By Cheryl Robinson
Forbes, July 13, 2018 —
Shaina Wiel, founder of Minorities In Sports (MiS), along with her co-founder, Candice Haynes, took an idea of a group chat and turned it into an organization that empowers minorities working in the sports industry.
In a little over two years, Wiel has grown the organization by word-of-mouth to over 750 members and counting including two college chapters. MiS is a digital hub for its members to connect and network. The community encompasses people working as agents to league officials to former players to marketers; all the way from executives to coordinators. Over 80 percent of the job seeking members have either secured new positions or have been invited for interviews.
“The way it started was really just a group chat,” Wiel explains. “There was a hand full of us in the group: me, a couple of people that I had worked with in the past and a couple of people that I’ve worked with on projects. I said, ‘hey, I have this group chat. Let’s help each other out. If you know of a job, throw it in the group chat. If you’re working on a project and you need help, put it in the chat.’”
Wiel started her journey in sports management as an inside sales representative for the National Basketball Association’s team the Brooklyn Nets when they were known as the New Jersey Nets. Wiel has held positions at sports agencies and marketing firms and even ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network). It was there that she began questioning what she really wanted to do within the industry. She wanted to expand her network and meet like-minded individuals; she was seeking out her next opportunity. That was the beginning of MiS. “ESPN at the time sounded like the dream career. To be honest, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do in the industry. It was a foot in the door with invaluable experience that I use to this day. I tell the younger students that I work with now, ‘be very strategic about your foot in the door. Don’t just go to a company because it sounds cool because it can set you back. I wish I was more strategic in the roles that I wanted.”
Although MiS grew from Wiel’s persistence to remain steadfast in her career advancement, she has helped others grow, connect and pivot throughout their careers. She transitioned from looking for inspiration and mentors to being the inspiration and mentor. MiS has expanded from professionals of color to MiSNext, which is the organization’s college arm. “These are students or recent graduates who are interested in getting into the industry,” Wiel smiles. “We work with students to connect them to different opportunities in the industry. We even had our spring networking trip for them where they came to New York to visit a couple different offices and get that first foot in the door.”
With MiS, she has had to transition her mindset from employee to business owner. “Personally, I realized I had to move from this notion of this is a fun group chat,” Wiel says, “to looking at it as a business and protecting that business. We had to set requirements to get into the group. It can’t just be anyone who wants to get into sports, or everyone just adds their friends so we can have barbershop talk about what the industry is, but actual professionals who have worked in the industry. Our members have experienced the industry and can speak from an informed place to make sure that the group is dynamic.”
Networking has been crucial to her success. “I had to learn what networking was,” states Wiel, “because I didn’t have a family member that had an “in” in the industry. I literally cold called someone in the industry and said, ‘hey, I would really love to learn about your company and what you do.’ He told me to meet him at the gym at 7 in the morning to talk. Interestingly enough, I didn’t get an interview for that company for another three or four years, but when I did the interview, they introduced me to him. He remembered who I was from that [gym] conversation. That’s how I was able to get the job. I showed up.”
“We wanted to show that this industry is a range,” she proclaims. “and that you can do different things and still be very successful. We have a guy in Atlanta who runs an amateur Pro League. He is very successful in what he does; he’s the-go-to-guy in Atlanta for sports. We like to show the range of the industry can come in all different colors, sizes, and backgrounds.”
Wiel has learned many lessons throughout her career. She focuses on three essential steps:
- Come up with a plan. Plans are hard, but it forces you to sit down and figure out what exactly you want to do; figure out what it is that makes you happy.
- Be open. The plan doesn’t always happen the way you think it will. Being flexible opens you up to opportunities that you didn’t know existed.
- Be adaptable. When opportunities do present themselves and you’re open to them, you’ll set yourself up for success.
“The long-term goal,” Wiel happily explains, “is to actually change the industry; to get more people of color in positions of power and decision-making roles.”