Monday, May 20, 2013

Thank You Series: My First "Investor" - Part Two

Logo for my first solo biz venture: FireWorks For Kids Foundation
Reflecting on one of my most significant career moments gives me chills all over again. Major kudos and thanks go to billionaire sports and entertainment executive, Philip Anschutz who showed confidence in my business abilities and gave me the boost that has fueled every endeavor since our paths crossed so long ago.

The year was 1997.

 I'd just turned 26 years old and moved back to my hometown, Chicago from Atlanta to be part of the management team of the new Major League Soccer team - the Chicago Fire.

Solid networking kept me in the mind of my friend and former colleague, Peter Wilt and when it all worked out for me to join his team leading community relations. I was in heaven. But really, I had no idea.

Anschutz known for his behind the scenes dealings (and reclusiveness - today you can Google a picture -when I met him - it was practically impossible to find one any where) as much for his philanthropy was the original owner of the Chicago Fire. When we started the team, Mr. A or Phil as we affectionately called him around the office, made it clear that "one day in the future" he'd like to see the team have a foundation attached. I remember that mention in my first few weeks at the office. It was clear that we as a leadership team were all more focused on launching the actual team on the field and that the charity could wait until year two or three. There was no pressure whatsoever nor was it ever mentioned but the one time in one of my initial meetings as community relations director.

I could not wait.

From the moment I heard that Mr. Anschutz had intended to have a charity - I was determined to launch it with the team in April of 1998. I joined the Fire in mid-November 1997. Quickly, I familiarized myself with the key players at the Anschutz Foundation who would "eventually" assist me in starting our team charity arm. Within 60 days of joining the team, I'd figured out all we'd need to do to establish the 501-C3 entity including identified the first set of board members to guide us. Peter Wilt was impressed and said we'd only have to circle back to Mr. Anschutz to confirm funding. Without hesitation, Mr. Anschutz confirmed an initial $100,000 seed fund for me to go start that foundation.

I even remember everyone telling me not to worry if I did not get it started in time for opening home game April 4, 1998. This is the moment, I know for sure changed the way I viewed myself as a businesswoman and executive. There was no doubt in my mind that our charity, then called the Fireworks For Kids Foundation would debut alongside the club on April 4. And debut we did. Our charity launched alongside our team and had a strong year one as did our team on the field. We made history. No other MLS team had a charity at that time and we set the precedent.

16 years later and over $1.5 million dollars awarded, The Chicago Fire Foundation is going strong. I am thankful to Philip Anschutz all these years later. Without his investment and belief in me at that time in my life, my career journey may have played out very differently than it did.

Thank you Mr. Anschutz for building into me so early in my career. That confidence has fueled every move since then, including my current solo venture, Relationships Matter Now, LLC.

Who in your life helped you build the "business chops"? Can you think of someone who encouraged and shaped your career in a very unique way?

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