We All Need a Team

By Becky Wade

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Eight days ago, I toed the line at the Chicago Marathon. After several months of focused training, many weeks over 100 miles, a few positive races, and hardly any setbacks, I felt ready to go. I was rested, my workouts indicated I was in personal record shape, and I was prepared to dig extraordinarily deep.

The race did not go as planned. A stitch that lingered for most of the race, making it hard to breathe and take fluids, derailed my breakthrough and tested my pride. Instead of blasting the last 10K—the way I’ve run my best marathons—I was the one staggering toward the finish line, trying to stay upright and praying no one else blew by me. Ultimately, I finished in 10th place (in 2:35). Though I matched my ranking going into the race, my performance and result were tough to swallow.

The texts and e-mails started rolling in soon after I finished. And right up in there, along with my extended family and former teammates (my immediate family was with me in Chicago) were notes of support from my Black Lab Sports colleagues. Having followed along my build-up for the last few months, they were intentional about tracking the race or looking up results, and they let me know that they cared how I did. None of them are distance runners (though there are collegiate swimmers, lacrosse players, and football players among them), and they didn’t yet know how the race unfolded or how I felt about it. But receiving their messages and returning to work a few days later to a whole lot of support, tons of questions about my experience, and a much-needed sense of normalcy, meant a lot to me.

It’s moments like these that I’m especially thankful for my life outside of running—where I do work that challenges and excites me but isn’t really about me; where I have more structure and balance in my life than I would were I just running; and where I’m part of two teams (Black Lab Sports and isplack) that value me equally for my work in the office and on the pavement. So thank you, JP, Justin, Peter, Aaron, Olja, Zach, Cooper, Steve, Lindsay, Michael, Jen, and the many others who work at or visit The Lab and have shown me support in some way. I appreciate it all, and am already dreaming about my next crack at 26.2.

some of the team

some of the team

Denver Startup Week Show Notes

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By Becky Wade

Thanks to those of you who joined Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week last Tuesday! We enjoyed interacting with you all and hope you gained some insight into what it takes to make it as a sports startup. If nothing else, hopefully you were inspired to take massive action towards turning an idea into reality, no matter how formidable and daunting it may seem.

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In addition to sharing the Black Lab Sports story, JP and Justin were joined on stage for a Q&A session by two special guests, professional sportsmen, entrepreneurs, and friends: Jake Plummer, former NFL Quarterback and co-founder of Readylist Pro; and Trevor Wittman, 17-time world champion coach and founder of ONX Sports. JP served as moderator while Justin, with a 12-year NFL career, represented isplack. If you missed the presentation, here are a few quotes that stood out:

 

JP O'Brien and Justin Bannan, Black Lab Sports:

"We go through this six-step process: Decide - Envision - Believe - Act - Gratefulness - Awe." - JP

"Instantly with Black Lab Sports, I found I had value I could bring to the table. And I was on a search... I knew I had something to bring to the table while I could learn." -Justin (before becoming a co-founder of isplack)

"You've got to love the hard work. Just because we're here and we've done these things doesn't mean it was super easy. It was really hard, right? ... It's all about understanding the struggle is a necessary ingredient. You have to have the struggle." -JP

"We have two major rules at our company: Give First, and No Assholes." -JP

"We are really interested in building and investing in leaders who understand and practice this concept of turning thoughts into reality." -JP

"Not to be cheesy, but 'you build it and they will come.' We created this ecosystem and we have a true, live vision of what we want to create and how we want to impact." -Justin

 

Jake Plummer, Readylist Pro

"More than anything, it's surrounding yourself... coming back to a team. Because I never would have done anything that I accomplished as a football player without my trust in my guys on my team... So having guys around you in the business world, finding the right ones, that's been a big challenge... you've got to find ways to vet them and have people you can trust."

"Some of the challenges are just getting over your own ego and getting over your own doubts, and making those calls. And hey, if they hang up on you, then call the next guy."

 

Trevor Wittman, ONX Sports:

"I fell in love with chasing what scared me."

"I never cried after winning a boxing match. But almost any time that one of my athletes won a fight, or even the people that I'm working with that are in the gym but aren't fighting... it would make me emotional."

"(JP) asked me about my purpose... and he helped me find that externalizing the internal champion is really what my purpose is. Once I really found that, everything fit together... everything in my whole life has been about it."

 

Justin Bannan, isplack:

"It wasn't about the eyeblack; it was about the mindset, the concept, how (JP) approached it."

"The ups and downs of football... it's a lot like entrepreneurism or starting a company."

"It's very important to me that people believe in me in this new route in life. It's powerful."

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Again, we really appreciate everyone who joined us at Denver Startup Week. It was great to gather in a room full of people eager to learn, innovate, and do great things. As always, if you're interested in continuing the conversation, please contact us here

See you next time!

Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week

Curious about what it takes to make it as a sports startup? Interested in hearing from pros from both the sports and business worlds?

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You’re in luck! Justin Bannan and I will be representing Black Lab Sports at Denver Startup Week on Tuesday, September 26, and we'd love to see you there. Our session is called "Building an Ecosystem for Success in Sports Startups" and this is the premise:

Building a sustainable business in the sports industry is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, athletes, and investors alike. The diversity of the customer base and multiple verticals for growth make the sports industry engaging, exciting, and profitable. But the opportunities are balanced by their challenges. Black Lab Sports is a sports-focused venture capital firm building an ecosystem where sports startups can avoid the pitfalls of the industry. Hear from those who are building, thinking, and doing in the space: from professional athletes turned entrepreneurs to sports industry veterans to professional team executives. Speakers include:

Jake Plummer

Jake Plummer

Trevor Wittman

Trevor Wittman

Here are the details:

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We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday!

Be great.

