In 2020, when everything was still so unknown about the coronavirus pandemic, Deakin alumnus Reuben Williams was told his dream job at Cricket Australia was on hold for a minimum of 10 weeks.
But for Reuben, this potentially heartbreaking news, was the beginning of something much more exciting. It gave him the opportunity to develop his own company from an idea that was seeded when he was a Deakin sports management student a few years earlier.
In 2017, with help of a grant from the Community Bank at Deakin University, Reuben set about creating content for his YouTube channel SportsGrad. It was designed to give advice to students who were pursuing a job in sport.
Later that year, Reuben landed his dream job at Cricket Australia, using the knowledge and skills he gained working at sporting events and making content for SportsGrad throughout his studies.
Working full-time at Cricket Australia meant that SportsGrad moved to second priority; that was until the pandemic began.
When the first lockdown was announced, Reuben was told that he did not have any work for 10 weeks, so he decided to pack everything up and move to a studio in Lorne. He named it “The Lab” and it is where he poured every ounce of energy into developing SportsGrad.
Reuben spent up to 40 hours on Zoom each week talking to students who wanted to get into the sports industry. The one recurring question was: “How do I get into sport during the pandemic?”
The only dilemma was that he himself was temporarily out of work.
Throughout the 10 weeks of furlough, Reuben developed several new SportsGrad channels, a website, social media, and a podcast ready for launch.
When prolonged lockdowns eventually resulted in redundancies at Cricket Australia, SportsGrad became Reuben’s sole focus.
A week after he was made redundant in June 2020, the first SportsGrad podcast was launched. Just three days later it was the number one “careers” podcast on the iTunes store in Australia.
The next few months blew up for Reuben and SportsGrad. In November 2020 the first version of the SportsGrad online community went live. The community was made up of students looking for mentorship and work opportunities and professionals already in the workforce. Very quickly, students started landing jobs at Cricket Australia, AFL clubs and many more.
In early 2021 Bennett Merriman and Shannan Gove from Rosterfy (a tech company for sporting events) and Spark Event Group (a company designed to help events with casual staff) noticed the incredible work that Reuben was putting into SportsGrad.
Reuben, Bennett and Shannan all shared a common career pathway. They are all Deakin alumni, all worked in the sports industry, and all wanted to help others get their dream jobs in sport.
Their conversations over the following months led to an investment to help get SportsGrad to the next level. This investment led by Bennett and Shannan also meant that Reuben could start to earn an income from SportsGrad, and Ryan, his business partner could leave his job at Cricket Australia to work full time at SportsGrad. It also meant that SportsGrad could get an office and podcast studio. Now the vision began to come to life.
After publicly announcing the investment and partnership in early 2022, SportsGrad has continued to grow, connecting industry professionals and students. In that time, they’ve grown the community to over 300 members, 35 organisations, and have helped land more than 200 jobs in sport.
Reuben hopes to keep building on the great success of SportsGrad as he continues to grow networking opportunities and the SportsGrad community.
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