“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
Junior Elijah Hicks always remembers this quote. He’s worked hard for several years to get to the point where he is now; soon he will eligible to get drafted to the NFL.
However, Hicks knows that his status as a student-athlete was the main reason he was able to afford college at all. In addition to a scholarship covering tuition, Hicks also gets basic necessities such as books, clothes, and food are taken care of by the football team.
With 10 brothers and sisters, he also knows that not all of them will have the same kind of financial aid that he does. Even if they earn academic scholarships, most of them will likely have to take out loans to pay for their expenses. This is why Elijah decided to create Intercept Poverty, a foundation that provides aid to low-income students who do not have athletic scholarships.
The idea was born last Fall when Elijah took the Sports Tech Challenge Lab, a 15-week intensive course where students build, prototype, launch, and pitch their very own startup to create value in the area of sports & human performance. Elijah says many of the lessons he learned in Sports Tech gave him the confidence to become a founder himself. I recently had the chance to chat with Elijah and asked him a few questions about his journey.
Tell me about your experience in the Sports Tech Challenge Lab?
“I feel like it should be a mandatory class, especially for student-athletes because they don’t see themselves doing these types of things. This class makes you realize how possible it is to learn these skills. This class actually walks you through it, it’s through trial and error, you’re making mistakes and learning from them. It definitely helped give me the confidence to become a founder myself. “
What was your team’s startup?
“We created a sports betting app that had a similar interface to the ESPN app and just ran very smoothly. We even got a working prototype to present at the end of the semester. The team I created with is still working on it today and had recently raised over a million dollars in the process. I’m still talking regularly with the founders.”
Why did you decide on a non-profit?
“As an athlete, many of our necessities are taken care of. But I’ve seen how difficult it can be for low-income non-athlete students, and I want to help them. A lot of people have helped me in the past, and this is my way of giving back. That’s why the entire foundation aims to give scholarships to fund these students.”
What inspired you to create this?
“Sports Tech put me in an environment where I was surrounded by other students who were also struggling to get by but didn’t have the advantage of an athletic scholarship. We became very close. Seeing their struggles reminded me of my sister, who earned an academic scholarship but still has to pay quite a bit to stay in school. It inspired me to help others in a similar position. “
How did you come up with the idea?
“As a football player, I constantly see fans and donors giving money to help expand the Cal Football brand. New lounges and bigger spaces and all sorts of material stuff. Knowing how other students are struggling, it just made me think, ‘if you only knew how far that money could go…’ So I want to get donors to start funding students themselves.”
Lastly, you have advice for students considering entrepreneurship?
Just keep pushing through the tough times. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.
For more information and to donate to Intercept Poverty, click here.
To find out more about the Fall ’20 Sports Tech Challenge Lab, students can navigate the course page here.