Black Lab Sports Sends Relief Supplies to Houston

By Becky Wade

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Last week, as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston, the Black Lab Sports team went into action mode. With a dock, warehouse, distribution center, and committed trucking partners, we had a unique ability to respond and no excuse not to.

So we put out a request to our Denver/Boulder friends for food, water, and monetary donations. And over the course of the week, family members, companies, friends, and strangers came forward to answer the call. Our collection expanded from water and non-perishables to also include food for individuals with allergies, as well as cleaning supplies, diapers, and even pet food.

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The generosity didn’t stop there. Monetary donations trickled into our Venmo account, about two dozen volunteers stopped by to sort and pack, and two trucking companies donated their vehicles and drivers to deliver goods to our warehouse and then to the Houston Food Bank. By loading time, we had accumulated nearly three dozen pallets of food and supplies—enough to fill an 18-wheeler.

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To everyone who contributed: You stepped up, and for that we’re so grateful. We can’t mention you all by name, but Aaron Beach (president of isplack and mastermind of the drive) and I want to extend a special “thank you” to the companies that went above and beyond: Navajo, YRC, Quinn Foods, Jackson’s Honest, Purely Elizabeth, Boulder Clean, Sweetlife Co., Foundry Group, BC Interiors, isplack, EDN, and REVO. We couldn’t have done this without you.

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Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring 4 favorite discoveries or inspirations. This week's picks come from Aaron Beach, COO of Black Lab Sports, President and COO of isplack, father of 3, and official grillmaster at The Lab.

(sources: Dicks, Amazon)

(sources: Dicks, Amazon)

  • PERSON: Sam Beach. This is my now 11-year-old son who has been told since he was 1 year old that touching and eating dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and many other foods would cause severe anaphylaxis. He has overcome all of these fears and is slowly conquering his food allergies while never wanting to live his life in a bubble. His strength as a young person has inspired me that I can do anything.
  • PRODUCT: Of course it is isplack. This product is amazing and has only bridged the surface exposure. It is always exciting to see players, fans, and anyone else that wants to wear, unite and express themselves in color. isplack also is a product that pushed me out of my comfort zone and has taught me personally so much about business.
  • CONCEPT: Work hard and don't be an asshole. When these two things are combined, good things happen. 
  • BOOK: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The stories and concepts represented in this book challenge me every day. One quote from this book summarizes the concepts of Desire, Faith and Auto-suggestion for me: "Victory is possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting."

 

 

Thank you for participating and inspiring, Aaron! 

 

 

What are your #tpt?

Flywheel Wrap-up, Part I

After a summer full of learning, working, and collaborating, Flywheel Project has successfully completed its first turn. For the last three months, our 11 interns have immersed themselves in projects at The Lab and throughout Boulder, gaining experience in everything from street activation and fan engagement to fine arts marketing and event sponsorships. They represented Black Lab Sports well through it all, and each of them was integral to the launch of this ongoing program.

Here’s a glimpse into what Flywheel has been up to since our earlier recap (found at http://www.blacklabsports.com/diagnosis/2017/6/16/flywheel-project):

 

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Broncos Training Camp Kids Day (before): Five isplack representatives got the crowd fired up during Kids Day at Broncos Training Camp, which also doubled as Miles the Mascot’s birthday. In addition to a lot of eager kids, party guests included mascots from around the state, such as Dinger from the Rockies, Edson the Eagle from the Rapids, and Rocky from the Nuggets.

 

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Broncos Training Camp Kids Day (after): In about five hours of isplack-applying, the team was able to help an estimated 60% of the training camp crowd get its colors on. All of that True Blue and Electric Orange swiping left them exhausted, proud, and very popular in the eyes of the many young Broncos fans.

 

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Mile High Stadium Tour: The Flywheel team took a trip down to Mile High Stadium before the start of a very exciting football season. Hearing from some of the top brass and learning about the challenges of operating a stadium on gameday shed new light on what goes on behind the scenes of one of the country's most popular sports.

 

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iSplack College Gameday Photo Shoot: No one can relate to college students like college students. To kick off isplack’s fall football marketing campaign, Flywheel members orchestrated a photo shoot to show off the colors of the Top 25 NCAA Division I teams.

 

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Broncos Block Party: Flywheel Project attended the first Broncos Black Party featuring Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and hosted by iHeartRadio. The goal of the evening was scouting potential projects and activation opportunities for the group.

 

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TedxMileHigh: Exposure and connection to the greater Colorado community is one of the program’s main objectives. Along those lines, a Flywheel Project intern spent two days at TedxMileHigh in Denver, during which he listened to experts speak about diversity and equality. You can find Kirby’s blog on his experience here.

 

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The Gold Cup Soccer Tournament: Four Flywheel members brought energy and color to yet another pro sports event, this time at the Gold Cup soccer tournament in Denver. First engaging with fans at the pre-game tailgate and then posting up at stadium entrances with their isplack sticks, the team was able to help fans of four different teams (Mexico vs. Jamaica, Curaçao vs. El Salvador) celebrate and support the sport they love.

 

With one Flywheel Project turn completed and many more to come, we’re still refining the system and finding out how best to teach and utilize our young leaders. All in all, it was a great summer with lots of learning on both sides of the program. On behalf of everyone at Black Lab Sports and isplack, we want to thank Henry, Suzanna, Jake, Mike, Kirby, Connor, Michael, Hunter, Sophia, Nick, and Roy, for opening their minds and sharing their skills with us this summer. It’s been a pleasuring having all of you in The Lab, and we look forward to watching each of you thrive in your various pursuits.

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring 4 favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Lindsay McIntosh, senior at the University of Colorado, passionate traveler, and fabulous isplack intern.

