Often times, the on-court allure of sporting superstars shadows much of the behind-the-scenes work of their agents. But when it comes to essentially every activity off court, the sports agent remains king, and with the emergence of the Essential Exposure Management Group, Cornell may have the next big sports management firm budding in its own backyard.
The newly founded EEMG is the brainchild of four rising seniors who are all either past or present student-athletes of the Cornell football program: Trey Duncombe, Jeremiah Shaw, Sean Scullen and Jelani Hoyte-King. The quartet started in August 2016, and the company has expanded quickly through an effective way of engaging with clients — the fact that they are athletes themselves.
“We’re not lawyers, we’re not doctors, and we’re not businessmen,” Duncombe said. “We’re just four college students, but we [have become successful because] the way that we built our company is unique from others in the industry.”
This “uniqueness” which Duncombe points to is a reference to EEMG’s personability and diversity in firm services. As student-athletes — Duncombe is a former Red cornerback, while Shaw, Scullen and King currently play at the linebacker, safety and defensive back positions, respectively — the four have looked to utilize their experience in order to build a real connection with prospective professional athletes.
In fact, the emphasis placed upon building personal connections with clients can be seen within the business model of EEMG. A foundational feature of the firm lies within its ability to meet all necessities of clients — whether that may be the traditional contract review, or a less-orthodox demand for help in picking out new clothes for an interview.
“We manage professional athletes but a little bit beyond what a normal sports agent handles,” Duncombe said. “We handle every aspect beyond just negotiation: plane tickets, new clothes … our biggest selling point is basically if he needs someone to do his daughter’s homework, we have a guy for that.”
In addition to its personable approach, EEMG also differentiates itself from competitors through its wide ranging network of professional teams and, of course, through its pricing.
“Our prices are the lowest in the industry without a doubt,” Shaw said. “Our athletes also aren’t limited to contracts within their specific sport, but their wealth can grow well beyond that because of the financial planners and investors we have in our network.”
A particularly notable connection which EEMG holds within its network is former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. And who better to approach for assistance getting into the world of football than a three-time Pro-Bowler, former MVP and NFL Hall of Fame candidate?
“Shaun … [has] been a great resource in helping us out with networking with agents and players,” Duncombe said. “In the [sports management] industry, if you don’t know people, you don’t have a chance, so he’s been a great help in that aspect.”
The beginnings for EEMG can be traced back to a time when the founders of the firm ventured onto Europlayers.com — a social media website designed to help football players seek overseas playing opportunities on a semi-professional level. Appalled by the way players were representing themselves, the EEMG founders received their first taste of management interacting with users on Europlayers.
“There were guys looking for different tryouts, and we got the idea that we should start representing them because they just weren’t doing it right,” Shaw said. “We started reaching out to them, had some success, and from there things just grew to the point where now we’re working at the professional top-tier level.”
Starting with mainly amateur and semi-professional players, the quartet quickly garnered success in representing players and moved into the professional market.
“[After] sending out tapes for a few of the guys, [we] got some replies from people saying [they] had talent to really make it in the NFL,” Duncombe said. “[After] that, we decided to shift our entire focus more towards professional leagues [and] started talking to more NFL teams and organizations, where we were able to build a NFL network with top level companies.”
With the shift to a more professional-oriented market, the founders of EEMG began reaching out to top level sports agencies for requests to work together. However, they would soon receive several unexpected responses.
“There was a lot of hostility and fear,” Shaw said of the responses from established firms.
“The rest of the sports management world was clearly threatened by us and we had absolutely no idea why,” Duncombe added.
But with a closer look at their operations, the founders of the firm said they began to realize the cause of all the hostility they received: the appeal of their student-athlete background was viewed as a potential threat for traditional sports agents.
“We started realizing the advantage in already being student-athletes: already knowing how athletes think and operate,” Duncombe said. “The sports agents over there clearly saw [us] as a threat to be very profitable without being corrupt and with low prices to the player.”
With the realization of the advantage that they held within the sports management world, Duncombe, Shaw, Scullen and Hoyte-King took a leap of faith and founded EEMG last year. And while the firm is in its new stages, there is much optimism heading forward. That is, after balancing it with exams and football practice.
“We’re still pretty new and building a client base right now, but we’re very excited for what next year holds,” Duncombe said.