Entrepreneur Bruce Dunn turned his favorite leisure activity into a career when he founded All Sports Productions in 2002.
After selling the Mister Guy clothing store a couple of years before in Fayetteville, Dunn was working as development director for the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas.
He was involved during an exciting time in the school’s fundraising history, the start of the Campaign for the 21st Century, where the UA raised $1 billion, including a $300 million donation from the Walton Family Foundation. It was the largest gift given to a public university in America up to that time.
Dunn says he learned a lot and met influential people in his life during his tenure at the college, and he refers to it as the “very best job I’ve ever had” up to then, but in essence, he wanted to be self-employed.
He was also an avid cyclist and president of a local cycling club. Part of the duties included promoting the annual Joe Martin Stage Race, which had been going on in Fayetteville since 1978.
Dunn, 52, discovered that he had a knack for race planning. He traces his interest in that type of work back to high school, when he consistently volunteered to plan various community and school activities in his hometown of Hampton.
“Informally, I’ve been organizing events for 20-plus years,” Dunn said.
When longtime friend Joe Fennel, owner of Bordinos and then-owner of Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, suggested there was a niche for someone to make a career out of race planning in the region, it sparked something in Dunn.
“I guess I planted the seed, and Bruce thought about it and ran with it,” Fennel said.
At the time, Fennel was involved with the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival.
“I noticed there was a shortage of experienced race organizers in the state and especially Northwest Arkansas,” Fennel said. “People don’t realize how much work goes into it and how technical it is.”
Dunn decided the race organizer job would pair well with his experience both in business and nonprofit, and, with his wife Debra’s support, he decided to take the plunge.
His first move was to take the Joe Martin race to a new level by approaching USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing.
Dunn said, “I flew out to visit the USA Cycling folks and told them they should put the Joe Martin Stage Race on the national calendar, and they said, ‘Where’s Arkansas?’”
Dunn was, however, able to convince them after pointing to the quality of the event and the fact that it had been going on for more than 20 years, he said.
The race was added to the tour in 2003.
Micah Rice, vice president of national events for USA Cycling, said, “USA Cycling has identified the top-tier races in the country to be considered for the USA Cycling Professional Race Tour. … Bruce definitely has a top-tier event when you consider its longevity and consistency on the calendar, the number of professional riders and teams who attend from around the world, its international sanctioning designation and its community support.”
Several years later, in 2014, Dunn also got the race on an international race calendar through the Union Cycliste Internationale, the globally recognized governing body for the sport of cycling.
In addition to the Joe Martin race, Dunn began adding other events to his schedule very early on. He operated three races that first year. Now, he owns nine annual events, and he loves the work.
“It’s coordination of so many things. I get to do marketing. I get to do organization, sales. I get to do sponsorship, community development, working with people, working with athletes — and Monday morning. If I could bottle Monday morning after an event, I’d be a drug addict. It is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s experience in both the nonprofit and retail worlds likely has fed into the expertise that help him run his company, as does his education in business administration from the UA (1986).
For instance, when Dunn wanted to find out what the local race market wanted, he implemented focus groups. And those focus groups called for more non-competitive, themed events.
Thus, Dunn started the Halloween Monster Dash in 2013, both a 5K and 1-mile fun run for all ages. Participants arrive in costume and pick up candy from various stations.
This will be the first year that the event will not be held on Halloween day, but rather a week before. Dunn said participation in the event has been significantly lower than he expected. Hence, the date change.
If it doesn’t make a difference, Dunn, a businessman at his core, said he’ll cut the event.
He is fully hands-on with all events, acting as race organizer, race promoter, or sometimes both.
All Sports Productions has one other full-time staff member, and Dunn also utilizes support from interns and other part-time help from the UA.
For a one-day race, Dunn enlists the help of about 75 volunteers. For the bigger events, the count is up to 300.
How He Got Here
Dunn worked at the Mister Guy clothing store when he was in college, and when the opportunity for ownership came up in 1988, Dunn, still in his early 20s, jumped at the chance.
He owned the store for more than 13 years, and plenty of good things came from it — but he would never return to retail.
“Business-wise, it was a great opportunity to get involved with the community and meet a lot of great people,” Dunn said. “There’s no better training ground than retail and restaurants, as far as teaching you about how to manage resources. But I’m glad I don’t have inventory anymore. That was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
Dunn can be counted on for his honesty, whether that means not taking on jobs that are not a good fit, or choosing to operate as a for-profit business.
Within his business, “I’m not giving to charities that I personally support,” he said.
However, heeding the advice from heavy-hitters in the business world who have told him to “up my organizational game,” he plans to take on a venture that will be “purely philanthropic in nature.”
Dunn would like to start a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring safe drinking water from water wells. Although not related to racing, it folds well into his company’s emphasis on health and wellness.
Dunn is big on giving back in his private life. He was previously involved with Habitat for Humanity Washington County and Economic Opportunity Agency’s Children’s House.
He has been involved with Northside Rotary since 1987. He is also chairman of the race directors committee for USA Triathlon and leads the Arkansas chapter for USA Cycling.
He and his wife are active in the Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.
All Sports Productions Events
Iron Pig Festival, for all ages
Early spring at Fayetteville Executive Airport (Drake Field)
Year founded: 2009
600 participants, 600 spectators
Duathlon, 5K Run, 1-mile fun run/walk and 7-mile bike time trial
Joe Martin Stage Race, professional/elite amateur cyclists
Four days in spring, Fayetteville
Year founded: 1978, went professional in 2003
750 participants from 23 countries, 5,000–8,000 spectators
On the national USA Cycling tour and the international Union Cycliste Internationale tour
Joe Martin Gran Fondo, men/women
Spring in Fayetteville
Year founded: 2015
500 participants, 500 spectators
110-mile, 46-mile and 23-mile course options for riders who want to experience Joe Martin Stage Race in a less competitive environment
Tri-Sport Club Kids & Family Triathlon, ages 5–14
Late spring at the Fayetteville Athletic Club
Year founded: 2015
150 participants, 200 spectators
Triathlon for seasoned young athletes. Ages 15 and up can participate in untimed, family division
Fayetteville Splash and Dash, ages 7–15
June 4 at Fayetteville Athletic Club
Not an annual event. Part of a series from USA Triathlon.
Youth aquathlon: 100–200-meter pool swim, 1–2-kilometer run
Ozark Valley Triathlon, men/women
Late spring at Lake Wedington
Year founded: 2003
350 participants, 400 spectators
First triathlon in NWA; 400–1,000-yard swim,
14–19-mile bike, 2–4-mile run
Eureka Springs Multisport Festival, for all ages
Summer in Eureka Springs & surrounding areas
Year founded: 2011
750 participants, 1,000 spectators
“The Eurekan.” Three-day, multi-sport festival: sprint-distance triathlon, running race, road bike tour rides and racing
Lewis & Clark Ozark Adventure Dash, for all ages
Fall at Lake Fayetteville Park
Year founded: 2004
250 participants, 250 spectators
Multi-surface trail run (7-mile or 2-mile) with special hidden prizes along the way
Halloween Monster Dash, for all ages
October in downtown Fayetteville square
Year founded: 2013
350 participants, 500 spectators
Halloween-themed competitive and non-competitive 5K and fun run/walk with candy stations, for “a new way to trick or treat.”
Fayetteville Half-Marathon, men/women
Fall in Fayetteville
Year founded: 2010
1,500 participants, 1,000 spectators
Half-distance marathon, 5K and a 1-mile fun run/walk