(sources: amazon, lululemon)

(sources: amazon, lululemon)

  • PERSON: I have too many wonderful people in my life to pick one, so I am going to say everyone that I work with every day at isplack! From the second that I walked in the door for my first interview, this office has felt like home. The culture in this office is unlike any other, and to constantly be surrounded by genuine, uplifting people is truly amazing. 
  • PRODUCT: Lululemon leggings. They are hands down the comfiest pants that I have ever worn, and anytime I try to wear something else, I immediately regret it. They’re great for yoga/working out (two of my favorite past times), sitting at a desk all day, and pretty much any other occasion you can think of. If I ever wear jeans to work, the first thing I do when I get home is change back into my lulus. 
  • CONCEPT: TRAVELING! You can learn almost everything that you need to know through traveling. It is the only time you can totally immerse yourself into another culture and experience the way that other people live. You learn about the types of food you like to eat, the type of people you enjoy being around, and the kind activities that make you the happiest. Traveling is what I love to do most, and at this point in my life every paycheck that I earn is spent planning my next adventure. 
  • BOOK: Hard to pick one in particular, but the book that I just finished this past weekend titled When Breath Becomes Air was particularly compelling to me. After working so hard his whole life and being very close to finishing his residency, a young neurosurgeon gets diagnosed with lung cancer. The book was very inspiring because even when faced with mortality, this young man continued to live his life as if he would live forever doing what he loved to do most. 

 

Thanks so much for sharing your top picks, Lindsay! 

 

 

What are your #tpt?

Leadership is a Choice. Choose to Lead.

By Zach Murphy

Source: s3Mdedia.net

Source: s3Mdedia.net

Those of us who work at Black Lab Sports visualize success and work tirelessly to get there. To us, success entails giving first and unleashing greatness in others. Our vision expands beyond Boulder, Colorado, and the United States, and we’re constantly seeking new spaces to lead.

One recent exploration took place at The Sport Performance Summit hosted by Leaders, at which I represented Black Lab Sports. Held over two days at Chicago's Soldier Field, the event featured a variety of speakers that highlighted practices and experiences with the potential to enhance human performance. The motto of the summit was "Worth Knowing," which supports the idea that the responsibility of a leader goes beyond his or her job description. The best leaders are also great people, setting a positive example and living out their visions.

At Black Lab Sports, we recognize the importance of investing our energy into others. In line with that commitment, I went to the conference with a goal of gaining concrete takeaways and encouraging fellow attendees to take an active role in talent development and mentorship of future leaders. We believe it’s not the size of an organization that matters. It’s the impact.

 

Source: Leadersinsport.com

Source: Leadersinsport.com

Three Notable Speakers

The Sport Performance Summit included an impressive and diverse speaker lineup, featuring Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel, US women’s soccer coach Jill Scott, former Chicago Cubs catcher John Baker, and one of the highest ranking officers in our armed forces General Lori Robinson. And that was just day one. Among over a dozen sessions I attended, three stood out from the rest:

1. Ryan Towey (eSports coach) and Jill Ellis (US women’s soccer coach)

It’s a testament to the emerging eSports market that a professional video game coach and the coach of the US women’s national soccer team would share a stage at a major conference. A key difference between coaching these two sports is the players' access to feedback. While soccer players usually have to wait until halftime to make major changes, eSports players receive real-time input. On the other hand, the two sports are similar in their use of video, which offers post-play feedback from game situations. Comparing these very different types of sports is valuable because it gives us a view into the future of sports markets, and shows how more traditional sports can learn and benefit from newer, tech-based ones. With this knowledge, our assumptions about video games and gamers are challenged. If eSports continues down the path it's on, we will have to continue evaluating its impact on health and society.

2. Sydney Finkelstein (author of Superbosses)

“Your job is to do things that I haven't even thought of.” According to Sydney Finkelstein, Superbosses are leaders who generate and re-generate talent over the course of their careers. He referenced leaders such as Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, and Bill Walsh, all of whom sought out talent in untapped pools and then developed it in mass. Black Lab Sports’ small step in this direction is Flywheel Project, our leadership development program for high school and college students.

Source: @leaders_insight on Instagram

Source: @leaders_insight on Instagram

3. Mike Brey (Notre Dame basketball coach) and Matt Painter (Purdue basketball coach)

As collegiate coaches, Mike Brey and Matt Painter consider building positive, high-performing cultures integral to their quests for organizational and team success. Part of that entails establishing trust between coaches, players, and parents. They encourage their players to take ownership and they allow individuals opportunities to step up and lead. Each coach has a mantra that captures a piece of his mindset. Brey’s message to his Notre Dame team is: “Who is selling my shit when I am not around?” In other words, how will his players model the culture away from the court? And Painter’s mantra for Purdue is: “We are all about you if you are all about us,” emphasizing the value of engagement and personal ownership on and off the court.

 

Following Up

The week before I left for Chicago, I prepared by executing an hour of visualization and goal-setting. I believe doing so helped pave the way for the lessons and connections I gained during my time at the Sport Performance Summit in Chicago. I’ve already followed up with a handful of the people I met there, who are modeling leadership in their own ways and inspiring me to do the same.

It’s valuable to gain knowledge, but above all, relationships come first. I look forward to seeing how these connections manifest in the months to come.

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from the inaugural turn of Flywheel Project, our three-month experiential learning program for future leaders.

