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9 Aug

Ep. 54 – Melissa Harper – CEO of Good Sports

Melissa Harper – CEO of Good Sports; Social Entrepreneurship; Children & Physical Activity in America; Authenticity in Your Brand & Cause.

Segment 1: (Length :04:00) – General Updates; Introduction to Melissa Harper and her journey as a CEO for a cause; Entrepreneurship meets social good; Approaching business decisions for both the social cause and the profit side.

Melissa’s finer points:

We were all athletes ourselves; real self value of sports as children, as parents, as adults. We couldn't live with the fact that it wasn't an option for all kids. So, we started looking at it and costs was a key barrier for kids in sports and fitness activities.

“If we could move the needle on the cost side then we can give a lot more kids a chance to play.”

“We’ve been growing dramatically since then (2003 inception) and now we’ve raised $18M worth of equipment to 3M kids across the country. Back in 2003 I couldn’t have imagined we’d be where we are today, but it’s certainly been a labor of love to make sure that all kids get a chance to play.”

“I look at our business model just like any other business. You have to make sure that every program that we run, every partnership that we partake in is profitable.”

“At the end of the day, we’re managing our pricing with those partnerships and relationships in terms of donations and requests, as well as the costs we incur to execute the programs.”

“Most of our partners appreciate that the mission, the purpose of the organization is the highest priority, but within that, there’s a lot of opportunity to do good while supporting our business objectives.”

Segment 2: (Length :04:00) – Talking with Melissa Harper; Entrepreneurs adding social responsibility to their businesses; Educating the public regarding of this type of program and the state of affairs for children and sports;

Melissa’s finer points:

There's great value to having a cause or purpose with your business. For one, it's got to be authentic.

“That’s one of the things we always express with our partners is that if they’re interested in getting involved with Good Sports comes from purely a sales perspective, then it will lose its value really quickly.”

“When there’s real authentic partnership and investment involved, and the people and the company that you’re working with care deeply about the cause that they’re behind, then consumers feel that too.”

I think that as long as there's real authenticity to the relationship, it can be of great value. It just has to start from the right place

“Our approach is just about making sure we educate all people, including those involved in the industry, or corporate relationships that we have.”

“On one hand, there’s the club sport elite path that a lot of athletes’ families and their children are on. So, these programs where kids are paying very high fees, they are traveling all around and it’s very expensive. You hear stories about families spending $10,000 per year on their kids soccer programs.”

“On the flip side, there’s this massive decline on budget cuts going on. PE (Physical Education) had been slashed for many schools across the country. Very few students get PE on a regular basis in their school systems. Or if they do, it’s once a week.”

“Physical activity programs after school are either disappearing or there’s no fees attached to them. The recreational sports programs are decreasing dramatically because they can’t afford to keep up with the costs.”

“So, the kids who just want to play, that side of the business (industry) is declining rapidly. And that’s where you see the biggest impact in terms of negative affect of not having it in the child’s life.”

“With costs rising for the physical activity opportunities that they have, you’re seeing families have no choice but to say, ‘I’m sorry. We can’t do it this year. You can’t play.”

“This is a huge dichotomy compared to the more affluent communities where kids are playing more, they’re playing 5 days a week and traveling all over playing.”

“Not everyone is in this elite, playing one sport their whole lives, kind of mentality. There are so many kids who want to play, but they don’t have the opportunity.”

Segment 3: (Length :04:00) – Trends in growing physical activity; Being authentic with your brand and cause.

Melissa’s finer points:

“There’s a huge collaborative effort to change the face of physical activity for kids in this country.”

“Everything from different states, even cities, are starting to adopt mandated physical activity in school systems.

“There are many states and national programs rewarding schools for improving health and wellness of their school.”

“There are big companies trying to change the culture of our society encouraging people to get more activity everyday. Some are even working on getting employers to change our office environments because we’re sitting all day.”

“Everybody is starting to develop their real strength and solve the problem where they’re uniquely positioned to solve.”

“A big part of it is choosing a cause that aligns really well with your brand and your passion.”

“Authenticity in your social partnerships really comes from the leadership and the employees and the organization that is investing in the non-profit, really believing in that cause and lining up behind it.”

“Things that strike the consumer as not terribly deep or terribly authentic is when it’s just a PSA or collateral or advertising and there’s really nothing behind it.”

Segment 4: (Length :03:00) – Hustler Thought of the Day:

I think team sports probably teach you more about giving – about being unselfish and being flexible. - Chris Evert


Melissa Harper – CEO of Good Sports

  • Melissa Harper is a founding member and CEO of Good Sports, a national nonprofit that gives all kids the lifelong benefits of sport and physical activity by providing new equipment, apparel and footwear to those most in need.
  • As CEO, Ms. Harper spearheads Good Sports’ growth, organizational strategy and partnership development, and since the organization’s inception in 2003, has provided more than $18 million in equipment to 2,800 youth programs, impacting millions of kids nationwide.
  • Under her leadership, Good Sports has developed successful partnerships with the country’s top sporting goods manufacturers including Nike, Wilson, Easton Baseball, New Balance, and Riddell, and corporate partners like Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Dunkin’ Donuts and GEICO, as well as numerous professional sports franchises and athletes.
  • Ms. Harper spent nearly five years in management consulting with Gemini Consulting and Treacy & Company.
  • She regularly speaks to youth and business audiences on a variety of topics including entrepreneurship, nonprofit leadership & fundraising, working motherhood and other critical issues surrounding youth sports.
  • A first generation college graduate, Ms. Harper obtained a B.A.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the recipient of the Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize from the National Recreation Foundation.
  • Ms. Harper currently resides in Massachusetts and is a lifelong athlete, participating in team sports and marathons as well as backyard games with her husband and four children.




Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.

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