Connor Silva ’23 on the business of sports entrepreneurship

decorative graphic

In a pandemic world, Connor Silva ’23 decided to push the limits of sports engagement at Syracuse University. Silva, currently the director of the Syracuse Sports Business Conference,  undertook one of the greatest challenges facing organizations all over the world last year: recreating a physical community in a digital space.

Silva, studying entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and public relations in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, has always loved sports. Once he entered college, he knew he wanted to build a career in sports and in his freshman year joined the team of SSBC, a Syracuse organization bringing networking, keynote speakers, and panels all in the realm of sports to Syracuse students equally as passionate about sports. In the spring of his freshman year, SSBC had planned for an in-person conference bringing high-profile speakers from all over the country. The planning and excitement for their spring conference was cut short when the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

How does one carry on a large physical networking event, drawing students across the university and people from across the country in a digital space? This was the question that Silva and the SSBC team asked themselves as they endeavored to keep their community alive and connected while physically separated. The answer for them came in the form of a digital speaker’s series. With 23 episodes and 27 guests, SSBC made the move to an online format by inviting high-profile members in the sports world to share their experiences and be interviewed in an online format.

The resolve to continue their work online didn’t simply start with their digital speaker series. The team began to plan the annual SSBC conference digitally, usually hosted in-person at Syracuse university. On April 14th-15th of this year, the SSBC hosted their conference online, holding 8 panels of speakers over the two days, including individuals such as Cynthia Marshall, the CEO for the Dallas Mavericks team, and other representatives from ESPN, the METS, and NFL agents.

“The sports world is really quickly evolving. Just having people on to educate students who are curious about these exchanges is a good opportunity for people to learn and meet connections. It helps us and sets us apart,” said Silva on the value of SSBC and their networking conferences. For Silva, who hopes to create a career for himself in the sports world, the doors opened, and connections created through SSBC are invaluable to shaping a successful future for himself, and he hopes to help others find that same value through the organization. 

This year, as the director of the SSBC, Silva is working tirelessly to bring successful connections and enriching events to Syracuse students interested in sports. Planning a multi-day conference and hosting weekly speakers for his organization is no easy task. Particularly over the summer, balancing leadership, a full-time job, and now, his academics, has required plenty of early mornings and successful team management. “Leading this team right now has taught me a lot about being in a leadership role, trying to get everyone on the same page and keeping everyone motivated is hard,” admitted Silva about the responsibilities of his role.

Silva’s work has also involved partnership and collaboration with other Syracuse organizations. At the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Silva is working with other student startups in a new sports entrepreneurship cluster.  He hopes to be part of competitions and other initiatives to raise funding for his ventures. “It’s been a great partnership so far,” said Silva.

Silva hopes his work with the SSBC will lead to increased connections and career opportunities for himself and other students working to break into the field of sports. Along the way, he also cherishes the individual relationships and ways he gets to know other individuals working in sports. “At the end of the day, a person is still a person even though they may run the biggest sports team in the country.”

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow