#9: Amber Balcaen – Being a female in the motorsport industry – never give up
Podcast Guest: Amber Balcaen & Host: Jai Shukla
Q1 – You got into your first go-kart at the age of 10, what was that like? And you grew up around everyone who raced too – what sort of impact did that have?
It was the best ever. At the age of 10 after begging and pleading Amber Balcaen finally got to race. She had to work on the go-kart herself and pay for it herself. So at the age of 10, Amber started knocking on doors to get $100 there and $100 here to support herself. That lasted for about 5 years but the first time she got into a go-kart she knew this is what she wanted to do.
Q2 – It’s rare to find something you love doing so early on, who inspired you?
Grandad, cousins, uncle, dad everyone was racing. It was never pressuring. Driving really fast – it’s so much fun. But as a girl – Amber Balcaen had to push harder to let them give her a go and also she won her first race which was amazing.
Q3 – What’s the real story behind how you got funding and how’s it been since?
For go-kart racing, you only have to raise a couple of $1000. So initially she called her dad’s friend who sponsored him. And went to swat meats, sold racing stickers, the first job was mowing a lawn. Doing anything and everything.
Q4 – So let’s fast track to now, how do you manage to fund your dream and secure sponsorship?
Now it’s in the millions, so it’s a different industry when you’re in Nascar compared to dirt. It’s a full-blown business, dealing with companies and CEO’s and therefore more pressure. She has to provide value otherwise they won’t want to partner with her.
Q5 – How do you provide value?
ROI. In a lot of different ways. One big thing in SM and business is conveying your story. That is attractive. Being a woman – I have a unique story, so I’m an underdog. Then consider the marketing needs, company needs and your goals and how that can be achieved through your own racing. Find what is special and unique about you as a person and capitalize on that. She does that by using her weaknesses into opportunities. E.g. being Canadian, being a female in a male-dominated sport, not born in a wealthy family. Then you have to dig deep and figure out how to help their company through your racing.
Q6 – Racing wives – how does that work with your dream of racing?
“I get to share my behind the scenes story. This is a way for me to be resourceful. I created a brand and CMT reached out to me but it’s called racing wives. I’m not a wife but I have a business relationship with Samatha Bush, you see how we interact and how it fits into the racing world. So I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m hoping this helps me get more sponsorship and help boost awareness for my brand. You have to create a brand and exposure that companies realize your impact, you have to call, email everything but nothing beats attracting them. So I’m hoping doing this will help them be attracted to want to partner with me.”
Q7 – What do you do if you don’t have a brand or can’t afford PR agencies?
“My dad was only known locally. So I’ve faced this exact question. I used FB – to let America know about me when I’m racing. Otherwise, no-one would ever know that I’ve raced or won. Posting pictures had a fan page then I created a Youtube channel about dirt, a little bit about my races and then also about dirt track racing. Also did some reporting, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do but it’s about networking and you have to be seen to make connections. You have to be real, authentic and I am always myself. “
A mom came up to me after a race saying – you wear makeup and you race?!
That’s who I am – it doesn’t make me any slower when I race?
Walk a fine line of being feminine and classy. I want moms to come up to me and hope they see me as a great role model for their daughters. It does happen – but Nascar was a big change.
Q8 – SM platforms take time, courage. So you are having to a salesperson, marketer, driver, take care of your diet, regiment – how do you split the time?
I wish I could do that. But you have to be resourceful. I read books – a 2-year business degree helped me. 10 years old was when I started, I was an entrepreneur. You have to learn how to do things yourself, I’m editing my own website right now. It’s trial and error. You have to figure it out. My parents knew my dream was crazy but if you have name and money. And unlike football where there are so many teams – there is only a limited no. of spaces in this sport. You have to be willing to be put in the work.
Q9 – Lot’s of risks involved other than sponsorship – physically speaking like crashing, how does that not deter you from racing?
“Because I love it, racing is such an addictive feeling. We have extremely safe race cars – we can talk away from a 200mph. I always feel safe driving compared to a highway where people are texting. Everyone has roller cages – so this is why it’s so easy to make the decision.”
Q10 – Where do you see yourself and where is the dream lying?
This season Amber Balcaen is racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is just amazing and I’m racing for his team and ideally move up to the trucks next year. My overall goal is to make it into the cup series, but there are quite a few levels. I want to go as far as I can go. And I want to inspire people that if Amber can do it with that little amount of resources and that little funding and basically did the impossible – then what can I do. As a female, I feel like I have a responsibility.
Q11 Has there been a female who’s come up to you and said I want to come under your wing?
She has mentored a girl, gave her tips and tricks. Amber Balcaen went to her races, she encourages anyone out there who is considering it to message Amber – I’m always looking to offer advice. And I do get a lot of DM’s but I want more. There’s a quote: ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’.
Q12 – What does an average week look like?
8-11am emails. Gym – 2 hours. Meeting and emails – 8 pm on my comp. Sponsorship, merchandise anything to do with racing.
Q13 – Where does training in a sports car fit into this?
Racing costs $10,000-20,000 just to practice. The first part is gym, endurance, strength, cardio is super important. Playing a lot of Nascar video games, to learn the tracks. I-racing which is a racing simulator. Watching videos of past races, other races of other people to learn the lines and reading a book called performance thinking. His book helps with mindset. Also, I do quite a few speaking engagements.
Q14 – What topics do you speak about?
Kids in schools to sports events, dinners. It’s about overcoming obstacles, following your dreams, I’ve learned a lot. It’s built a lot of character.
Q15 – What tip do you have to inspire those listening today?
Just never give up. Don’t let bad moment, race, year destroy your future. Everyone goes through adversities in their lives and hardships. They should make you go for it even more and keep a positive mindset. Make sure you be patient through the process.