(sources: gofitu, amazon, uw-greenbay, dicks)

(sources: gofitu, amazon, uw-greenbay, dicks)

  • PERSON: Sarah Gaines, founder of Fit University. Fit University is a community of college students on a mission to get fit and stay fit. It is both an online and offline community where students and alumni can share their knowledge and experiences about living their own healthy lives across the country. Fit University is currently present at over 40 universities thanks to their successful ambassador program.
  • PRODUCT: Spikeball. Speaks for itself. The 4-person crossover sport mixing volleyball and four square has changed our lives and taken over our lunch breaks at Black Lab Sports. Easy to set up and small enough to bring anywhere, Spikeball is the perfect game whether you are going to the beach, the park, or simply staying in your backyard.
  • CONCEPT: Color Perception Theory. Does the color I perceive as “red” look the same to another person? Those who are color blind perceive colors differently than those with normal vision because one or more of the three photoreceptors in their eyes is faulty, causing them to not see certain colors or a range of colors. This brings up the question of whether color is perceived differently in each individual's brain, or if humans as a whole have a default way to perceive color.
  • BOOK: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. Jim Collins explores what causes small companies to make the transition from merely Good to truly Great. He uses specific financial metrics along with deductive reasoning to support his claim. He argues that the leaders in a company must have both humility and resolve in order for their company to make the leap from Good to Great. 

 

A special thanks to Hunter Paulson, who compiled these picks on behalf of Flywheel Project. And many thanks to the whole team for your hard work all summer!

 

 

What are your #tpt?

Meet Gail Folwell, Sculptor, Athlete, and Entrepreneur

Gail Folwell needs to sculpt.

One class was all it took to send the successful designer careening down a career path she’d never envisioned. Having signed up for a one-day Intro to Oil-Based Clay class at the zoo, Folwell sculpted the easiest animal she could find—a hippo—and then “freaked out.”

Unlike painting, illustration, printmaking, or design, Folwell said she instantly had “a thousand things in my head that I need(ed) to manifest. Up until then my art was responsive, client needs or I had to search for subject matter that intrigued me. This medium was so natural, it was too exciting to deny.”

While exhilarating, the leap into a new career came with some surprises. In her first night class, Folwell sculpted a nude female from life. “It looked just right, proportion, scale, gesture”—exactly like her subject. Enter, the teacher. “So, you can sculpt, but she’s DEAD,” he said. This was a startling lesson that would have lasting implications. “You’re not sculpting what she is,” he told her. “You’re sculpting what you see. You have to feel the essence that is of interest to you.” So Folwell started making what was in her head.

And then she needed galleries. “Finding design clients was easy,” Folwell remembers. “There was a fast pace, camaraderie, business, deadlines, money to be made… it was fun.” Making art for only herself and putting her artistic and financial fate in the hands of her galleries didn't have the same allure. So she set her sights on commissions and public art, where she could once again identify projects, choreograph concepts from beginning to end, navigate the pressures of money and deadlines, and build relationships with clients.

The emotional component Folwell had lacked at the start turned out to be career-defining. Anyone can learn a craft, she believes. But “to move from being really good at your craft to creating art is the point at which you transcend what it looks like and start to manifest what it feels like. Emotive experiences drive the design and handling of the material.” When she started sculpting what she loves, her career took off.

Folwell's masterpieces can now be found enhancing spaces and stirring up feelings all over the country and increasingly across the globe. Some of her most beloved include ‘The Edge,’ a dynamic downhill skier that pays tribute to Vail, Colorado’s Olympic and World Cup Athletes; ‘Tête à Tête,’ two figures housed in the Denver Art Museum that evoke unique interpretations depending on the viewer’s perspective; and ‘The NFL Draft,’ a larger-than-life offensive line postured on the Pro Football Hall of Fame parade route in Canton, Ohio.

Obviously, Folwell is passionate about sports. In addition to dabbling in everything from tennis and gymnastics to ski racing and professional mountain biking, she’s been marveling at athletes for as long as she can remember. When she was young, she made and sold sports-inspired wire sculptures to her parents’ friends (revealing her earliest glimpses of entrepreneurship). Standing next to any of her sculptures of athletes today, it’s clear that Folwell has a deep-seated “appreciation for body mechanics and kinesiology, and what the human machine can do." The fun for her is figuring out how to sculpt the human body “so it looks like it’s not stopped but loaded, emotionally and physically.”

Fortunately, Folwell doesn’t have to venture far to find inspiration. Ever since moving Folwell Studios to Black Lab Sports a year and a half ago, she’s had an abundance of athletically-minded people to turn to: the men of Revo PT and their sporty clients; entrepreneurs from startups like isplack, ONX, and CAN-ICE; and individuals from interns all the way up to founders with backgrounds in competitive (even professional) sports. CEO JP O’Brien’s commitment to bringing together left- and right-brained people in one space, to Folwell, creates “a totally symbiotic relationship.” She and fine arts painter Will Day balance out the logical, scientific, and business-oriented individuals on the other side, and together they comprise a powerful team. “Everybody here is a creative with an end goal to manifest something they have imagined,” Folwell said. “We all make products that enhance the sport experience. I do it with art and these guys do it with innovative equipment.”

While maybe the most recognizable, sport is just one of several themes that emerge throughout Folwell’s work. When prompted, I couldn’t come up with one she hasn’t yet explored: birth, death, love, anger, passion, animal—they’re all in her repertoire. Her latest project, Handle the Art (a collection of pulls, knobs, and door handles meant to “change the way you think about cabinet hardware”), demonstrates her incredible range. Abstract faces, muscular bodies, headless torsos, and communicative hands are all part of the collection and are no doubt prompting many conversations in the rooms they adorn.

While disparately themed, Folwell’s pieces are all connected on a deep level. With a visible platform, she feels a sense of responsibility to affect people positively and connect with others through her work. Put simply, Folwell’s core purpose is to Inspire, teach and heal with art. In one season of life, that might mean a memorial sculpture following a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks, or the death of a parent. In another, that might mean a celebratory piece featuring a freestyle swimmer or a giant pitcher greeting ballpark guests. No matter what Folwell feels moved to create, she believes, “If it comes from my soul and it goes into the art… that light can affect the person who’s seeing it.”

