Student startup taps soccer’s universal appeal
Soccer transcends national barriers. When Seokhoon Jun and James Jun moved from South Korea to Toronto in 2002, they discovered that, more than just a game, soccer could be a way to transition into a new life.
“I was a soccer player myself—I was involved in soccer all my life, volunteering, organizing games, coaching kids, etcetera,” said Seokhoon Jun, fourth-year entrepreneurship student and founder of the soccer non-profit STADIUM. “It was the biggest tool I had to adapt and get into the social groups here. I learned a lot from other people involved in sports, and it helped me through bad times when I had depression.”
The appeal of soccer is universal: the sport is not only globally popular, but it also has virtually no barrier to access. “Oftentimes when we look at our players coming from Europe, from Africa, from South America, they already know the game,” said James Jun, founding member of STADIUM. “They’ve been playing it in some form or another at home. And they come here, and unlike other sports such as hockey where you need to buy equipment, you can just wear your running shoes, come out, and play.”
STADIUM is an initiative that organizes pick-up soccer games around Toronto, geared towards Canadian newcomers. Since incorporation in November and launching operations in February, STADIUM has held more than 70 events at locations including Nelson Mandela Public School and Thorncliffe Park Public School (where free kids’ programs are held all summer long). Proceeds go towards funding free soccer games in underserved communities.
“Ultimately, the games come down to fun,” said James Jun. “We keep it casual. We keep it focused on the players so they get a lot of playing time and forget what they did beforehand, what they’re doing afterwards. They can focus on the game and meet new people.”
STADIUM was developed as Seokhoon Jun’s two-year entrepreneurship capstone project at the Ted Rogers School of Management, where students were encouraged to identify their own interests and build a business model in that domain. The business was incubated in the SocialVentures Zone, which helped develop a model for recruiting volunteers, and was recently accepted into iBoost.
He credits TRSM Professors Steven Gedeon and Charlene L. Nicholls-Nixon for helping get the business off the ground: “They provided a lot of insights into building business models, and how to scale your business idea from your own interest into a reality. They helped me design the whole operational side of the business.”