Roughly 20 percent of businesses in the United States are owned by women or minorities. In today’s climate, professional athletes are finding ways to advocate for these groups as entrepreneurs and to highlight their contributions to the business world.
Earlier this year, the NFLPA hosted a Pitch Day event where nine diverse companies pitched a panel of judges for the opportunity to obtain marketing funds, mentorship, and NFLPA licensing rights. Athletes from a number of sports also discussed their off-field ventures and plans for the future, including Chiney Ogwumike of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys.
The two took part in a panel where Ogwumike detailed her experience negotiating the WNBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement. Smith spoke of his many experiences supporting minority entrepreneurs, and in particular, his creation of the Jaylon Smith Minority Entrepreneur Institute.
Smith knew around the age of eleven that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship after witnessing the career of the late Eugene Parker, his cousin and a former NFL agent. This gave him an appreciation for the business side of sports and a passion for continued education. With the platform of the Jaylon Smith Minority Entrepreneur Institute, Smith has been able to connect impact investors with quality, and meaningful, minority owned investment opportunities.
“I feel like we’re all in the same boat and we have to be together,” Smith said of his inspirations for these ventures. “So to be able to close the economic and educational gap – as it has been – has been a focus in mind.”