Ashton Keys: Empowering Student Athletes to Reap the Benefits of Their Talents
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hello, gang! Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Ashton Keys, the CEO of Athlytic Inc. Let’s learn what’s happening at Athlytic and how Ashton is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi, Ashton! Thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Athlytic Inc.?
Ashton: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! The NCAA passed a blanket waiver on July 1, 2021 that allows amateur athletes the opportunity to monetize their name, image, and likeness. However, student athletes that spend 50+ hours a week between scholastics and sports aren't able to efficiently accelerate their monetization opportunities while participating at a high level in their prospective sports.
Spiffy: Interesting! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Ashton: Well, fewer than 2% of all athletes in revenue-generating sports actually advance to play professionally. I’m creating a platform that will change the amateur sports industry forever by providing athletes the tools and knowledge to take advantage and accelerate their name, image, and likeness. We will for the first time in history be able to give them the chance to monetize their talents before going pro. This provides crucial financial stability for student athletes. According to the National College Player Association, 86% of college athletes, mostly from black communities, live below the poverty line. It also provides an influx of capital into the communities that they come from.
Spiffy: That sounds wonderful! Tell me more about how your organization is working towards a more equitable world.
Ashton: Our organization is dedicated to promoting equity by creating opportunities for athletes from all backgrounds. In the college landscape, opportunities are often disproportionately given to male-dominated sports such as football and basketball. At Athlytic, we strive to provide fair compensation for all athletes, with over 80% of our athletes coming from sports such as gymnastics, volleyball, track and field, and golf. By supporting athletes from a diverse range of sports, we aim to promote greater equity in the sporting industry.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?
Ashton: Our organization recently achieved a significant milestone by securing $1.4M in venture capital. This financial support has allowed us to make a positive impact on our community by supporting 1,300 student athletes and paying them over $100,000 through partnerships. The funds have not only changed the lives of the athletes themselves, but also benefited their families and the communities they come from. Additionally, we have held successful toy fundraisers that have helped further our mission. These milestones and initiatives have allowed us to make a significant difference in the lives of the people we serve and contribute positively to our community.
Spiffy: Congratulations on that success! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?
Ashton: Throughout the lifecycle of our company, we have faced multiple failures, including losing over 20 pitches for capital. However, each time we faced a setback, I made sure to take away a valuable lesson. One of the biggest takeaways from these experiences is that there is no such thing as a complete failure. Every pitch, even those we didn't win, presented an opportunity to talk about our business and get our name out there. In fact, the biggest opportunity for our company came from a pitch that we ultimately lost. We caught the attention of an executive from Mastercard, and as a result, we were able to work with them.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ashton—it’s been an honor!
Ashton Keys is the founder and CEO of Athlytic. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Ashton is a proud alumnus of Michigan State University, where he honed his passion for sports and technology. With a background in building products for exceptional companies such as Rocket Mortgage, Ashton brings a wealth of expertise to his role at Athlytic. (Nominated by Sarina Regehr of Visible Hands. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 22, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.