The word hustle is often used in a bad kind of way, but I think for me, I’ve always considered myself as someone who hustles – this was true even when I was a kid. The first thing I hustled my way into was when I talked my way into a ballboy job with the New York Knicks. I met Mark Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, when I was 14. I said “I’d love to be a ballboy.” There was no internet or cellphones then, so he said I should speak to the head trainer. When I met the head trainer I told him: “Mark said I have a job. When do I start?” The rest is history. I’ve been very fortunate to work in media for the majority of my career. I’ve always been passionate about the arts, and I worked in every different role you can imagine, even behind the camera and selling. I worked with NBC Universal for awhile which involved a lot of travel back and forth to California from New York. At first it was a big scare to live in California, but one of the best experiences is to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. The best characteristics in yourself can be discovered by doing that.
Ultimately, when I moved back to New York I was given a position to figure out how to get more people to watch NBC, and to make new money from advertising. It was a big challenge, but it really was exciting because I built a team built on trust. We looked at the environment and we knew getting NBC’s content to “be better than it is” wasn’t really our job; What we were tasked with was to get more people to watch it.
So I thought: “What if we bring our content to people in captive environments where they can’t turn the channel?” When I retell this story, people typically throw stuff at me, but at the time it was kind of cool. We were the ones who put the TVs in taxis here in New York! That was kind of our first innovation. The business strategy behind it was: “This is a very attractive demographic for advertisers, and it’s also large-scale.” When we first presented the idea to the Taxi & Limousine Commission, we said we’d do all the hard work, but even so, the initial feeling from them was that nobody was going to watch TV in a taxi. Today, tons of New Yorkers watch WNBC in taxis. So again, that’s hustle. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I think ignorance has always been a secret weapon for me (laughs) in that I’m probably too dumb to realize that something’s too hard to do and so I keep going.
During that NBC venture of putting TVs in taxis, on gas pumps and trains, I was really lucky to see a lot of business plans from technology companies. I had no background in finance or M&A or anything along those lines, so it was a chance to see a lot of really good business plans, and some really bad ones too. I was blown away because I saw exactly how finance could raise a lot of money to get ideas off the ground. This inspired me to solve a problem I noticed for years on basketball courts. The problem was: When you don’t have good traction on the court, it really impedes your performance. So I flew out to Ohio every Friday after work to try to find and hire a few engineers. I chose Ohio because that’s where racecar tires are developed – traction was something they studied. The first nine scientists said my idea couldn’t be done. They told me there was no way to add something to a shoe to give it better traction. Later though, a few folks did believe in me, most importantly Dwayne Wade, who became my business partner and the person who co-funded my idea, as well as Urnex, who is a sponsor here tonight. Eventually, we launched the product with Foot Locker! It’s been an incredible experience. Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard got involved, and we sold the business about two years ago. I’m now involved in expanding into new products and investing in new start-ups. So whatever you do, it might be the next big idea.
Mark French is a Founding Partner of MISSION Athletecare™ and Inventor of Court Grip™, an NBA endorsed, patented traction enhancing formula and delivery system. Mark’s invention has been credited by ESPN, CNBC, the NBA, etc. as ‘one of the most dynamic innovations in the sports industry’. Mark developed his Court Grip business with an all-star team of partners including Miami Heat World Champion Dwyane Wade. In addition to Dwyane Wade, Mark worked closely with NBA superstars Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, as well as the NBA, the NBA Trainers, and several premiere NCAA and NBA coaches who all endorse Court Grip. Starting in Footlocker, Court Grip was recognized as one of the fastest selling accessories in sports retail history and is now available in more than 20,000 retail locations worldwide. Today, Mark is in discussions with the leading global sneaker manufacturers who are looking to maximize Mark’s patents of embedding his Court Grip formula directly into the sole of the sneaker.
Prior to the official launch of Court Grip, Mark merged his business with MISSION, and joined as President and led the company’s product innovation, marketing and M&A efforts. Mark and his team launched EnduraCool™ a revolutionary instant-cooling product line. Mark worked closely with partners Serena Williams, Reggie Bush, Ryan Tannehill, etc. on the development and marketing of the EnduraCool product lines. Mark produced and directed all of MISSION’s national marketing campaigns and led PR activations for the company. Including unprecedented integration into programs like The Today Show, Good Morning America, Sports Center, the Tonight Show, Mark orchestrated some of the most high profile product features. Under Mark’s leadership, MISSION was recognized with global and national awards for consumer goods packaging, sports marketing and product innovation. With their astronomical revenue growth, MISSION recently secured $35 million dollars of growth capital.
About the event: Canopy Brand Group, a New York City-based branding and advertising agency, joined forces with Wishbone, to break the cycle of high school drop-outs in New York City, via the S.P.A.R.K. (Smart, Powerful, and
Continued at: Mark French/S.P.A.R.K.