Hookit has been checking in with some of the best, most respected riders in the world to share their advice and experiences on various topics. This time we checked in with Justin Barcia to tell us about his rise up the ranks from am to pro. Read on for his advice and keep an eye out for upcoming features on this topic.

Who was your first sponsor as an amateur and how did it all come about?
It was actually a pretty cool deal on how it happened because in the beginning we never went out looking for sponsors. So my first big deal was Shift. What happened was I went out to a ride day at Southwick because it was one of my favorite local tracks. Jeff Emig was out there on his KX 250 and he came up on me in practice and we just started battling and having fun. We pulled off the track and he came over to me and said, “hey man you’re pretty fast!” I had mismatched gear on and he said “I can probably call the guys at Shift and get you a deal.” The next week I had a huge box of gear on my doorstep and that led to a long relationship together. The coolest part about it was we didn’t have to go out looking, it just kind of came to us. That was really awesome.

What things did/do you do to find sponsors?
As an amateur it was definitely way tougher in the early years. You obviously have to look a little bit, see what’s out there and put together a resume to show what you’re doing. I sent of my resume using SponsorHouse at the time and got some good sponsors with 50% off here and there. For me it was all about being out on the track and winning races. It seems like sponsors want to see you out there on the track and focused on winning races and being on the podium talking about their product. Most of the brands usually have a vendor setup at all the races so it seems like they already know who they want to work with. The best thing you can do is go out there and make yourself look good.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I think one of the hardest parts was not understanding what brands put in to support their riders. They are providing free product and discounted product, which all costs money. Now you have all these cool opportunities to promote your sponsors through social media like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Back in the day I always ran stickers, gave shout outs on the podium and more than anything, called them once a week to check in. I use social media now, but always maintain my relationships, because you never know what could happen, so I make sure to keep that personal touch. These guys don’t sponsor me to throw a sticker on the bike. They want you to be involved and help build their brand so I’m working at making sure I understand the social media side of things and take care of my people.

What advice do you have for the next generation of riders?
The best advice I can give riders coming up through the amateur ranks is to the make sure they never give up because it definitely isn’t easy. The field is so stacked right now that you shouldn’t expect to go out there and win right away. Especially, since there are so many riders out there in every class who I know are super fast. It’s easy to fall into a place where you want to slack when you’re having a bad day with some crashes here and there. Eventually the experience will come and you can bounce back from those things to win some races and get on the podium…so never give up.