SoccerGrlProbs Wins National Sports and Sustainability Tourney
SoccerGrlProbs, LLC, a company started by three Fairfield University alumnae, took first place in the for-profit track of the Next Play Venture Pitch Tournament, a national competition for student-led business plans that aim to make the sports industry more sustainable. The Fairfield, Conn.-based company was recognized for its social sustainability mission, which is to support and encourage the well-being and positive self-image of young female athletes everywhere through social media and apparel products. Social sustainability, social justice and using the power of sport to better the world are very important aspects of the two-year old tournament.
Led by Carly Beyar ’14, Shannon Fay ’14 and Alanna Locast ’12, SoccerGrlProbs was started when they were undergraduates at Fairfield and members of the Fairfield Women’s Soccer Team. Current Fairfield student Brianna Riley, a junior majoring in communication, was their teammate in the tournament. Now a client of the Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise (FAME), a business incubator, the company boasts a global social media following and has had hundreds of thousands in sales stemming from its apparel business. SoccerGrls has also united the soccer world, with famous professional players counted among its’ Twitter followers, and has fostered a major fan following among girls in middle school and high school.
The two-day tournament, hosted by Davidson College in North Carolina, pitted 13 colleges and universities nationwide to pitch panels of judges their business plans about sustainability and sports. Held last week, the competition focused on various aspects of sustainability, as well as social equity, environmental integrity and economic prosperity. SoccerGrl earned $8,000 and a membership into Project for Innovation, Energy and Sustainability (PiES), a start-up incubator in Davidson.
The judges represented 30 organizations, including venture capital firms, companies, non-profits, local government agencies and entrepreneurs. Teams had the opportunity to receive extensive feedback from judges, which allowed them to refine their pitches and business plans throughout the competition. SoccerGrls’ Beyar, who was a communication major and studio art minor at Fairfield, said, “Friday we felt like we won already just because of all the knowledge and experience we got from the feedback sessions. The competition as a whole has been so rewarding.”
Former Division I athletes, Beyar, Fay, and Locast started tweeting for fun to make their fellow Stags laugh about practice sessions, smelly soccer gear and weight training (@SoccerGrlProbs). The tweets evolved into hilarious YouTube videos. Soon, SoccerGrls responded to their growing fan base with t-shirts, complete with messages they coined. Their first shirt, emblazoned with the slogan: ‘I can't, I have soccer,’ has had more than $100,000 in sales.
What has happened since is something the SoccerGrl team never could have envisioned – they’ve become stars online and in person at professional games. ‘SoccerGrls’ recently teamed up with Sky Blue FC, of the National Women’s Soccer League, in a collaborative marketing effort. Other partnerships are in the works relative to the Women’s World Cup coming up in June.
To date, SoccerGrlPrbs have 190,000 Twitter followers, eight million views on YouTube, and 68,000 Instagram fans. Their followers include U.S. pro player Alex Morgan, and former U.S. Women’s National Team member Kristine Lilly.
The SoccerGrl team now sees their apparel – shirts, sweatpants, hoodies – as a means of unifying soccer players around the world, complete with inspirational quotes, comedic language or unique graphics.
“It was never about money,” noted Locast, who majored in biology. “It was about relating to people and they relating to us.”
Meanwhile, middle school and high school girls all over the country are part of the SoccerGrl online community.
And with that, the young entrepreneurs have found a new calling. That is, they see the company as a way to build community and encourage the positive self-image of young female athletes. It is that aspect of their company that they want to foster.
Dr. Chris L. Huntley, associate professor of information systems & operations management in the Dolan School of Business, is a mentor at FAME. He said SoccerGrlProbs is just an extension of who the women are.
“What they really want to do is right there in the SoccerGrlProbs name,” he noted. “They want to make the lives of young people better, to make the ‘probs’ go away for a little while. So, the goal is to build a sustainable ‘lifestyle brand’ around healthy living, having fun together and building community.”
The message is about encouraging people to be comfortable with who they are. “We’re kind of amazed that we could have a positive impact on young girls by just being ourselves – we are not trying to tell them to fit into a mold that society has come up with,” said Fay.
For more information about SoccerGrlProbs, visit http://soccergrlprobs.com/
For more about the tournament, visit http://sites.davidson.edu/thenextplay/
Image (L-R) Julia Singley, sustainability fellow at Davidson College; Jeff Mittelstadt, director of sustainability at Davidson College; Shannon Fay ’14; Brianna Riley ’16; Alanna Locast ’12; Carly Beyar ’14.
Photo credit: Bill Giduz, Davidson College.