I’ve stated on multiple occasions that athletes make great business people. It’s a topic dear to my heart as I shared in one of my most-read columns to date, “Why You Should Fill Your Company with ‘Athletes’.” In that post, I gave the following reasons athletes and athlete-like people make great hires:
Recognizing the need for expanded employment opportunities for student athletes, as well as the need in the market for highly qualified employees, they created a solution:InXAthlete. (As disclosure, they have invited me to serve on their board.)
InXAthlete works like a job search site, but serves a focused clientele. Their goal is to create a community to help employers and student athletes to connect. Its platform is simple, time and resource efficient, and free for current and former athletes. Once they’ve created a profile, athletes gain immediate exposure to businesses and can apply to posted jobs directly.
Businesses can use the “athlete search” function to narrow their search for candidates by school, sport, career interest, and location. Businesses and recruiters can also take advantage of packages and subscription deals to maximize their use of the platform.
How do you build a community platform? The biggest challenge InXAthlete faces is common among many of the emerging companies I see. Building an online community, especially from the ground floor, is not easy. For InXAthlete, it’s a classic chicken-and-the-egg problem: student athletes don’t want to sign up unless they see a lot of businesses on the board, and businesses don’t want to get on board unless they see plentiful athletes.
To beat the paradox, Wessell and Ferraro suggest the following:
The program has not hit profitability yet, Wessell tells me, but garnered first traction in October 2017 and is on track, with its current model, for profitability by October 2018. The team has student athletes on board from 65 universities at this point including Harvard, Stanford, Lehigh UC, Berkeley, USC, Rice, UNC Chapel Hill and Tufts.
The first success stories are rolling in. A wrestler who graduated in 2016 and moved home without opportunities signed up on the platform and got connected with a national company in Nazareth, Penn. The company was not only a fit but has given him a referral to their Tampa, Florida office, which had been his first choice for the location he wanted to go.
“Preparing for graduation can be a stressful transition for student athletes,” says Wessell. According to the NCAA, only 11.6 percent of collegiate baseball players go pro; only 2 percent of football players make that same transition. So for most athletes, the future doesn’t involve sports. “That leaves many student athletes feeling lost,” says Wessell. “They’ve dedicated themselves to training and discipline for so long, but they don’t know how to communicate that value outside of sports. And they don’t have the support they need to do so.”
In all, the founders are proving their entrepreneurial mettle while also striving for balance between their work and personal life. And they’ve demonstrated that there is strength in numbers, working in tandem.
Having gone through the anxiety, struggle, and eventual triumph of transitioning from sports to business themselves, Wessell and Ferraro resonated with my article in a way I never would have expected. Their mission is real. I am certain their personal connection and commitment to the challenge they are solving for hundreds and eventually for thousands of others will keep them moving through any hurdle they face.