As part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Sandler. Tracy is the Founder and CEO of Fangirl Sports Network (FGSN), which is a rapidly growing digital media company for female sports fans that delivers weekly news updates, commentary about professional sports teams, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at accomplished women making waves in the sports industry. Tracy began as 49ers Fangirl in 2015, bringing fans the latest news and behind-the-scenes action for her beloved San Francisco team. This led to her becoming a member of the 49ers’ press corps, where she reports live from the field and the locker room, attends press conferences, and covers community outreach events. In just four short years, Tracy has grown the FGSN network to include representation for all 32 NFL and 30 NBA teams.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been a huge sports fan, and specifically a San Francisco 49ers fan. I was a sportswriter during my college years at The University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and reignited that passion in 2014 when I launched my blog (for fun) writing about the 49ers. After receiving an abundance of enthusiasm and positive feedback, I decided to turn that passion into my career, and that is how Fangirl Sports Network was created. We now have a Fangirl representing all 32 NFL teams and 30 NBA teams.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There have been so many interesting moments, but one of the most amazing was earning my credential with the 49ers. Somewhere my 11-year-old self is passing out knowing my “work day” includes being at practice, on the field, in the press box, and in the locker room. It’s truly a dream come true.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Fangirl Sports Network is entirely focused on the female fan and building a community of like-minded women who love sports, love to laugh, and love to be inspired. We are taking the word Fangirl and turning that into a positive, making it stand for a smart, informed, funny, stylish, inspiring woman who can tell you her QB’s season stats, as well as her tips for throwing the best Super Bowl party.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In September, we launched a new weekly podcast called Get My Job. Each week, I sit down with a prominent woman in the sports industry and discuss her journey, obstacles along the way, and advice she has for women who aspire to follow in her footsteps. It’s a really unique opportunity for our audience to really learn and grow by listening to the success stories of so many accomplished women. Some of our guests have included ESPN’s Mina Kimes and former Raiders CEO and current CBS analyst, Amy Trask. With this podcast, I really hope to inspire women all through the industry.
We also just launched our second collection of Fangirl merchandise, and it is adorable! We worked with Sports Illustrated Cover Model Camille Kostek on a very stylish “Never Not Dancing” hat, which is her signature phrase. We also have the most comfortable “Sundays are for the Girls” Henley and a cute crop top that says, “Football and Chill.” It’s all part of our mission to create comfortable, cute game wear that takes you from the fourth quarter to postgame drinks.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
It’s important to know what you can do and where you need to delegate. You should assign your team specific tasks, but they should be given the freedom to thrive in those tasks and responsibilities. That being said, it’s important to have goals that keep everyone accountable for getting their work done and working at a high level.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Being a manager is a skill, and it’s not an easy one to master. Especially as a female leader, you want to be a mentor, but you are also the boss and that needs to be clear. That being said, a leader can’t be complacent. It’s important to find a productive way to be on top of everything while not micromanaging. It’s a very fine line, and one that may take some trial and error.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that
That would for sure be my dad. He is always available to listen, to talk things out, and to give sage advice. He taught me strong work ethic, loyalty, and to be true to who I am.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I want FGSN to get more involved in the community and in philanthropy. Personally, I am on the board of an organization called Beauty Bus and am the Los Angeles Chairperson for National Young Leadership Cabinet for Jewish Federation. I am also currently in training to be a CASA, which is a Court-Appointed Advocate for a foster child. Giving back to the community with whatever resources I can is a high priority for me, and I am currently looking at ways to integrate those principles into Fangirl.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I’m not sure I have five, but I do have a couple that I knew, but always need to reiterate.
- You can’t please everyone — It’s important to know your brand and know your audience. Your content won’t be for everyone and that is ok. Some people will love it, and some people will not. Have confidence in what you’re trying to do, because that is one of the things that will make you successful.
- Set boundaries — Whether it be with your management team, your employees, or with your audience, it’s important to have clear boundaries between your work and your personal life. That does not mean you cannot be friends with those you with work, because I am, and it adds so much to my life! But, know when to be the boss and when to be the friend.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s a good question! That movement would be around mental health. In this age of social media and celebrity, it’s so easy to get caught up in what other people have, what other people look like, and what other people are doing. With Fangirl, we are creating a place for women to feel good about themselves and feel supported. We inspire, but we do not compare.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s actually something 49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman said the other day, so it’s newly adopted. He said, “The best ability is dependability.” It resonates for me personally and professionally.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Sheryl Sandberg. She has paved the way for so many women in the digital and technological world and well beyond that. I would love to hear more about the early obstacles she faced and how she overcame them, along with some of the best advice and rejections she received. I say rejections because often times that’s where we learn and grow the most.