Can Sports be used for Social Change?

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       Every business starts with a basic idea or concept. Over time, that idea becomes a purpose, eventually maturing into a passion. Passion is what drives entrepreneurs and helps them overcome the inevitable obstacles they will face.

     Underdog Sports has connected with many entrepreneurs over the last year and a half since our business was started. We love learning about each story and the passion driving each individual business.

     I connected with Eric Shainock and Erica Prosser about a year ago through Twitter. Eric and Erica are co-founders of a company started in 2016 named Philanthropy Playmakers. Philanthropy Playmakers provides resources for the sports philanthropy industry and those who see sports as a change agent for social good. The mission of Philanthropy Playmakers is to harness the power of sports as a change agent for social good.

     Co- Founder Eric Shainock took a few minutes of his time to answer a few questions about starting a business and recommendations he has for other entrepreneurs.

Nick Cipkus: What was the initial reason you wanted to start your own business?

Eric Shainock: We started Philanthropy Playmakers as a way to provide resources to the sports philanthropy industry. We knew there was an opportunity to give back to those working in the field and those who wanted to work in the field. The stars aligned because we created the resource and a month later, LeBron James gave his ESPYs speech and Colin Kaepernick took a knee on the field. We knew the time was right to use sports as a vehicle for change.

      After about two years, we had many organizations and individuals asking us for our thoughts on how to approach certain situations, increase funds/donations and use sports as a tool for social impact. Because we had some equity as a brand as thought leaders in the field, it was a natural extension to begin consulting with these types of organizations.


To learn more about Philanthropy Playmakers visiting them

Nick Cipkus: What are three things you wish you would’ve know about being a business owner that would be helpful now?

Eric Shainock: The first thing I wish I would’ve known is being an entrepreneur is lonely. When everyone else is out to dinner, drinking or with their friends, we’re trying to grow Philanthropy Playmakers. It keeps us up at night and it’s usually the last thing I think about before bed and the first thing I think about when I wake up. The second thing I wish I would’ve known is that it’s hard to build a brand and build a company at the same time. Despite Erica and my experience in the field, it’s still a relatively young industry. This means we need to educate organizations on the importance of sports philanthropy, how it can be a revenue generator for them, and sell them on Philanthropy Playmakers at the same time. The third thing I wish I would’ve known is the importance of surrounding yourself with great leaders. We will only go as far as those who believe in our mission. We’re fortunate to have a great group of individuals who believe in Philanthropy Playmakers and the industry as a whole. However, we can’t afford to make mistakes on who we bring onto our team because we’re such a young organization.

Nick: Do you have any recommendations for those who have an interest in starting their own business?

Eric Shainock: For those who want to be entrepreneurs and start their own business, I’ll steal Nike’s line (as it’s appropriate) – Just Do It. You’ll never have the perfect circumstances, you just need to do it. You’ll have a million excuses for why you shouldn’t take that leap, but at the end of the day, you’re the only person who puts limitations on yourself. The moment you give up the fear of failing and remove the limitations, the sky is truly the limit.

     Surrounding yourself with a great team is also important. Erica Prosser and I complement each other incredibly well – both work wise and experience wise. She’s the perfect partner to go into business with because she just gets shit done and teaches herself what she wants to learn. We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for Erica (along with Kali Krisik, who has been with us for the past few years).

      I believe sports are a microcosm of society and have the ability to impact the world in many different ways. Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” 

   Over the last few years there have been countless examples of sports having an impact on society. Whether its an athlete raising a significant amount of money (JJ Watt) for a great cause or uniting groups of people. Sports are woven into the fabric of society and I look forward to watching the role Philanthropy Playmakers has on the future of Sports Philanthropy. 

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