By: Athletic Communications Assistant, Louie Abounader
The everyday life of a collegiate student athlete can be quite rigorous. It entails a special brand of commitment and diligence. Combining a strenuous classroom curriculum, with the physical toll that a sport can induce on one's body, and it can clear just enough time to earn a little pocket cash from a part-time job. With a full slate of responsibilities, it is difficult to imagine a student-athlete's entrepreneurial ideas ever coming to fruition prior to graduation. Senior Baldwin Wallace University student-athlete Cannon Dees (Berea/Berea-Midpark) disagrees.
Dees is a two-year letterwinner and two-time Academic All-Ohio Athletic Conference forward on the BW men's soccer team, who operates not one, but two small start-up businesses a semester and half removed from the completion of his undergraduate education. In the winter of 2016, he began a private soccer training service that focuses on one-on-one concentrated coaching, a means to separate young players from big team environments where individual attention is usually unevenly dispersed. In early 2019, he launched a multimedia company that involves filming sporting events and generating montages and highlights for different teams. Dees co-founded these small entities with high school friend Conner Mansell, who just recently graduated from the University of Akron.
"Luckily, it's not just me," Dees admitted. "Connor has been a huge help. We started it together and we've continued to run it together, so to say it's just my business wouldn't be fair. But, with him just recently graduated, it's allowed him a little bit more time to focus on it and help it grow, and that's helped me out tremendously."
Having played soccer together throughout high school, and gained an experiential outlook on the game, Dees and Mansell decided to get involved in coaching.
"We decided to start with soccer training first," Dees began. "Our backgrounds revolved around soccer and we felt like we could be good coaches, so we that's where we began. Then, we soon started realizing that we needed a marketing strategy. So, we started posting content on social media with very basic videos; as basic as it can get. We were shooting everything on our phones," Dees laughed. "We then realized that if we made it look better, it could definitely appeal more to our consumers."
Dees did not have to venture too far to find the man he needed for the job. BW men's soccer teammate, and digital media and design major Joey Geither (Parma/Normandy) was recruited by Dees for his tech-savviness and assistance with filming a legitimate product.
"We brought in Joey, along with another one of our friends, to help film and produce quality videos for us," Dees added. "It seemed easier each time we shot and from what they showed us, so we started doing videos ourselves with our soccer academy."
One of Dees' coaching clients had recognized the improved quality of their online and social media presence and asked if they could fulfil another service.
"At this point, we had been hired by this sports company for coaching," Dees recalled. "One day, we sat down with them and they had asked us about our multimedia and social media presence. Since we were already directly involved with them in coaching soccer, it felt like it would benefit both parties so we agreed to help them. After about a year of working with them, we were asked to be brought on full time. We started developing the idea of creating a company that was involved with the service that we provided them and that's basically how it all came to be. We then started collaborating with other people for the same multimedia service and the rest was history."
Dees and Mansell have since seen their multimedia company blossom to five full-serviced clients, along with six reliable and trustworthy part-time workers. While their soccer academy has remained relatively stagnant this past year, the time-consuming nature of the multimedia side has influenced them to continue to grow and gain valuable entrepreneurial experience.
"I do what I can in between weekends where our team doesn't travel too far or too late on a trip," Dees explained. "I'll try and come around on Sundays to do some filming too. Luckily, a lot of the outside stuff is taken care of by the people we work with. They've been a huge help and we definitely couldn't have done it without them. We can't continue to grow without them. So, for me, it's taking more of a look at what I can do behind the scenes to help facilitate and organize, rather than being on site all the time. It's just trying to find those nooks and crannies of time where I can help do my part."
While the young entrepreneur is focused on completing his degree and leading a young crop of promising BW soccer players, Dees is looking forward to dedicating his significant surplus of time towards his businesses following graduation.
"I definitely want to keep it going and see it grow. Absolutely. Why not? As long as I remain financially smart, I think I can dedicate a lot of time towards building it. Ideally, down the road, I think it would be really cool to see how far we can take this, to work for myself, and turn it into a full-time thing."
Some believe the entrepreneurial spirit of America is dead. While Dees' business ventures are still in its preliminary stages, he is proving those skeptics wrong one successful start-up at a time.