How One Mentor Can Change Your Life and Business

14 mins read

In the world of sports management, mentorship can oftentimes be the hidden force behind triumphant careers. This rings especially true in the journey of John Bollinger, the founder of Bismarck Larks and Funatix Events, under the guidance of his mentor, Dick Radatz, Jr. Their story, filled with ambition, perseverance, and invaluable life lessons, is a testament to the impact that a mentor-mentee relationship in North Dakota can have on both personal and professional growth in an entrepreneur’s journey.

Funtatix Event: The 2023 Mandan Rodeo Days was a fun time for all!

"At Funatix Events, we’ll plan your 100-person family reunion at a local picnic shelter, and we’ll also plan your major company’s 40th-anniversary party. We’ll work with you on your 100-person boutique, conference, or nonprofit event; it's just a matter of calling us to talk about your ideas and letting us help you make them work.”

Bollinger’s mission to make his mark in the sports management industry began at Missouri State University, where a simple yet potent realization struck him—if he didn’t play sports professionally, he could work in them. His first step into the field, a sales internship with the Springfield Cardinals, offered him a look into the reality of the industry—high demands with modest financial rewards. This experience, coupled with advice from a former professor, led him to pursue Ohio University’s master’s program in sports administration.

At Ohio University, Bollinger’s path crossed with Radatz, an established figure in sports management with an idea that would later become the Northwoods League. Radatz’s own journey, marked by a transition from a promising baseball career cut short by injury to a significant role in sports management, set a precedent for the resilience and adaptability that he would later aim to, and successfully, instill in Bollinger.

“All of the people over [at Funatix Events and the Bismarck Larks] are so inspiring to me. When I see the ambition, drive, ideas, and creativity that they have for what’s next, I’m excited when we get off the phone. That’s what adds to my life and it’s great to see the things coming next and plans they have in action,” Radatz said.

Funatix Event: The 2023 Sanford Family Summer Celebration

What began as a formal mentorship evolved into something deeper. According to Bollinger, Radatz didn’t just offer advice; he opened doors to real-world experiences. “When I first got into contact with [Dick], he said that we were going to do this right. We wouldn’t be as productive on a 10-15 minute phone call once a month with each other, so he offered to fly me out to Florida, where he’s at, to meet him. That made it that much more real to me.”

He encouraged Bollinger to take risks, make decisions, and learn from failures—a hands-off approach that empowered Bollinger to develop his own leadership style. This guidance was crucial during the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, where Bollinger’s decisive actions kept the Larks afloat and thriving against all odds.

“I know that everybody wants to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, and I think we oftentimes forget that time and the great leaps that we had to take to survive in this industry. What John did, and what we collectively did as a league, seemed almost impossible. Not only did they make it through the pandemic safely, but they were also one of the first teams back in action. It’s impressive that a situation of that degree was handled so impressively,” Radatz said.

Did You Know?
Funatix Events also serves the Bismarck Larks’ unique, all-inclusive packages that are family-friendly. Learn more at

Funatix Events offers plenty of fun opportunities for your event, including live music, games, and more!

Life Lessons and Lasting Impact

Beyond the realm of business, Radatz imparted wisdom that transcended professional boundaries. He stressed the importance of passion and personal happiness over financial gains, emphasizing the significance of loving one’s work and choosing the right life partner. Bollinger credits these lessons as foundational to his approach to life and business.

“What I’ve learned the most and have been able to take away from [my relationship with Dick] is the life lesson that we really only get one shot at this life. We live once, so we better live it to the fullest with intention. A lot of people get caught up in this rat race of money and career success, but I never really saw someone living their life until I met Dick. He’s making these crazy memories and telling me crazy stories that are just a normal day for him, and it’s inspired me and opened my eyes to how to live a great life,” Bollinger said.