For me, the impact is more than emotional; it’s visceral. While admiring her sports sculptures especially, I find myself generating pre-race butterflies, or replaying a special race memory, or urgently wanting to test my body’s limits. The essence of her subjects is present and intense. But don’t don’t take my word for it. Visit Folwell Studios inside Black Lab Sports or any of the public spaces that house her work and let the masterpieces speak for themselves. I can’t predict your personal response, but I guarantee you’ll feel something—be it connected or joyful or motivated or sentimental. That my experience may be different from yours, based on where we come from and how we interpret the world, is precisely Folwell’s point.

 

 

Find Folwell’s amazing portfolio at FolwellStudios.com.

Keep up with her latest creations on Instagram (@FolwellStudios) and Twitter (@FolwellStudios).

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Steve Eovine, a Boston native, outdoor enthusiast, and finance expert who's helping Black Lab Sports entrepreneurs reach their goals.

(sources: Vergecampus.com, apple.com, amazon.com)

(sources: Vergecampus.com, apple.com, amazon.com)

  • PERSON: I have a deep admiration for Kevin Garnett.  He played most of his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics.  When he was traded to Boston in 2008, he singlehandedly changed the culture of the Celtics franchise, from a group of individuals to a close-knit team of players and executives.  His leadership didn’t come solely from his basketball ability; he led through example, outworking opponents and teammates every day.  He was also a great role model in the community.
  • PRODUCT: I am not very tech savvy, but my iPhone has become an irreplaceable item.  I rely on this device for everything: managing my calendar, all forms of communication, music, managing my finances, and performing research on the internet. In the morning, I reach for my iPhone before anything else, including coffee!!
  • CONCEPT: It’s amazing how sometimes you can effectively apply a concept from one subject to something completely different.  There is a concept in accounting called “Accounting Controls” where you develop steps in a process to ensure completeness and accuracy.  This practice has served me well in so many other aspects of my career.  It taught me to always double check my work.
  • BOOK: The book Wild by Cheryl Strayed had a profound impact on me.  Her story chronicled the journey she took to re-discover herself while hiking 2,000 miles up the Pacific Crest trail in California.  I had a similar experience last year, leaving my career behind to travel the world and forge a new path in life.  It brought me to Colorado where the journey continues…

 

Thanks for spreading the inspiration, Steve!

 

What are your #tpt?

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Peter Zana, isplack's VP of Sales, a loyal family man, and a competitive swimmer-turned-avid night cyclist.

(isplack.com, dancarlin.com, trekbikes.com)

(isplack.com, dancarlin.com, trekbikes.com)

  • PERSON: That's easy - my wife.  She's amazing.  (And no she won't ever read this so I'm not saying this because I need to climb out of a hole I dug!)  I'm a far better person for having met and married her.  Single best decision I ever could have made.  It's always fun to get introduced to people in her world for the first time and measure their response to me.  They see me as a better person than I am, simply because I'm with her.  That never gets old.  Oh and I call her Susie Sunshine, because she's always so darn happy. 
  • PRODUCT: isplack.  Because it's my life!  But if I picked another product I'm constantly enamored with I'd have to say it's the bicycle.  (Ouch(!) I'm not even a millennial, nor cool enough to know what a hipster is!)  But I've lived in Colorado for 20 years and I still CRAVE riding my bike all around this amazing place.  In town, out of town, on the path, in the mountains.  Just don't ask me to ride on the roads, nor to reveal any spandex.  (If it's on, it's covered.)  I challenge anyone to ride a bike and end it in a bad mood.  It's impossible.  I wonder what the world would be like if we had ended transportation innovations at the bike... 
  • CONCEPT: Gratitude.  I value three things in people including myself:  Honesty, Integrity and Humility.  And those are what I'm trying to help raise my kids with.  From that you can surmise one outcome might be Strength in Character - which is an entirely different conversation.  But to raise kids, or live by example with those three traits, I think there's a certain amount of Gratitude one needs.  So my concept for this purpose is Gratitude.  Without it, you can talk yourself into lies, not honoring your word, and believing you're somehow more deserving than the other person in the room.  But once you live with Gratitude, those falsities are self evident.  Gratitude is the foundation of living a good life.  Be thankful.  And let that carry you forward.
  • BOOK: I used to read a fair amount.  Now instead, I'm in the middle of a startup, and of raising my two kids with my wife, and all that entails.  I don't have the time or energy to read books at the moment.  But I do enjoy Podcasts.  The one I've really enjoyed lately is done by Dan Carlin.  The series is titled 'Hardcore History'.  Carlin does a really good job at picking and then setting up the compelling storyline.  I have enjoyed every one I've listened to and as much as I don't want to admit it, I've listened to one long series twice. 

 

Thanks for participating, Peter! 

 

What are your #tpt?

Why We Invested in an MMA Startup

(from ONX Sports)

(from ONX Sports)

Mixed Martial Arts was not on my radar. Sure, I'd seen a fight here and there, but as an investor, I paid little attention to the world of combat sports. It wasn't until I met Trevor Wittman, founder of ONX Sports, that my perspective on MMA changed.

At ONX Sports, the belief is that champions are honed, not born. Trevor, a 16-time World Champion coach, taught me that fighting is about facing your fears head-on and conquering your self-doubt. This mindset is also a key tenant at Black Lab Sports when it comes to looking for the right founders to partner with and the best people with which to surround ourselves. 

(from MMA UK  Blog)

(from MMA UK  Blog)

The importance of that bold and purpose-first outlook hit home last week as I watched Justin Gaethje, Trevor’s protégé, make his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut. He was up against the veteran and heavy favorite Michael Johnson, who spent much of the lead-in talking smack and boosting his own ego. Justin, on the other hand, didn’t waste energy telling everyone he was the best. Instead, he trained hard, built his internal self-confidence, and committed to his strategy of relentless movement forward.

