Photos: There was plenty of buzz between Penn State (left) and Iowa...
Off The Mat: Wrestlers in Business Getting Down to Business
I’m proud to be part of Wrestlers in Business. I’m proud of what it stands for. The organization is supporting wrestlers in ways that have never been available before.
– Lee Kemp, 3-Time world Champion, 3 time NCAA Champion, Successful Entrepreneur
Wrestlers in Business is a non-profit organization that strives to unite the thousands of wrestlers that have retired from the sport and are now in their respective careers.
To establish a community of wrestlers who commonly share in the interest of helping each other in business and in life, while supporting and strengthening the sport that made us who we are today.
Jason Effner, Co-Founder/Vice-President of Wrestlers in Business, Inc. and a former wrestler and coach at Cleveland State University, recently talked about the fast-growing organization, Wrestlers in Business. Effner is like the majority of the group members – they were involved in the sport of wrestling throughout a part of their life – some for a long time, some for a short time, and realize the benefits of being a part of the wrestling community – on and off the mat. Effner, who is now a Project Manager at Neshkin Construction Co., Inc. in the Cleveland area, talked about this and much more in an interview with WIN Magazine.
Here is what he had to say:
Matt Krumrie: Tell us about wrestlers in business – why did this group get started and what are its goals?
Jason Effner: The idea that eventually resulted into the formation of Wrestlers in Business as an organization began as exclusive group on the social media site Linkedin. The concept behind Wrestlers in Business was to attract a segment of the population who have grown up with the sport of wrestling having a huge impact on their lives. For the most part, these people have been disconnected from the sport for various reasons: work, family, children, other. Still with a passion for the sport, this group could unite similar people with a connected experience to the sport. From this group, we felt there could be several positive outcomes, such as:
A. Business Relationships formed
B. People who want to “pay it forward” to other people associated with the sport
C. Advocacy for the sport
MK: How many people are currently members?
Jason Effner: The organization launched last week (mid-January). We currently have over 1,000 members and climbing on Linkedin, and with our enhanced Web site (wrestlersinbusiness.org) to support the growth of the organization, we currently have over 100 profiles and this is growing every day.
MK: What are some ways professionals can benefit from this group – what is the “business” part of this group that people should know about?
Jason Effner: The primary business benefit of this group is ACCESS – For the first time ever, there is a singular place where Wrestlers who are now in their professions can go to connect with each other. This provides visibility into a REAL network that in the past was invisible to most who wanted that connection.
MK: Why is a networking group like this important and how can it be effective?
Jason Effner: It’s important for many reasons, but we can discuss two. Wrestlers have a unique bond that maintains a connection for life. The WIB (Wrestlers in Business) community provides a nationwide network that offers an opportunity for wrestlers throughout the country to benefit from this bond on a multitude of levels. That could be business opportunities, career opportunities, or just a group of guys locally who can all go grab a drink together.
Second, and what may be more important, is that once the community is built up, we have a powerful organization of business-minded professionals who happen to be wrestlers who are passionate about the sport and are willing to help fight for its survival. Having a united front consisting of tens of thousands of WIB members will offer support to wrestling programs that may be cut for various reasons. This group can single handedly be a driving catalyst to save the sport of wrestling in the United States.
MK: Wrestling is the common factor here in this group – but the group also must attract a wide variety of business professionals. How do each other help each other? Do you have any examples of how people have collaborated through this group to conduct business?
Jason Effner: We can help each other by attempting to “keep it in the community”. If you have projects up for bid, vendors to select or employees to hire- why not at least offer that opportunity to another wrestler? We just shot a promotional video for our organization starring Actor Billy Baldwin (Binghamton University) and Directory Wayne Boyd (NCAA Champ from Temple University).
This is a video produced by wrestlers (Wrestlers in Business), directed by a wrestler, and starring a wrestler. We’re hoping that this group can foster more relationships like this moving forward.
MK: What are the goals regionally and nationally?