Today, Bollinger, the Bismarck Larks, and the community events brought to life by Funatix Events all stand as positive outcomes to Radatz’s mentorship—a dynamic leader who has not only grown the Larks and Funatix Events but “has also embraced the lifestyle of living life to its fullest,” a philosophy deeply ingrained in him by Radatz, according to Bollinger. Their relationship, enriched by mutual respect for one another and genuine friendship, continues to evolve, underscoring the lasting positive impact and ripple effect that a mentor can have on one individual’s life and career.

Where did the name “Funatix” come from?

"Funatix Events came about when joking in our office that people in sports get to call their customers “fans” because they’re literally fanatical about a brand. I think that sports teams take that for granted. You have to earn someone truly being a fan of your business, which we remind ourselves all the time. We ask ourselves how we can get people fanatical since we’re about fun, all-inclusive experiences. That's how we brought Funatix Events to life.”

“It’s a real trusting friendship, and we’re still a business at the end of the day. We have this work and we have to talk business, but this relationship has been so rewarding for our adventures here that it’s bigger than a simple work-based mentor thing. It’s a friendship that I’m able to have outside of my parents and my beautiful wife who has been one of the most influential people in my life to date. You can’t get that in a lot of places from many people,” Bollinger said.

The story of John Bollinger and Dick Radatz, Jr. is more than just a narrative of professional growth; it’s a vivid illustration of how mentorship can shape one’s character, decision-making, and approach to life’s challenges. It serves as an inspiration for aspiring professionals everywhere, reminding them that behind every successful person, there is often a mentor who has helped pave the way.

Funatix Events

Funatix Events was created to bring a new level of event experience to the Bismarck-Mandan area. While many recognize Funatix Events from their work alongside the Bismarck Larks, Funatix also specializes in bringing events for others to life as well, as a third-party event company. I sat down with John Bollinger, owner and CEO, and Jordan Black, general manager of Funatix Events, where we discussed the intended mission behind Funatix Events, the level of personalization they’ll go to, what’s next for the event company, and much more. 

"The Mandan Rodeo Days have always been successful, but they didn’t have an online ticket sales system before working with us. When we got involved, we built out their website and ticketing system, marketing, sponsorship sales, event planning logistics, and food and beverage management.”

Funatix Events works to bring events of all sizes to life, no matter how crazy.

“When I moved to Bismarck three years ago, I always heard community members say that unless you have a boat or way on the river, there’s nothing to do for events around town. We’re developing a business that helps families have fun community events throughout the entire year, including the winter. That truly is our goal and passion as we continue to add new events that empower people to get out, do something different, and bring the community together,” Black said.

The team behind Funatix Events was determined to build an all-inclusive family entertainment brand where people and families can enjoy unique, out-of-the-box experiences. Funatix Events’ name grew to prominence through hosting some of the most memorable events in the Larks’ history.

They didn’t consider pursuing work on events for other companies until they were approached by the Bismarck Marathon, who asked them if they would help with the marathon’s marketing and sponsorship efforts.

“We did step out of our comfort zone and help them, even if we didn’t know what we were doing every step of the way, and it went awesome. Registrations skyrocketed and we ended up raising so much money for charity, which is amazing. I realized that what we do for baseball can make other community events better and richer, and connect more families in the community,” Bollinger said.

“We’re not Livewire, who is fantastic at coming in with lighting, staging, and other production. Some people see us and assume that we’re similar, but we specialize in ticket sales and marketing. We just care deeply about this community and want to see it shine. Whatever people want help with, we can help with that. Our mission is to use fun to make a difference in people’s lives.” 

When it took off in 2022, their team decided to create a separate brand that’s a recognizable one-stop shop for events, leading to the formal launch of Funatix Events. Since their recent launch, the crew has been off to the races with their work on events outside of the ballpark.

“While Funatix Events has been around for technically a year and a half, this is our third or fourth year working with some clients, such as the Bismarck Marathon. On the flip side, this is our first time working with Mandan Rodeo Days, we saw a tremendous 20% growth in ticket sales and we’re looking to grow that further. It truly is a one-stop shop for event planning,” Black said.

