Next time you’re watching a lacrosse match, keep your eyes open for the CEOs on the field. While studies have long proven more than half of female executives played college sports, what about athletes who are founders of their own businesses? These athletes might not have an official category in the most recent data, but their compelling stories are paving the way for other female founders who might find that being their own boss is the best match for their talents.
“I think the first challenge was taking the risk to bet on yourself and do something a little different from what other people were doing,” said midfielder Taylor Cummings, who launched her own business after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2016.
“I wanted to use my business degree in some capacity that wasn’t sitting behind a desk.” Encouraged by her father, whose work for a national bank had inspired her business instincts, Cummings evaluated the marketplace to determine how her skills and experience as a national team athlete could be used to her advantage.
“I saw a need for high level education for players and coaches. There was a need in the market. No one was really doing that at the time,” she said. That’s when Taylor Cummings Lacrosse was born.
Offering clinics and virtual training to upcoming lacrosse talent, Cummings is not only fueling her own dreams and growth as an entrepreneur but helping to build the sport she loves. “I like being able to help grow the game, make it more accessible and diversify,” she said.
Being her own boss isn’t without its challenges, she admitted as the sole employee of her company she’s tasked with everything from accounting to marketing, or even searching for the best travel deals. But, Cummings sees a strong upside in calling the shots in her own career and day-to-day.
“Having the freedom to say yes or no to things is great,” she said. “I like having the freedom to dictate my own schedule and be part of projects and events that I want to be part of.”
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Cummings isn’t the only professional lacrosse athlete to turn founder. Kylie Ohlmiller, who plays attack, launched her own company aimed at improving the game for budding athletes.
KO17 Lacrosse, which launched in 2016, brings elite lacrosse instruction to athletes around the world through camps, clinics and an interactive app.
For Ohlmiller, starting a business was a natural step after building experience as a coach in her community. “I grew a solid base of clients who I would work with on Long Island and fell in love with the development process, of seeing their eyes light up when they learn a new trick or fix an old bad habit,” Ohlmiller said.
Part of the coaching process reminded her about what she loved so much about lacrosse as a third grader new to the game. “It’s not an easy sport to pick up, with the stick skills and everything involved. I kind of fell in love with how frustrating it was at first.”
As her client base grew, she was confident that making the leap to become a full-time business owner was the right fit for her goals.
“It is a little bit non-traditional to see and it’s still something that a lot of people probably wouldn’t dive into right after college as a full time job,” she said. “It took a lot of trial and error, looking to see what is up and coming in the business world and lacrosse world, and one-up it, and come out on top.”
She brought an attitude of experimentation to her work from the start. “I think one of the pieces of advice that I definitely received was to just dive in and take the failures as they come rather than waiting around for the right moment.”
That’s what led her to take a risk during the pandemic to launch a free app dedicated to providing content for lacrosse athletes globally.
“That was a proud moment for me because it was something I didn’t imagine when I started,” she said. Her risk paid off and has become her proudest business achievement so far. “It’s amazing to have access to that tech and reach young girls, coaches, parents and communities I might not be able to physically travel to.”
Ohlmiller is hopeful that businesses like hers and Cummings’ will become more common. “You see a lot of people trying to do small businesses on the side, but I’m hopeful it will inspire others to hop on board, knowing when you put your all to it you can be consistent knowing no matter who dominates the world before, you can make a splash.”
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