There is no better way to follow up my latest sports industry Expert Interview with Harrie Bakst: Overcoming the Odds through Hard work and Sincerity than with the person responsible for introducing me to Harrie. That would be my mentor and friend, Rachel Mech. She works at ProVentures Sports Marketing, a sports and entertainment firm that specializes in consulting, hospitality, and talent. I met Rachel during my sophomore year through the Alumni Mentor Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Ever since, she has been my go-to person for anything related to the sports business. I thank Rachel for doing this interview, and I hope she can inspire you as much as she does me.
Michael Riley (MR): What is your official job title?
Rachel Mech (RM): Co-Founder of ProVentures Sports Marketing.
MR: Where did you go to college as an undergraduate? What was your major(s)/minor(s)?
RM: I attended Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and double majored in Marketing and Management. I also minored in Government.
MR: Did you pursue an advanced degree(s) to further market yourself to the sports industry? If so, please elaborate.
RM: I received my master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. While pursuing this degree, I was able to take a few electives classes from Georgetown’s Sports Industry Management program including Sports Marketing and Contract Law.
At the moment, I am seriously thinking about going to law school to move up to the next level in sports business. Since breaking into the industry, attending law school had always been one of my goals. I see a JD as very beneficial to transitioning from the marketing side of sports to the management aspect. The more I learn about contracts, the better off I will be after making this transition. Now is a good time for me to set out to accomplish my goal.
MR: When did you know that you wanted to “break into sports? Was there one specific moment that you can recall when you knew you had to work in sports? Was it an industry you always saw yourself working in? Or did you just kind of fall into it?
RM: I actively pursued a career in sports. The types of personalities I was exposed to as I began learning about the business really clicked with me. Successful people in the sports industry were overall very confident, positive, and competitive. All seemed like go-getters, and most were either avid sports fans and/or former athletes. The business atmosphere created from sports personalities was an environment in which I wanted to work.
When I entered Georgetown, my goal was to be a sports agent or a lobbyist for sports related issues. The movie Jerry Maguire didn’t inspire me, but did peak my interest for a career in sports. Basically, I thought I would be good at athlete representation, so I began to pursue that career. I selected my majors to put me in the best position possible to become an agent. The riskiness of the job and the type of lifestyle it promised were very attractive to me at the time. However, without a law degree, I found it easier to break into the marketing side of athlete management. As much as I can thank Jerry Maguire for sparking my interest in sports, more importantly, it’s a reminder that your reputation and ethics are your most precious assets in business and in life.
MR: How many internships did you participate in before you landed your first job? Where did you intern?
RM: My first internship was with the Baltimore Bayhawks, a Major League Lacrosse team. On game days, I was responsible for managing fan activities. When I spent time in the office, I worked on building an integrated marketing and sales database, a skill I learned during my Management Information Systems course at Georgetown. This was not only a great experience because I enjoyed lacrosse and competitively played in college, but also mostly because I developed genuine relationships with my boss and other coworkers, which still last today. I also interned in the Public Relations department for the Washington Redskins, where I again had game day responsibilities. My last internship was with Octagon, one of the premier sports agencies, in the Corporate Business Development division.
MR: How did you land your first job in sports?
RM: I landed my first job in sports as a result of my participation in the Octagon Experience during the summer in between my junior and senior years at Georgetown. When the internship program ended, I remained actively involved with office projects since Georgetown was close to Octagon’s headquarters. My extra efforts evolved into a full-time offer to co-found ProVentures with my boss, Patrick McGee, who was departing from his position as Vice President of Corporate Business Development at Octagon.
MR: Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?
RM: Networking in the sports industry is absolutely essential and necessary. From my experience in sports marketing, I can tell you that a lot of the projects are combined efforts from a variety of sports organizations who specialize in areas ranging from procuring talent to promotion. While you work with people from these different companies, you talk about what other projects your company is currently working on and other ideas your company has for future projects. You would be surprised how many of these conversations result in opportunities that create synergies and working business relationships.
It’s so vital to stay in touch with people you meet in the industry. Having a reason to catch up with a contact is often the catalyst for working together.
MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?
RM: You could probably answer this one for me given our relationship. The gains I have experienced from being a mentor as well as a mentee have been extraordinary. The more and more time that passes since I graduated from Georgetown, I not only become less in touch with the latest campus trends but also miss the constant reminder of what it means to be a Hoya. Participating in the McDonough School of Business’s Alumni Mentor Program where I met you is a great way for me to give back to the Georgetown community. After all, the school is the reason my career has advanced to where it is today. Being a Georgetown student will open doors for you, but like anything else in life, your experience will only add up to what you make of it.
In addition, I coached lacrosse at my high school alma mater, Notre Dame Prep, this past season. This was a nice way for me say to say thank you to the school that paved the way to Georgetown and served as a launching pad for my athletic and sports career. I cannot stress how important it is to never forget where you came from…be grateful for the opportunities certain places or people have afforded you!
A lot of people in this industry keep their contacts close to the chest. In my opinion, the more successful sports business professionals do not. They actively share their contacts and do their best to set up others to succeed. I want to do the same for people who are tenacious about making it big in the industry. People will not forget mentors who help pave their path for success.
MR: Could you take me through a typical day at work? If no day is typical, what did you do yesterday, or what are you doing tomorrow?
RM: I am going to describe to you what I think is an ideal day at work. The main takeaway point is to not get caught up in responding to emails at the expense of picking up the phone or meeting people in person. This is something people of our generation have a tough time understanding. The more you pick up the phone in a day, the greater your productivity will be. Don’t give potential clients the opportunity to say “No” via an email. It is too easy for them. Things will get done a lot faster if you maximize your time on the phone. There’s something about hearing someone else’s voice on the other end of the line that email will never be able to replicate. It is also more common to pass over one of hundreds of emails you receive each day than it is to overlook a missed call or voicemail.
A good way to think about the power of the phone is to put some context behind it. Off the top of your head, try to name as many people you received emails from or sent emails to today. Now try the same thing for the people you received calls from or called today. Chances are that you remember much better whom you spoke to on the phone. If you are young and building your resume in this industry…do everything you can to Be Memorable.
MR: What is the most rewarding aspect about working in sports?
RM: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports is that I get to be myself and never stop learning from my prior sports experiences. Sports have been a huge part of my life in so many ways, most notably playing lacrosse through college. My time on the field has taught me how to compete with people while treating them fairly, how to be a good teammate, the hard work you must put in to win, and even more importantly how to get back up if you lose. I have learned an incredible amount about myself as a player as well as the leadership qualities necessary to be a successful captain. My coachable personality and my willingness to lead by example has made the transition from the field to the office an easy one. The sports industry is ready for team players, and I think this is why it is attractive to so many former athletes. A lot of who I am comes from the life lessons I learned while participating in sports, and I like to working in an industry that understands that.
MR: If you had to give advice to someone looking to break into the sports industry, what would it be?
RM: Be tenacious. If you know you want something, don’t let anyone steer you away. It may take a few “No’s” to get a “Yes”. Don’t get discouraged if a company you want to intern or work for doesn’t hire you the first time you apply. Timing is an important factor, so if you are patient but persistent, your number may get called at a later date.
Once you break into the industry, you need to continue to apply these principles. It’s not all fun (but it is a lot of games), and you need to be passionate about the BUSINESS of sports to advance and enjoy what you are doing.
Lastly, go with your gut when faced with a difficult decision. Take chances and never look back with any regret. There is no time for that.
MR: What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?
RM: I am a huge fan of yoga and enjoy running. I need to be a people person all day, so those activities provide the alone time that I need to reset. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and family. These close relationships keep me sane! Other activities I am involved with include being a board member of a non-profit called Fit Kids and working with a sports centric charter school that they support in Arizona called Champion Schools. My relationship with these organizations evolved from business, but their mission promotes academic and athletic achievement, which I personally believe needs to be fostered in today’s youth.
*** Since this interview took place, Rachel Mech has departed ProVentures to pursue her law degree and is currently working in Baltimore.