Jason Effner: Nationally- we hope to have a presence at all major wrestling events to share our vision. We’re already planning an event for the US Open here in Cleveland, and we hope to eventually be at the NCAA’s. We hope to strategically align ourselves with the major organizations out there (USA Wrestling, the NWCA, etc). The wrestling community is already so fragrmented, that we strive to serve as a unifying factor. Bringing together the current community (coaches, athletes, Olympic hopefuls, administrators) and combining it with the ‘lost’ community – that is, the working professionals who’ve lost touch with the sport. Regionally, we ultimately would like to have local chapters wherever you go. Something in every city for former wrestlers to cling to. Unlike organizations that host tournaments and clinics, we don’t have to limit ourselves to only the areas where wrestling is popular. We’ve already been receiving inquiries from non-traditional wrestling areas: Connecticut, Tennessee, Maryland, Georgia and even Canada.
MK: I see there is a fee, what comes with the fee and what can members expect if they sign up?
Jason Effner: Via our website (www.wrestlersinbusiness.org) there are 2 levels of membership, basic which is free and premium which costs $60. The basic membership gives you access to our website- forums, job boards, etc. The $60 membership will give you access to all of that plus membership to your local chapter. There will also be affinity programs associated with the paid membership. The first one we’ve signed up is a reduced rate on U.S. Open tickets. Also, USA Wrestling will be offering free team level membership to all of our paid members. To start a local chapter, we are asking a $500 franchise fee. The biggest reason behind this is to make sure that the founders of the chapter are fully vested and buy in to our philosophy. This will also get you a chapter web page linked thru our main page- so the fee is also helping us defray costs. As we grow, we anticipate that sponsors, donors and advertisers will be stepping up to the plate. Keep in mind that we are a Non-Profit organization, so all of this attention will feed right back into the sport and its current/former participants.
MK: What excites you about the potential of this organization and what it can do?
Jason Effner: I believe that in any given year there are a little less than 300,000 kids competing in wrestling on the high school level across the U.S.. Now if you divide that amongst fr/so/jr/sr classes (25% each), that means that roughly 75,000 wrestlers graduate every year and either head into college or the workforce. Furthermore, I believe that there are a little less than 6,000 wrestlers competing at NCAA institutions in any given year. Assuming that 25% of those are freshmen, means that there are only roughly 1,500 of those 75,000 graduating high school kids moving on to wrestle at the collegiate level each year. Now these may not be exact numbers or even an accurate breakdown, but you get the picture. Putting aside the depressing fact that so few kids get the opportunity to wrestle in college- look at how many wrestlers take off into the real world and we never hear from again! Do you know how often it is that I run into someone at a meeting, on a jobsite, or in a social setting and they notice my cauliflower ear? It happens daily. Usually these are people who wrestled only a year or two in high school – and they are always fanatic about the sport and the impact it had on them. That’s what excites me. The current state of wrestling is only being supported by a fraction of its actual population. Let’s find these people, and give them a team to be on again! Go join your local Wrestlers in Business Chapter and meet some new people that you already have a strong bond with. Drink a beer, tell old stories, exchange business cards….
MK: What other thoughts do you have?
Jason Effner: We want to stress that this idea is about COMMUNITY. This doesn’t work without a large community, so we need everyone to buy into it. Obviously, that’s where it’s our role to prove to you the value of this. When a college wrestling program gets dropped, who inevitably gets the phone call or letter asking for financial help to save the team? Usually the alumni or the current wrestlers parents but that is a very small group. Can you reasonably expect them to contribute the millions it may take to have a program reinstated? Every once in a while, a big donor comes along to help- a Billy Baldwin, a Stephen Neal. But how many trips to the well before that runs dry? Picture Wrestlers in Business with 100,000 members nationwide. That group is going to consist of business people, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, professional athletes, and more. If that doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will. Please check out our new website www.wrestlersinbusiness.org. It has built in forums, job boards and online profiles for interaction amongst members.
About Matt’s Mat Notes
Matt’s Mat Notes is a new feature on WIN-Magazine.com which consists of feature stories, news, notes and quotes related to developments on and off the mat in college wrestling. Author Matt Krumrie is the former editor of TheWrestlingMall.com and in addition to contributing to WIN Magazine and The Guillotine, is the author of the new book The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps, a comprehensive guide featuring resources, tips and stories for parents and youth to high school-age wrestlers. If you have a story idea or suggestion, news, notes or tidbit, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org