When the fight arrived, Justin attacked it like a successful entrepreneur would have: keeping his focus, taking shot after shot, and continuing to step forward every time he got hit in the face. He executed his plan to a tee. Trevor, in his corner, encouraged Justin to keep moving forward with unwavering pressure, confident that a spectacular knockout would come from repeated kicks to the thigh and an unremitting attitude. In the end, that’s what happened, as Justin broke Johnson’s will and knocked him out in the third round.

(from MMA Mania)

(from MMA Mania)

Watching that fight, I realized that MMA, UFC, and other combat sports are about much more than two people hitting each other. They’re about identifying your purpose, creating a vision for the outcome, and asking yourself: How much do you really want this fight? Are you willing to face your deepest fears? When you get punched in the head and your world is rocked, do you back up, or are you prepared to step forward and keep fighting? I may not be able to relate to the experience in the ring, but I can relate to that mindset, because successful entrepreneurs ask themselves the very same questions.

Trevor was able to find the purpose in fighting and build a company that would support his athletes. Globally, there are 50 million people that use some form of fighting as fitness. This is not a trend; it’s a return to the most natural and primitive forms of movement and self-defense. Even without ever hitting another person, there are physical and psychological benefits to be gained from using raw physicality to unearth the best in yourself and your rivals. That is at the core of our investment in ONX Sports.

 

To learn more about ONX Sports and Trevor's ground-breaking combat equipment, visit http://onxsports.com/.

To keep up with Justin's exciting career, follow him on Twitter at @Justin_Gaethje.

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Zach Murphy, Executive Director of Flywheel Project, people developer, always practicing.

(sources: NYTimes.com, Amazon.com, JetPens.com)

(sources: NYTimes.com, Amazon.com, JetPens.com)

  • PERSON: John Wheeler. He was a theoretical physicist who focused his efforts on the concept of general relativity and futurism. His quote, "As our island of knowledge grows, so does our shore of ignorance" captures the feeling of ignorance as we gain more knowledge.
  • PRODUCT: Stabilo Pens. These changed the way I take notes. I use color and creativity to outline ideas and separate thoughts. When I was younger I couldn't stand looking at my own handwriting, but when I started taking notes as a creative process, that all changed. I capture more ideas and have a higher level of engagement in my own work because I adapted my methods. 
  • CONCEPT: The Modern Elder. Globalization and the development of new technologies have changed the role of mentors and elders becomes increasingly complex. Modern elders will have a lasting impact on leaders by using their experience, not age, to increase the potential of people around them. 
  • BOOK: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. This is a must-read book. Written as a fictional narrative, it focuses on the journey of a young man toward his personal legend. One of the biggest lessons is the focus on realizing that often what we are looking for is inside of us. 

 

Thanks for sharing some of the things that inspire you, Zach!

 

What are your #tpt?

Thinking Differently: isplack Signs Story and Pederson

(Welcome to our series on Thinking Differently, a collection of real-world experiences that illustrate Albert Einstein’s belief, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”)

Illustrations by: Gail Folwell

Illustrations by: Gail Folwell

At Black Lab Sports, we like to think differently.

Rather than doing things the conventional way because it’s simple or safe, sometimes we take a step back. We challenge the system. And we improve on it when we can. It’s not about disrupting the status quo for the sake of it. It’s about identifying areas in need of growth and creating space for bigger wins all around. isplack’s recent endorsement of two hot pro baseball players—Trevor Story and Joc Pederson—captures that way of thinking and doing.

As a sports-focused venture capital firm, we feel it’s important that Black Lab Sports includes star athletes as part of our brands’ growth and marketing strategies. We also feel that the traditional sponsorship model doesn’t work the same for all brands. Big-time brands pay big-time athletes significant amounts of real dollars in endorsements. Most start-ups simply can’t compete with that.

The Black Lab Sports team took an inventory of what we do have here: a growing company, a vibrant ecosystem, and brands in exciting stages of development. And we designed a new endorsement model based off that. We want our athletes to be not just representatives of a brand, but part of the whole entrepreneurial process. We want them to learn about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and what it means to be an owner. It sounds like a win-win, and we believe that it will be.

As of last week, that model is no longer just an idea. isplack has implemented the new model by signing Trevor Story, starting shortstop from Colorado, and Joc Pederson, starting centerfielder from LA, as the first official isplack pros. We’ve entered a new phase and we couldn’t be more excited for them to be part of it. While an endorsement on paper, we see our relationship with Story and Pederson as so much more: an opportunity to support athletes in an untraditional but powerful way that allows us to maximize their best interests (both now and in the future), while also building our own framework for integrating star athletes into all of our future brands. We are looking for individuals who are not only phenomenal players, but who also align with our core culture, who are excited about being involved in a start-up, and who are capable of thinking and acting like owners and not just stars. With Story and Pederson, we ticked off all those boxes, and we’re thrilled to bring them on board.

Final Thought

At Black Lab Sports, we believe that resilient, mindful people, even in hard and uncertain times, will make a better world for all. And we are on a mission to identify, develop, grow, and support these unique people. I know that "Thinking Differently" is often an overused cliche, but the practice of challenging the status quo and thinking differently is at the very core of making valuable and positive change. Thinking differently opened the door for isplacks’ first pro athlete endorsements, and we see these endorsements as just the beginning. Stick around for updates on Story and Pederson and our collaborative efforts in doing things differently. 

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Olja Ivanic, isplack's International Celebrator, a Croatian native who calls the world her home, and instantly everyone's best friend.

