As a law review student at the District of Columbia School of Law, turning a lifelong interest in sports into a profitable business seemed like just another classroom daydream to Juli Wyatt. But with her venture now in its sixth year, Wyatt has made her dream come true.
“I had so many people telling me ‘I don’t even know why you’re trying,'” says the 38-year-old founder of JAM Sports and Entertainment, a Maryland-based event production company. “But I kept telling myself if I didn’t believe in me, then no one else would.”
With gross revenues of some $350,000 for 2001, Wyatt’s three-employee business is making its mark in the sports and entertainment worlds. The company plans premieres and private parties and produces Game Day Gridiron Celebrity Hoops, an annual Super Bowl celebrity basketball game that recently gained official partnership with the NFL. JAM Sports also pairs professional athletes, like NBA superstar Michael Jordan and NFL pro bowlers Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens, with commercial sponsors for star-studded golf tournaments. The firm’s events are underwritten by companies like Rocawear, Lee-Kaye Jewelers, Nike, Coca-Cola, and HBO.
Before starting her venture, Wyatt moved from a stuffy law firm to the less conservative Los Angeles-based House of Blues, a franchised business specializing in concerts and exclusive events. At House of Blues, Wyatt gained hands-on experience that prepared her to venture off on her own. In 1996, with only one client, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the $50,000 she gained from a legal settlement, Wyatt took a leap of faith and began working out of her one-bedroom apartment.
Wyatt has found that being a woman in an overwhelmingly male field can sometimes be a challenge. Avoiding blanket stereotypes placed on women in the sports world is a daily concern. She has turned down events by prominent actors and sports figures because she believed they would damage her company’s image. “You have to balance your morals and your reputation with what your client’s vision is,” she explains. “I knew I had to stay away from sexist stereotypes so that I was not put in a situation where people thought I was just out for fun and games.”
Wyatt has her sights set on assisting with the production of the 2004 Ryder Cup. “Whether it’s All Star Weekend, the Super Bowl, or Howard University’s Homecoming, there’s more room than ever before to plan events around sports,” she says. “Everyone’s hiring people to make sure their events are more successful.”
JAM Sports and Entertainment; 13812 Amberfield Court; Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772; 301-627-3706; www .jamsport.com
Mail your small business questions to Savvy Solutions, BLACK ENTERPRISE130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.