"There are few places outside of the Mac & Cheese Festival or a Bismarck Larks game where you can drink a beer outside and bring your 7-year-old kid and 97-yearold grandma. A Bismarck Larks game is an amazing 1,900-person event with your neighbors like nothing else. These events are all about that. In the past, companies have reached out about holding a simple 100-person customer service event at their place with a tent, tables, and chairs. No matter the size, Funatix Events can put a quote together and begin putting in the work. Once we gave them their quote, we just wanted them to enjoy their event. We’ll do the work so that you can enjoy the event."

“Mandan Rodeo Days have been a very successful event for plenty of years. They reached out looking to stay current and relevant on things such as social media, but are also simply looking to delegate to someone they trust, which can be hard to find. There’s a need out there for that. We’re doing a conference coming up, which I never thought we’d be planning. Someone reached out needing help, so we got to budgeting and putting a proposal together for them.”

Funtatix Event: Dacotah Speedway in Mandan, ND

They also work with organizations and events such as the Dacotah Speedway, Designer Genes’ Walk for Down Syndrome, Sanford Health’s annual company picnic, other company outings and picnics, and much more. While they’ve demonstrated their expertise in handling events for other companies, Funatix Events is looking to expand into hosting some of their own events across the Bismarck-Mandan community. Recently, they held the Mac & Cheese Festival in Bismarck on May 13 with roughly 1,000 tickets sold.

While they have certainly worked with prominent and notable events and organizations within the community, they will work with events of varying sizes. The team behind Funatix Events proudly provides high levels of customization and personalization throughout the entire event planning process and preparation.

“Mandan Rodeo Days was a client who came to us and asked for help with every asset, from start to finish. We do everything off the dirt, including marketing, ticket sales and operations, concession stands, staffing, sponsorships, and making sure everyone’s satisfied. We encourage people to approach us and we’ll come up with a win-win-win idea for them, ourselves, and the community,” Black said.

“It starts with us asking the right questions, seeing what the people need help with, and what we can help grow because then we can make a win-win-win situation. We’re really open to doing whatever anyone needs, whether it’s grilling hotdogs for a small 100-person event or it’s planning an event similar in size to the Mandan Rodeo Days. It’s about having those conversations, identifying what’s needed, and helping grow classic events into something brand new.”

“We want to be a true partner and come in, listen to what a company is trying to do, make a plan for what’s next based on their capacities, and find a win-win solution. We took the Bismarck Marathon very seriously when working with them, as we knew they were under a nonprofit. We knew that every dollar at the end would be another dollar to charity,” Bollinger said.

“Bismarck is a small enough town but has a large enough business community that if you mess up, people find out quickly. Our job is to think about everything with a long-term vision and do a great job, or else we’re not going to be in business very long. We’re really proud of the unique level of customization and personalization with each client.”

“We don’t just have a sheet of paper that says what we’ll do for you. We’re a small local business, which allows us to be way more flexible if a business needs help in some areas that may be unable to provide more money upfront. It truly is based on the client’s needs and what’s going to make them successful. There aren’t many event companies in the Bis-Man area, or North Dakota in general, that are doing what we’re doing,” Black said.

The Funatix Events team crafted a unique business model when working with other businesses or companies. While they have the standard management fee of what they value their time and services at for the project, they also want to be incentivized for certain events pertaining to growth. The Bismarck Marathon and Mandan Rodeo Days showed tremendous growth from the prior year for each respective event.

Funtatix Event: The Bismarck Marathon is North Dakota's longest-running marathon and offers plenty of fun for all ages!

This tremendous growth stems from going above and beyond for their clients and doing things slightly differently to stand out from any competition. Funatix Events takes a unique approach to sponsorships with all-inclusive tickets at many of their events. Bollinger credits part of its success and unique qualities to taking a different approach to ticket sales and marketing. 

“We have an excellent reputation among our clients, and they trust us to do things the right way when representing the brand on their behalf. We credit a lot of the businesses and talent that we’ve worked with in the past to allow us to change the strategy and scope of their sponsorships and break new ground,” Bollinger said.

“When clients see that they’re actually receiving value out of their sponsorship and that it was indeed worth it for their business, it makes it hard for them to go anywhere else to get the job done. We’re hands-on and not afraid to get in the weeds and make sure that everything goes well. In college sports, people hire companies like IMG or LEARFIELD. I feel like we’re a combination of IMG and LEARFIELD in the world of event planning.”

"It depends on what clients are looking for, but we help with marketing, ticket sales, sponsorships, and more. Everything has some form of marketing, registration or ticket sales, or vendor or sponsor component that ties into it.”

Why People Choose Funatix Events

1. Marketing

“The biggest thing is simply projecting that voice into the community through marketing. People always are coming to us for social media management and database marketing for website stuff.”

Jordan Black, General Manager of Funatix Events

2. Food and Beverages

“We do our own food and beverages with a custom five-flattop grill trailer that can be taken anywhere to grill hotdogs, burgers, and other foods for people. Furthermore, we have a two-door trailer smoker. Those are the two big pieces of equipment we have to take the party to you. We love local restaurants and there are a lot of great caterers, but we’re not necessarily trying to cater a 30-person lunch at the office. When it needs to be outside or for a larger amount of people, there aren’t a lot of people interested in that, especially at a price point that makes sense for the company. There aren’t a lot of event companies that also make their own food, as they may have to contract out the work. We can smoke meat, or make some simple hot dogs, which makes us super affordable. People enjoy it when there isn’t a minimum number of people required since we can get down to a really low cost per person.”

Jordan Black, General Manager of Funatix Events

3. Customized Sponsorships

“Everybody asked if we offered customized sponsorships. They know that with Funatix Events, we’re going to be in communication with them, their items will get approved ahead of time, and they can trust that it’s getting done. That’s the key difference with Funatix Events sponsorships that leaves them coming back year after year.”

John Bollinger, Owner and CEO of Funatix Events

4. Getting The Job Done

“With Sanford in July of 2022, we held a 4,000-person picnic with food, beverages, and fireworks, which was amazing. As everyone was going home, we were just beginning to tear down the stage at 12:30 in the morning. People always want to be part of the event but not everyone wants to get down there at 5 a.m. and build a stage. We’re going to do everything in our ability to get it done the right way.”

John Bollinger, Owner and CEO of Funatix Events

Looking ahead, the team behind Funatix Events is leaping at the opportunity to expand and increase its scale. While they currently have a small handful of people who help them out, they’re also looking at bringing more employees on board to increase their positive impact on the community. 

“The ultimate vision is to become the go-to event company in the Bismarck-Mandan community. For anyone with a bright idea for their business or employees, we’d love to work with you and bring that idea to life. If there’s a gap missing, we’d like to create a new event that bridges that gap,” Bollinger said.

“We’re all about spending quality time with those you love, which can be done through community events. If we can provide a lot of community events, especially in the fall, winter, and spring, that will keep people from jam-packing their events in the summer. That’s our next frontier. We’ve discussed a 2030 vision, as we have all these specific, dialed-in ideas that we want to see come to life.”

According to Black and Bollinger, there are very few limitations in what they can and can’t do. With Designer Genes’ Walk for Down Syndrome, they simply managed the event’s marketing content and website on a budget that allowed for what they needed, along with plenty of room for profit. No matter the size or purpose of your event, the team behind Funatix Events is ready to help breathe new life, and some fun, into Bismarck-Mandan’s event landscape.

“For me, it’s like running two fun business ventures, as the Bismarck Larks and Funatix Events are both entrepreneurial. We know our roles, but every day is still new and exciting, like a startup. We’re all helping with current events and planning big picnics, outings, and conferences, while still doing our own things. We’re a young company that’s trying to grow, scale, and learn,” Bollinger said.

“There are people out there that have needs for our services and don’t want to do it themselves. For anyone who’s had an idea for an event, but has never thought about how to bring it to life; let’s sit down and have a conversation. At the end of the day, we’re in this business to make a difference through fun. We want this as our extension to do that in other avenues and outlets year-round.”

Contact Funatix Events