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Out of The Box Strategies: Q&A with Cortni Grange

We’re thrilled to have Cortni Grange, Executive Director of Future Leaders & Young Entrepreneurs (FLYE), as our special guest for our next webinar “Out of the Box Strategies for Fundraising Success.” Since its founding in 2013, FLYE has been dedicated to the intersection between athletics, entrepreneurship, and academics for young athletes; and has has impacted over 600 youth in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. A gifted social entrepreneur, Cortni will discuss how to combine the human element with digital resources to maximize fundraising for social ventures.

Cortni’s fire for social good and entrepreneurship started as a student at Florida A&M University, where he cofounded Young Rattler Nation, a 501c3 organization which created scholarships for current students and fundraised events for young alumni. After a fruitful career in business process consulting, Cortni realized he wanted to align his career with his passions, and transitioned his skills and experiences into the social entrepreneurship and impact arenas. Since cofounding FLYE in 2013, he has been named Dream Director with The Future Project, established Grange Enterprises, and cofounded DC Youth Corps. Cortni has been recognized in publications such as Black Enterprise and USA Today, and was named a 2017 Top Millennial Influencer by The Next Big Thing Movement.

We caught up with Cortni before the webinar for a brief Q&A. Register today for “Out of The Box Strategies for Fundraising Success” and hear more from Cortni about creative ways to raise funds through digital technology.

FLYE’s methodology empowers sports coaches and student-athletes to transition the skills they master in sports to other areas of life. What is it about being in the social entrepreneurship field that excites you?

The truth that making a difference doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s quality of life. Prior to being a social entrepreneur, I had a lucrative career in corporate sales and marketing. And when I made the choice to leave corporate I struggled to envision how I’d make a difference AND make money. In late 2014 a business coach introduced me to Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk “The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong” and it changed my ENTIRE life. Dan said, “Philanthropy is the market for love. It is the market for all those people for whom there is no other market coming.” When I heard those words, a flame was lit inside of me! Social entrepreneurship doesn’t just do business for good, it makes doing good, GOOD business. It means my mission can be as wealthy as my wallet, and I do not have to sacrifice one for the other. As a person who values the quality of life just as much as I value making a difference, this was a game changer.

How has sports affected your work ethic?

It’s the foundation of my work ethic. I was raised by two high performing athletes who went “professional” in something other than sports. From my inception, the diligence, sacrifice, and practicality of sport was always around me. The funny thing was, my parents, didn’t even know it. Even they were products of the lack of connection to the transitional skill sets of athletics. Sure, they encouraged me to play sports and get good grades, but they never taught me that I could accelerate my athletic and academic achievement without mutual exclusivity. I fully embrace this concept in all I do. I look at every human capital decision, every fundraising concept—heck, down to every board of directors member we have through the eyes of a Quarterback, Point Guard, or any other leadership-based sports role. And like any of those athletic leaders, my long term success is not based on my ability to perform. It is based on my ability to bring the best out of those around me. My work ethic is being the best at making others shine, and it is a daily reminder of the importance of FLYE’s work in the lives of young athletes.

What similarities do you see between sports and social entrepreneurship?

Oh man! You sure we’ve got enough time for me to explain this?! LOL. This question is, literally, the backbone of FLYE’s vision. Sports and social entrepreneurship are parallels in countless ways. For the sake of time and to not give away all our secret sauce 🙂 I’ll speak on my favorite one—practical application. While education teaches us theory and concept, sports teaches us how to practically apply a learned behavior towards an immediate impact (or sometimes lack thereof). Is this not EXACTLY what entrepreneurship is?! Learn, practice, apply, analyze impact/success, and repeat. It is FLYE’s fundamental theory of change. One day, our work will have empowered every single young person that plays any sport to fully internalize this parallel, and the world will be positively changed because of it.

How would you describe your style of entrepreneurship?

I have always been a “bump your head until you get it” type of learner. If I’m being truly honest with myself, the only thing that’s come easy for me is confidence (likely why I had a great career in corporate sales). As a social entrepreneur, it often feels like you have to be super smart, incredibly practical, and uncannily charismatic just to get your foot in the door. After all, our “rock stars” are folks like Bill Drayton, John Rice, and Jacqueline Novogratz. But, if these folks are the X-Men (and Women) of social entrepreneurship, where’s our friendly neighborhood Spiderman? That is how I describe my style of entrepreneurship. There’s nothing “amazing” about me other than the fact that I am more ME than anyone else on this planet. In fact, Business Insider states that, “The probability of you existing at all comes out to 1 in 10 2,685,000— yes, that’s a 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes!…the odds of you being alive are basically zero.” That is a pretty damn unique brand and value proposition if you ask me.

If you could play with any professional athlete, who would it be?

Hands down Bo Jackson. He is arguably the most complete athlete we have ever seen. If you do not believe me, check out the ESPN 30 for 30 on him.

For more from Cortni about fundraising and social entrepreneurship, join us at our next webinar, “Out of The Box Strategies for Fundraising Success.” Register today!

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