(sources: CNN.com, Amazon.com, isplack.com)

(sources: CNN.com, Amazon.com, isplack.com)

  • PERSON: Beyoncé. Besides being an incredible entertainer and performer, she is a true entrepreneur and businesswoman who has built an empire. One of my favorite quotes is, "You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé." Ellen, Tina Fey, Michelle Obama, and Elizabeth Warren are all my close seconds as they each have made tremendous movements in their areas (from comedy to social work) and are incredible role models to girls all around the world. 
  • PRODUCT: isplack of course! How incredible is it to be able to Get Your Colors On from your favorite sports team to the cause you are most passionate about? United in color, united in isplack - all day, every day!
  • CONCEPT: Ridiculous Love. I believe that God has ridiculous love for all of us and each of us and that we need to show this kind of love to all that we meet. Love always wins! 
  • BOOK: Too many to pick for this ADD mind! Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl will probably always be in my Top 3. He speaks of surviving the Holocaust and how he was able to do so with a mindset of "the only freedom we have is to choose how we react to our circumstances." No matter how terrible things may become in our lives, our minds can overcome the physical and we can survive and surpass the darkness. You Are A Badass and The Road Less Traveled are two of my favorites to re-read and find motivation and inspiration in. I truly believe we can do anything we set our minds to!

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing your inspiration with us, Olja!

 

 

 

What are your #tpt?

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from Cooper Nelson, last year's super-intern who's back for more as the official isplack evangelist, armed with a degree from Luther College.

(Sources: ESPN, toolsoftitans.com, xtenex.com, luther.edu)

(Sources: ESPN, toolsoftitans.com, xtenex.com, luther.edu)

  • PERSONJeffrey Wettach. He is my old track coach who still works at Luther College. Jeff has been working at Luther for 30 years now and he is 30 years strong. I have never met someone that has the loyalty to a school like Jeff Wettach. He doesn't cut players from his programs, he knows everyone he coaches and he is in love with his work. He coaches with energy and a surplus of positivity. I wish I could lift the spirits of others just by being like Jeff Wettach.
  • PRODUCTXtenex Shoelaces. Tying your shoes, whether you realize it or not, is quite tedious, but I don't deal with that anymore because these shoelaces do not need to be tied. They also have many points of tension called eyelets which tighten around the whole foot instead of just the top so my feet feel completely snug.
  • CONCEPT: Being a new hire out of college, I sometimes make mistakes while I am still learning the ropes of my work. A quote by Michael Jordan always makes me believe that any mess-up is an opportunity for improvement. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  • BOOKTools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. It outlines the tactics, tools, and routines of many successful people like billionaires, athletes, and celebrities. While it is very interesting to learn how people found the success they did, I love to learn what their day to day life looks like and perhaps how I can replicate that.

 

Thanks for participating, Cooper!

 

What are your #tpt? 

Flywheel Project: The First Turn

If you’ve come around Black Lab Sports in the last two weeks, you might have noticed a changed dynamic. In addition to bringing in some new long-term tenants, we’ve gained nearly a dozen young additions to our space for the summer that we're really excited about!

The first cohort of Flywheel Project—our three-month experiential learning and leadership program for high school and college students—is under way and on a roll. Hailing from Seattle to New York, and spanning academic interests from communications to accounting, they’ve already amplified energy levels in The Lab and gotten their feet wet in a number of areas, both here and beyond. Before they get much further into the program, I want to share some of the things these emerging leaders have been up to so far.

 

Orientation: As individuals, they considered the unique strengths and weaknesses they’d be bringing to the program. As a group, they began to break down barriers and establish goals for the summer ahead.

 

A Day with Will Day: For their first team activity, the interns helped Will Day publicize his upcoming art show in San Francisco. Opting for the cold-call method, they reached out to hotels, yacht clubs, country clubs, and luxury condos and emailed art blogs in order to spread the word and distribute invitations. Later, they got a lesson in painting from the man himself. (Verdict: Impressed) 

 

Distribution Experience: Following the lead of isplack’s co-founder Aaron Beach, Flywheel Project learned the ins and outs of quality assurance and 3PL. Plowing through two massive crates, they opened boxes, counted isplack sticks (yanking the errors), repackaged the boxes, and got them ready to ship out, devising an efficient system and growing a team as they went. 

 

isplack Activation: Commerce City, Colorado hosted the USA-Trinidad & Tobago men’s soccer match last week—a World Cup Qualifier—and gave Flywheel Project members their first taste in street activation. For a full afternoon, they helped fans get their colors on with Fire Red, Flash White, and True Blue isplack streaks, while squeezing in a little tailgating too. An estimated 5-600 faces colored and a victorious Team USA sounds like a success to me. 

 

Hogfest-mullets.JPG

HogFest: In perhaps the coolest “work” assignment of the summer, a handful of interns attended local apparel startup Shinesty's HogFest over the weekend. Putting that trifecta of isplack sticks to use again, they color-coordinated with Shinesty’s ‘Merica Collection to infuse the event with a humongous dose of patriotism and pride.  

 

In their first full two weeks, Flywheel Project members set the tone for their turn and for future Flywheel cohorts. Eagerly accepting every challenge thrown their way and coming together as a team to get things done, they’re racking up experiences and skills that we believe will help them go far in the real world. We’re really excited about the 11 individuals we hand-picked (out of 40+ applicants), and we expect big things from them this summer and beyond.

Big props to the Flywheel Project team (Connor, Henry, Hunter, Jake, Kirby, Michael, Mike, Nick, Roy, Sophia and Suzie), Flywheel Project Executive Director Zach Murphy, and isplack Evangelist/Photographer Cooper Nelson!

Top Picks Tuesday

Welcome to our #tpt series, featuring four favorite discoveries or inspirations from the last week. This week's picks come from our resident green thumb and entrepreneur: ēdn founder Ryan Woltz.

(sources: edntech.com, Amazon.com, FastCompany.com)

(sources: edntech.com, Amazon.com, FastCompany.com)

  • PERSONElon Musk. Tesla, SpaceX, HyperLoop, The Boring Company. Each of Elon’s companies has the ability to fundamentally change life on earth (or other: Mars!).  A brilliant engineer and visionary who executes like no other. A huge inspiration and someone I think of often.
  • PRODUCTēdn SmallGarden 2 (link is for the original). Always self promoting! Our soon to be released indoor garden adds WiFi, advanced LEDs, sensors and an app to guide you from seed to harvest!
  • CONCEPT: "No such thing as best, only better." Always improving in all aspects.
  • BOOKCreativity Inc. A book on the secret to making more of the good stuff. From people to products, Ed Catmull’s book has really been an inspiration on how to run (and maintain) a creative product company.

 

Thanks for sharing your sources of inspiration with us, Ryan! (If you missed our feature on him, learn more at: www.blacklabsports.com/diagnosis/2017/4/17/ryan-woltz)

What are your #tpt? 

Revo PT & Sports Performance: A Marathoner's Perspective

As someone who runs for my job, logging up to 120 miles per week and traveling year-round to races, you can imagine the damage my body accrues. Sometimes that stress manifests in clear warning signs: a hotspot on my shin or a hamstring that tightens up when I sprint. In a weird way, I consider myself lucky when I sense an issue like that and am able to respond fast enough to prevent major damage. But other times, something serious pops up “out of nowhere”—like the intense knee pain I felt hours after a mile repeat workout, which ultimately sidelined me from that year’s key marathon. In those situations, I’m left feeling baffled and frustrated and incredibly unlucky.

What I’m finally learning, almost fifteen years into my competitive running career, is that the body doesn’t operate on luck. Even when we can’t pinpoint it, there’s an underlying cause for everything that goes awry: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, that labral tear in my hip that hijacked a year of my college career. But the truth is that I’m no expert on the human body, the way it was designed to move, or how far from “ideal” my gait really is. I know how to run fast and train hard, but I don’t know how to identify specific weaknesses or imbalances that make me susceptible to injury. Fortunately for me, I know a few people who do.

The first thing that distinguishes Revo Physiotherapy & Sports Performance from similar operations is the use of both science and technology to optimize health and performance. Each of the three Revo founders (Brian Briggs, Dane DeLozier, and Matthew Smith) holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, allowing them to combine physiotherapy and personal training “with a biomechanics lab twist." It all happens in their state-of-the-art gym occupying one side of the Black Lab Sports facility and featuring a bank of massage tables, an indoor turf field, and a slew of gym equipment, from weight racks, plyometric boxes, and speed ladders to treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals. Beyond that, there’s high-tech, high-speed video equipment, which the therapists use for gait analyses, return to sport tests, injury prevention screens, and even bike fits.

There’s plenty of information on their website, plus lots of fit-looking people filling their Instagram and Twitter feeds. But what’s the Revo PT experience really like? I made an appointment to find out.

On a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago, I met Matt in the gym and hopped up on a massage table for a preliminary assessment. After asking me about my injury history, current state of health, and where I’m at in my training cycle, he went through a series of tests to check out my alignment, flexibility, and discrepancies between sides. Unsurprisingly for a marathoner, I revealed some super tight hip flexors, an overly active lower back, and calf muscles that lit up when prodded. (I’d worn spikes for the first time in a long time that morning and it showed!)

From there, I followed Matt to the sports lab area, where he stuck about a dozen adhesive LED lights on my major joints (including ankles, knees, and hips) and on the front of my foot and midline of my torso. With the camera rolling, he recorded me running at a comfortable pace on a treadmill for a few minutes, while watching his computer monitor for real-time feedback on my gait. Drawing data from the LED lights that speckled my body, the program calculated exactly what angles my hinges were reaching, and how those on each side differed. I might have been able to get away with a few imperfections in a normal setting, but as I learned as soon as I dismounted: you can’t get away with much when you’ve been shot at 120 frames per second. The slowmo video revealed some major knee collapsing, a hyperextended back, and a wobblier than is ideal torso (among other things).

Armed with all that feedback, we hit the gym for a demonstration on activation and specific strength work. Matt created a program based off the areas I’d just shown need some work, with the goal of retraining myself to adopt a more efficient movement pattern that will translate over time to the roads and trails. Mercilessly, he stationed me in front of a full-sized mirror and walked me through a few exercises that would comprise my new daily protocol. Using the stretchiest (code for easiest) resistance band available, I held each leg in a series of sustained positions before performing a rapid succession of off-on style movements. Judging by my visible quaking, each hold recruited muscles that I’ve unknowingly been neglecting for a good while.

It’s amazing how well the body compensates for deficiencies—until it doesn’t. The goal with Revo is to avoid that breaking point at all costs. My instructions were to build those exercises into my regular routine, either in an abbreviated format prior to working out or the full progression afterwards. If those four to eight added minutes decrease my training interruptions and elevate my performance even a little bit, that could mean the difference between a spot on Team USA and a spot on my couch. Worth it, to say the least.

So the benefits of the Revo system for elite athletes are clear. And while there does seem to be a steady stream of lean, Spandex-clad individuals walking through their doors at all hours, the profits are available for (and utilized by) active people of all types—from passionate skiers and high school lacrosse players to world-class triathletes and even post-op rehabbers. The treatment will vary from person to person, but the method and mission stay the same: to combine science, technology, and a deep understanding of the human body to help people maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

Thank you for all you do, Revo! We’re so glad you’re part of the Black Lab Sports community.