Jbara shares experiences, advice at Center for Sports Studies event

March 28, 2022

Steve JbaraLike many Trine University students, Steve Jbara graduated and began a successful career path, first working at R.L. Polk in Southfield, Michigan, and then taking an information technology role at Ford Motor Company.

But it wasn’t what he wanted.

“People have had incredible careers at Ford, and they’ve made great lives out of working at Ford and other big corporations, but for me, something was kind of missing,” the 2010 alumnus said.

During a presentation March 24 in Fabiani Theatre as the annual speaker for Trine’s Center for Sports Studies, Jbara described how an encounter at a restaurant with Joe Dumars, former player and, at the time, general manager of the Detroit Pistons, resulted in an invitation to be part of a meeting to request an NBA Development League expansion team.

“My entire career has been asking other people if I can be involved,” he said. “I’m not super smart. But I’ve asked to be involved in things.”

Though that effort failed, Jbara eventually became part of a group that purchased a franchise from Springfield, Massachusetts, and moved it to Grand Rapids to become the Grand Rapids Drive, now the Grand Rapids Gold.

That experience has led Jbara into other entrepreneurial pursuits. In addition to starting and selling two companies, Jbara currently serves as CEO of Atomic Honey, a Detroit-based advertising agency, and chief strategy officer for WaitTime, a startup that has developed artificial intelligence software capable of providing real-time insights into crowd behavior at sporting events.

He also is the chief strategy officer and a board member for Air Company, a Brooklyn, New York-based firm that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to create products like jet fuel and alcohol. Jbara related how that opportunity came about from a conversation with a classmate when both were struggling at Harvard Business School.

“No matter what situation you’re in in life, you can always be kind,” he said. “In two years, I was the only human being who had a conversation with him, and I was the one he decided to call. And so now, we have a massive business in New York City.”

He also encouraged students to develop their public speaking ability and to build their networks.

“Early on, I was a huge networker,” he said. “I went to every chamber event, every young professional group. I wanted to meet people, know people. Sometimes those events are a pain … but they are pretty necessary.”

The Trine Center for Sports Studies is a multidisciplinary teaching and experiential learning collaborative at Trine University focusing on the study of sports and the international sports industry. The Center draws from well-respected Trine University programs and courses in business, health sciences and communication to provide the broadest range of sports-related academic major, minors and internships to prepare Trine students for this fast-growing, dynamic international marketplace.

Photo: Steve Jbara, owner and president of the NBA G-League Grand Rapids Gold, speaks at an event hosted by Trine University’s Center for Sports Studies in Fabiani Theatre on March 24. (Photo by Jessalyn Friederick)

Last Updated: 03/28/2022

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