Nekita Sullivan has faced the struggles of starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was like something out of a movie. Blakely Mattern was picking up her journal one day in 2014 when a newspaper clipping slipped out of its pages. It was a small article she’d cut out months before from The Greenville News. Flipping it over, she saw, fitting perfectly in the cut-out square, an advertisement for Clemson’s MBA program. Mattern took it as a sign.
A Greenville native, Mattern attended the University of South Carolina on a soccer scholarship and graduated with an international business degree in 2009. She went on to play professional soccer abroad in the Netherlands and Sweden before returning to the U.S. and taking a head trainer position at a gym in Greer. In between playing overseas and nursing an ACL injury, Mattern met India Trotter through a mutual friend. Trotter was the assistant coach for the USC Upstate women’s soccer team at the time but had previously played overseas and on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
While playing on various teams and coaching different groups, both Mattern and Trotter discovered a need in the young soccer community: comprehensive, supplementary soccer training. In addition to regular practice, girls were paying monthly gym memberships to keep up their strength and were also seeing trainers or personal coaches for technique and speed work. While Trotter was coaching and Mattern was training at the gym, the beginnings of a business model were taking shape.
“A couple of girls that summer asked if India and I could train them, so we started putting together sessions. … The funniest thing is that we started on this random baseball field like a mile away from my house, probably the worst field possible,” Mattern laughs. “But it was all we had at the time.”
Soon after, Mattern began to think of grad school, and the fateful newspaper clipping practically fell into her lap. She decided to pursue her MBA at Clemson, a decision that would help to catapult 11.11 Training from a developing idea to a full-fledged business.
11.11 Training, cofounded by Mattern and Trotter in 2016, is an all-inclusive soccer training facility for girls in the Upstate. Ages range from 10 to 18, and every girl is asked to come in hungry for improvement.
“Any girl that comes here is obviously taking the time and financially investing whatever it takes to get better, but those who grow fastest are those that learn — those who are humble and listen to those who have gone before them,” Mattern says.
While it was certainly a winding road to get to where she is now, Mattern is in her element — back in her hometown, training young girls in the sport she loves.
“11.11 is very much who I am and who India is. It’s a product of both of us and our experiences. And now, we’re giving back to the community and the girls that are trying to achieve what we’ve done.”
Clemson’s nationally recognized graphic communications program just got better, thanks to a nearly $1 million gift-in-kind from global press supplier Nilpeter Inc. The state-of-the-art flexographic printing press will enable the University to build on its reputation as one of the nation’s leaders in printing and packaging design education by providing students with this cutting-edge teaching tool.
“Nilpeter’s gift is an investment in the next generation of packaging design leaders,” said President Clements. “We appreciate, and are honored, that Nilpeter recognizes Clemson as a leader in preparing high-caliber printing and packaging design professionals for the industry.” Clemson’s graphic communications program has long been recognized as a national leader in packaging design and printing education with a hands-on approach that gives students an employability advantage. The program boasts a 95 percent employment rate upon graduation.
“Our students understand marketplace competitiveness and how implementing technology can keep companies strong and innovative,” said Charles “Chip” Tonkin, department chair. “The value of this gift extends to potential employers in that they want students who know how to utilize and implement the latest technologies to stay competitive. We appreciate that Nilpeter believes in our students and faculty to invest this level of commitment in Clemson and the industry.”
A global printing company with nearly 100 years of engineering expertise in printing, Nilpeter serves businesses in 65 countries with high-quality label and narrow-web printing solutions. “Nilpeter is strongly committed to the education of the next generation of printers. By operating the latest and most innovative technology, we aim to inspire skilled students to positively influence the printing industry in the years to come,” said Lars Eriksen, CEO and owner of Nilpeter.
Students chose Kerri D. McMillan as the 2016 Alumni Master Teacher. McMillan is a senior lecturer in the finance department of the College of Business and teaches courses in investment analysis, risk management, insurance and personal finance to 150 upper-level undergraduates each semester. The award for outstanding undergraduate classroom instruction is presented each spring to a faculty member nominated by the student body and selected by the Student Alumni Council.
“I am so honored to be the recipient of this award. I was still so excited Monday night, I could hardly sleep,” said McMillan. “I especially enjoyed hearing what my students had to say about me. I truly love my field of finance and teaching our Clemson students. When I pull into Sirrine Hall parking lot, I count my blessings. I love every day I am in the classroom.”
Alumni Master Teacher Award co-chair Parkwood Griffith said McMillan’s penchant for instilling passion in her students where it might not have been before and showing them the real-world applications for what they learn in her class helped set her nomination apart. “Students felt like she encouraged and prepared them about finance in the real world,” said Griffith.
McMillan received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Southeastern Louisiana University and an MBA from the University of South Carolina. Before coming to Clemson, she spent a decade as a portfolio manager and securities analyst for an investment management company in Greenville.