Miya and Jushun Blackmon are cofounders of the Little Rock Lightning professional basketball team, and members of the Spark! 2021 cohort! The Little Rock Lightning is a professional basketball team that focuses on providing a professional basketball experience to the Little Rock community, fans, and business partners.
Spark! is a small business pre-accelerator that puts the right people, opportunities, and access in place for local entrepreneurs in Arkansas to grow their venture to the next level.
On this deep dive with Miya and Jushun, they talked managing a basketball team, the business side of professional sports, and the community-building opportunities the team brings.
On transitioning from other careers to entrepreneurship
Miya: It was a huge transition, and I couldn’t have did it without the Lord because I didn’t get a degree in business administration or anything like that. And that’s pretty much what I do now. I worked at UAMS, I worked at Children’s – I love being a nurse. Transitioning over, it went from me just managing myself and maybe five patients at the most, and now me managing a whole basketball team, 12 players with different personalities, and being an entrepreneur. So you have to learn how to sell yourself. Whereas, being a nurse, you kind of already have those credentials because you went to school for them. It’s been super fun and very challenging, but super exciting. Cause I feel like in this realm I’m able to do more.
On the origin of the Little Rock Lightning
Jushun: Because I’ve been around basketball, and I’ve been in Little Rock, Arkansas, my whole life, I know the scene here. And I know that as a city, we love basketball. We love basketball here. A few years back, before Little Rock lightning was a part of The Basketball League, we were actually operating as a semi pro / recreational league, and the community loved it. It was really fun. When The Basketball League reached out, we took it up to the next level. We want to take that challenge and step up and become a professional team, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s this best thing that we’re doing right now.
Miya: We came up with the name because we wanted to light up and shock the world. We wanted to create an avenue where we could bring the community together.
On the challenges of entertainment entrepreneurship and COVID
Jushun: Getting the awareness out there. That’s been one of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest challenge. We’re happy to get out there, and we love it because we love to get out and show who we are, but that’s been kind of a struggle. The root of the challenge was COVID this last year. We weren’t able to get as many people out to these games as we wanted to this last year, but this year even moving over to the bigger venue, we plan on trying to take that on and really get people out here, and get our name out there and show people who we are and how great our product is.
Miya: We’re thankful because we’ve got awesome new partnerships and sponsorships. Last year we were reaching out to people, and a lot of people are pretty much like, “Who are you?” This year we’re excited because – we’ve still gotta get the brand out there more – but we’ve been having people reach out to us, which is really exciting. So we know that the word is getting out a little bit more.
On the Spark! experience
I have already gained so much. I’m so thankful for you guys. As far as public speaking, they helped me with, with that. Cause you know, I was a nurse, so I wasn’t used to speaking in front of people a lot. From helping us put a business plan together to – there’s just so many things to marketing. My goal is to just receive more information as far as marketing, brand awareness, and just be a better overall business in order to almost treat it like a launching pad to launch our business even further.
Huge thanks to Miya and Jushun Blackmon for sitting down for an in-depth conversation with us and being part of Spark! If you’re interested in more about Spark! Or The Venture Center’s other programs, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop!