NFLPA Introduces Newest Driven Cohort: Custom Suits, STEAM Toys and Knitwear Collaborations with NFL Players
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 28, 2023 – Brown Toy Box Inc., Reveal Suits and STIK, Inc. (Sh*t That I Knit) have officially joined the second cohort of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Driven program. Driven is a business accelerator dedicated to fostering the growth of early-stage consumer product businesses led by diverse entrepreneurs with unique product types. The program provides a comprehensive two-year curriculum that covers various aspects, including integrating player intellectual property into products and devising marketing strategies involving the players.
The licensing diversity gap is caused by what the NFLPA calls the “sideline culture,” which is the ongoing experience of inequality that business leaders from underrepresented backgrounds, such as people of color and women, face regularly. To address this issue, Driven, which was launched in October 2021, is dedicated to breaking down these institutional barriers. It does so by connecting diverse entrepreneurs with an expert advisory board, an array of educational services and support to support early business growth, and NFL players for branding and marketing collaborations.
The NFLPA, referring to diverse entrepreneurs as “Playmakers,” offers them a comprehensive two-year program through its licensing and marketing arm, NFL Players Inc. This program aims to level the playing field and promote long-term success. In the inaugural cohort of the Driven program, both Greentop Gifts and Signables achieved success by collaborating with the NFLPA team and players. Greentop Gifts enhanced its product line and community ties with insights from NFL players, while Signables expanded its fan base and product appeal through partnerships with NFL players.
The program leverages the NFLPA’s strategic assets and licensing rights, granting access to more than 2,000 active NFL players and their expansive marketing reach. Playmakers benefit from an NFLPA license for product design, business coaching, mentorship, go-to-market strategy and funding, as well as live/on-demand workshops and player marketing consultation.
Terése Whitehead, vice president of consumer products & strategy at NFL Players Inc., said, “Driven’s goal is to empower diverse entrepreneurs in licensing with resources like product development, mentorship, funding, strategic partnerships, player licensing rights, and marketing support. We’re excited to work with the second cohort of Playmakers -- Reveal Suits, STIK, Inc., and Brown Toy Box -- helping them grow and reach more people with their products.”
NFLPA Driven 2nd Playmakers Cohort
Terri-Nichelle Bradley believes that it's crucial for Black children to encounter positive representations of themselves in the spaces they frequent, starting right from their toy collection and the toy store aisles. As an advocate for equity in play, Bradley is determined to shake up the $27 billion toy industry. Her goal is to establish a brand that mirrors the diverse world we live in today. In 2017, Bradley initiated her venture as a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) kit called Brown Toy Box. Over time, it has transformed into a comprehensive educational toy company. This company is dedicated to creating and curating STEAM toys, games, activities, media and experiences that center around and celebrate Black children. Importantly, these offerings are designed to be enjoyable, educational and entertaining for all children.
Reveal Suits specializes in crafting high-quality custom suits and blazers for both men and women. Private fittings are available for various groups, such as business professionals, fraternities, sororities, and sports teams, enabling them to create distinctive looks. The company is minority and veteran-owned, demonstrating a strong commitment to earning trust and support. The driving force behind Reveal Suits is Carlton Dixon, who has a background as an athlete, coach and athletic director. The suits are renowned for their exceptional quality and can be personalized with officially licensed inner jacket linings, other unique linings desired. With a wide range of options, including 35 measurements and suit styles, customers have the freedom to create suits that are uniquely their own. Additionally, the option to embroider names inside the suits adds a personal touch to the attire.
While in college, Christina Fagan Pardy started a blog called Sh*t That I Knit as a creative outlet, initially intending to share her knitting projects with friends and family. However, in 2014, after her designs sold out at a local Boston market, she began to dream of turning her side-hustle into something more. She decided to leave her job selling tech software in 2015 to pursue her passion and by 2016 had enough demand to expand production to Peru. Today, STIK offers a wide range of handcrafted knitwear for all seasons, including beanies, mittens, wraps, sweaters, blankets, and more. These products are available both online and in major retailers and boutiques nationwide. STIK places a strong emphasis on eco-friendliness and sustainable sourcing for their materials. They are committed to empowering their community and supporting local craftsmanship by employing over 400 artisans in Lima, Peru, who receive fair wages to support their families.
DRIVEN PROGRAM PARTNERS:
1863 Ventures, a business development program that fast-tracks “New Majority” entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth, will provide business coaching and mentorship in tandem with the NFLPA to help Playmakers achieve their business objectives. Additionally, the Playmakers’ new player-focused product lines will be licensed in collaboration with Fanatics, the NFLPA’s exclusive apparel and hardlines partner.
A diverse team with various expertise, including Kimberly Alula (SVP/GMM, Merchandising, Fanatics), Melissa Bradley (Founder, 1863 Ventures), Maura Regan (President, Licensing International), Brennan Scarlett (NFL linebacker and entrepreneur), and Ricky Medina (SVP, Head of Consumer Products and Licensing, OneTeam Partners), makes up the Driven Advisory Board. They will provide strategic guidance for company growth and product development.
ABOUT NFLPA DRIVEN
The NFL Players Association developed the Driven accelerator with input from NFL athlete entrepreneurs, industry specialists and leadership from NFL Players Inc., which is one of the world’s largest and most influential licensors, managing over 80 licensees which generated $2.17 billion in player-product sales in 2022. But the program is not just committed to success for diverse entrepreneurs within professional football. This initiative also invests in the companies and their consumer-focused products, delivering access to world-class athletes for mentorship, intellectual property and marketing while also building a framework for enduring growth and success across the licensing ecosystem.