Dayo Okewale is the founder and director of Who’s Got Game Foundation, the organisation specialises in using sport as a tool for social change and development creating young leaders. He is also Chief of Staff and advisor in the House of Lords of the Rt Honourable Lord Dr. Michael Hastings CBE.
Former professional basketball player, Dayo believes sport is an underused medium for teaching and instilling life and social skills, he is passionate in promoting the use of sport as a tool for education and social change. From playing professional basketball in England, Germany, and Greece, Dayo has seen first-hand how the sport has the power to reach and change for good! Dayo is also an ambassador associate fellow for the Royal Commonwealth Society, contributing to research, policy and strategic planning and direction of the RCS. Dayo is also a part of the UNESCO Human Rights Global Integration forum leadership program, has published articles and essays on children’s human rights and child poverty. Dayo is s passionate advocate for human rights and vivid fighter for black equality. Dayo is also an international expert sports trainer working with the International Sports and Culture Association (ISCA) and hosting international sports training projects for the British Council and European Commission.
Dayo, can you introduce yourself to us?
I’m just a regular human with a life-changing commitment and purpose to see others succeed, and I’ve been blessed to run an amazing business and also advise in a high-level place of influence.
Coming from a sports-related background, can you take us through your journey as to how you arrived at where you are now?
So my journey is actually quite a perplexing one and sometimes I reflect on how truly divine and fortunate my journey was. I was fortunate to be introduced to basketball when I was 15 years old by a close friend, at the time I was on a rocky path and affiliated with a gang in the slums of east London. I guess basketball was a ‘door of hope for me’ into a better life and also opened me up to other an education and into other avenues of opportunity such as a music and acting.
I received a part-time scholarship to play basketball and attend Brunel University where I obtained a Business Degree, I then went on to play basketball professionally for a number of years. Once my career ended I worked in finance for a few years before starting my own basketball Charity; ‘Who’s Got Game’. WGG uses basketball as a tool for social change and to create young global leaders. I have since additionally worked and contributed sport for development material for the UN’s Education and Cultural Organisation and also European Commission and International Sports and Culture Association, and I currently hold a senior advisory position in the House of Lords.
Did you undertake any courses/workshops or rigorous training programmes prior to launching Whose Got Game? If so what, and where did you study?
Aside from my business degree I didn’t, it was a launch of faith and as basketball was a personal passion and former profession of mine I had the confidence and experience to create my basketball organisation.
Can you tell us how Whose Got Game uses sport as a tool to educate, inform, develop and encourage a healthy active living?
Who’s Got Game’ uses basketball creatively to teach life and employability skills through its non-formal educational programmes and events. We are currently in 170+ schools UK wide, teaching education through sport and after school employability programmes. Using basketball drills and techniques mixed with our pedagogical way of teaching to teach life and employability skills such as leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution and more. We positively impact the community by hosting innovative and inspiring events which unify, empower and educate communities on how to collectively come together for a common purpose. We work mainly in deprived and disarranged communities and use sport as a vehicle to create social change. All this is underpinned by an over-arching bond to actively participate in sport and incorporate it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Can you talk us through how organisations can capitalise on using sport to impact social change and maximise their revenue?
We have a huge corporate structure where we engage and consult corporates on how to use sport as a tool to engage their environment of operation and also the local community. We have a corporate basketball league which engages major corporates to play in a competitive league against rival companies and cross-sector companies, and we engage corporates on our objectives and how as a company they can support our work and also achieve their CSR commitments and citizenship responsibilities.
Who does the team involve at Who’s Got Game?
The team consists of 5 Staff. Myself as the founder and Managing Director, Ade Adewale as operations director, Carmen Straker our events executive, James Reed our corporate lead and Doyin Amoye as our head of schools along with our 194 amazing contract coaches.
What does your company structure look like?
We are a registered limited by guarantee charity, our organisation is made up of 3 major departments; schools, corporate and events.
What important factors did you consider when looking at the scalability of your business model?
I guess sport is unique as it’s a universal language and sport in and of itself has the ability to scale, cross-cultural paths and communicate to different markets globally. We wanted to create a charity that operated like a business, to have services and products that were unique but desirable and to create a culture of leadership and development with all of our programs.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Who’s Got Game is developing and growing rapidly across the world and I see that continuing, I’m currently working on another business which is a development summit I also see my current political career maturing.
How are you planning to expand Who’s Got Game?
We are piloting our current UK programmes in some schools across the US and we currently have programmes all over Europe, in the Cayman Islands and a few countries across West Africa. We plan to replicate these programmes further across the African continent and the Asia Pacific in next few years.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally as a sports entrepreneur?
I guess what was the biggest struggle for me was initially learning to delegate more and allow my team to bring my dream to fruition. I sometimes felt I could do all this by myself and effectivley this lead to me building the business around me, howver I quickly learned that this was just not sustainable.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
Yes, I’ve have several mentors at different stages of my business and life, mentors give invaluable lessons learned from their experiences, it’s a great way to transfer wisdom and also create a great support system from those in positions you aspire to be in one day.
What outlets do use to market Who’s Got Game?
We have several news outlets that help push our programmes and materials such as Evening Standard, The Voice, BET, Sky Sports, and online specific basketball and lifestyle social media pages
Which methods are you using to build your own network?
I guess for me I attend and speak at a lot of conferences both in my sports and political capacity so I’m also making new relationships and building old ones in my network.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
That it’s a glamorous life where you initially make lots of money and working for yourself is comfortable, yes benefits are possible but it a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and dedication.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in the business of sport?
More innovation, with the growth of technology there’s more space for businesses to be creative and adventurous.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
Say no to cynicism!
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Relationships are key, your network is your net worth and holding key relationships are very crucial for running a successful business.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I struggle, It’s tough.
The highlight of your career so far?
There’s been a few. Meeting Obama, launching our programmes in the Cayman Islands, where I met Will Smith and got to speak to him about life and business. And also
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Seeing other people who have discovered their purpose and livelihood through our programmes, out of the 70k young people that have come through our programmes so many stories, careers and businesses have arisen.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Jamal Edwards of SBTV, felt he changed the game in such a simplistic but powerful way, Richard Branson at Virgin too has also been someone I look up to and I feel our brand has the potential to branch out and expand like Virgin.
How would you say you are intending to use your voice to educate others within the sports industry?
We are creating a unique and interesting narrative using sport, entertainment and I think the power of sport as a tool for education and for life development is an underused tool, I think basketball as a team sport especially used in underprivileged communities and as the second most participated sport in the UK under 16 is a great sport to open up this conversation.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I read a lot of books, try to read 2/3 a month current book I’m reading is ‘Speeches That Changed The World! Amazing collection of the most powerful speeches in the world from the worlds greatest leaders.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
I listen to a lot of motivation and speech podcasts, my favourite probably is ‘Getting Things Done.’
How do you measure your terms of success?
I guess success in my eyes is how you impact others and are other people made better by your purpose.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
BEYOUROWN to me means leaving your own imprint on the world and allowing your individual purpose to change the world.
Lastly, what is next for you and Who’s Got Game?
To take over the world!