job but was willing to be a co-founder and our chief sports evangelist. Last Night’s Game was born.

Truth be told, Siegfried had other motivations for launching Last Night’s Game. The ability to make small talk is important and with smart phones, and then the COVID pandemic, small talk was becoming a lost art. “People are way too phone centric; I’m guilty of it too. Then we all came out of COVID rusty. It’s like we forgot how to talk to people. Everyone needed help,” she says.

The other motivation is sports are a “safe” topic for work as well as over a family holiday table. “Sports is a great conversation starter,” she says. “Let me give you an example: ‘You’re a Bears fan? Chicago is a great city. Where do you eat when you’re in town for a game?’ Works like a charm.”

Siegfried was totally invested in her new venture. She built the website. Set-up the social media platforms. Added a podcast and launched with an email blast to family and friends. And she pulled no punches when evaluating her startup.  “Our baby was ugly. But we kept working on it.”

To perfect Last Night’s Game and the underlying strategy, Siegfried got involved with TEDx and 1 Million Cups, a free national startup program held at cities across America designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs. She didn’t limit herself to her hometown of Tulsa. Siegfried visited eight different cities to make her pitch on Last Night’s Game. “It was a really cool way to dive in and get feedback. People really liked the idea. And it allowed me to hone my elevator speech.”

Now nearly six years later, Last Night’s Game had truly gelled. Content on their website and social platforms is short, snappy and entertaining. Topics range from quirky to practical and can include profiles of professional athletes who are also military veterans, the life of NBA referees, introductions to soccer and lacrosse, to an ongoing column covering tailgate recipes.

The content is delivered to fans via a weekly podcast and thrice weekly emails. Fans are encouraged to send in their sports questions and bewilderments to the content meets fans’ interests.

What’s been interesting to Siegfried is how their audience has evolved. Thinking women were the audience, it turns out women compose 65 percent of the fanbase. A full one-third are men. She admits one of those men is her husband. “He’s in sales and has to be able to talk to people. We give everyone, regardless of gender, nuggets of information to connect with people.”

Siegfried says the biggest challenge of starting Last Night’s Game has been “turning off the noise and focusing on what your gut tells you to do.”

“During the first year of business, everyone suggests what they think you should do. We hit a lot of speed bumps our first year listening to all of the advice and experimenting. We finally learned to keep our eye on the prize and thrive on small victories,” she says.

One specific challenge that took experimenting was how best to build a following for their online community. Organic growth can be a very slow process and for those who want to quickly build a following for their company on the various social media platforms, it can be torturously slow. At one point, eager to grow the company’s email audience, Siegfried ran a contest to grow their email list. The tactic didn’t work as planned.

“Up until this point, our email open rate went from 30 percent to 10 percent. We decided we didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of our customer engagements just to get email addresses. So we no longer employ tactics like this and instead invite people to join on our website,” she says.

And it’s that personal engagement with followers that is winning the day for Last Night’s Game. Siegfried and her team interact on a daily basis with fans on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and their podcast. As a result, their audiences across these families continue to grow. Siegfried thrives on the feedback from followers.

“I have heard from women who say that because of Last Night’s Game, they can talk the talk on a first date or with their son at the dinner table. I even had one woman who said her male colleagues were always talking sports and she missed out on conversations because she didn’t know anything. After joining our community, she was able to jump in. She said she gained respect and felt more part of her workplace because of Last Night’s Game,” Siegfried says. “That was a win.”

Another win was when “Good Day Chicago” booked Siegfried for a segment to coach viewers on football before the Super Bowl. The experience gave Siegfried a high because of the free exposure but it was also humbling. “You have to take the win and then return to your desk and start again. With a startup, the work doesn’t stop. You’ve got to continue to push to grow.”

Last Night’s Game continues to be a labor of love for Siegfried and her brother Scott. They have monetized the platform through partnerships with other companies, podcast and newsletter sponsorships, and their online store, which features fun tee shirts for adults and kids and other items with tongue in cheek messaging such as “Blitzed,” “Tailgate Legend,” and “I know who scored last night.”

Siegfried laughs when she admits wearing the latter tee shirt to Trader Joe’s and having to explain to an elderly shopper it was about Last Night’s Game. “I kept it clean,” she smiles.

Perhaps the bigger return on investment is the opportunity to work with her brother. “We are so fortunate to work together. It’s let me see a different side of him. I continue to learn about sports every day from him. It’s fun to talk and create together,” she says.

In 2020, realizing she needed to beef up her business knowledge, Siegfried enrolled in the University of Notre Dame’s Executive MBA program. The 18-month schedule fit her busy schedule as a mom and entrepreneur. Her husband, a Notre Dame alumnus, spoke highly of his alma mater.

The accelerated program was a challenge, but Siegfried says she walked away with both a better perspective on how to run a business and a wealth of knowledge from the real-world experience of her colleagues. “I have much appreciation for every aspect of a business,” she says. “I also have a network of new lifelong friends and colleagues that I can pick up a phone and call. Truly the benefit you can’t put on paper.”

Meanwhile, Siegfried’s experience as an entrepreneur has inspired her to get more involved in the startup community. She is a member of the Irish Angels, an angel investing group composed of Notre Dame alumni. She has also served as a judge for the Notre Dame IDEA Center’s McCloskey New Venture Competition. “People have lifted me up so it’s important to me to pay if forward. The younger me couldn’t always find mentors. Women are afraid to ask for help. I want them to know I’m available.”

Siegfried says she’s learned more from starting her own company than any of her prior positions working for someone else. She offers this advice to those interested in jumping into the entrepreneurial fray and starting a company:

“Recognize how much you can learn from other people. Pick the brains of those who’ve been there. Be confident, brave, but above all, be humble. We don’t know as much as we think we do – never stop learning.!”