Glenn Witman is the co-founder of the You Can Play Project, Gforce Sports, and is a real estate developer in Denver, Colorado. You Can Play Project is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
You Can Play Project also works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, and only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success. It seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.
In this interview, Glenn shares his passion to help closeted gay athletes become confident and accepted by teammates. Glenn also talks about his real estate venture, entrepreneurship and why activism suits his entrepreneurial character.
After you're fired up and inspired by Glenn's mission as an entrepreneur activist, be sure to follow him on Twitter for the latest updates on YCP!
What motivated you to start You Can Play Project? How did the idea come about?I was motivated to start the You Can Play Project (YCP) because growing up playing sports, I was never able to be my true self to my teammates, friends and family and I didn’t want closeted gay athletes to go through the same experience I did. When I came out at 28 years old, everything in my life changed for the better, including my athletic performance.
Eventually, I started a gay all-star hockey team that traveled around the country playing in straight tournaments. This was the beginning of my activism and showing the heterosexual world that gays can be great athletes and teammates. As a part of Gforce (the name of our team), we conducted “invisible athlete forums” at universities and high schools were we would talk about our experience as closeted athletes and it’s effects not only emotionally but on the playing field.
It really helped break down barriers and gave our straight teammates a glimpse into our lives that they hadn’t realized existed. Patrick Burke moderated a panel for us in 2010 and two weeks later emailed me saying he wanted do more and possibly form a new group. We joined forces with Brian Kitts and that’s how You Can Play was formed.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?I love the freedom of going after your dreams, taking an idea and making it a reality. I do it every day in my real estate development career, but it’s the activism that’s most rewarding.
What I am most proud of is when I hear how we have changed a younger persons life for the better. How he or she doesn’t feel afraid or sad anymore. How their relationships with their family and friends has improved and how they have a more positive outlook on life. When I hear those stories, it makes me proud of what I do and all the hard work worth it.
When you started You Can Play Project, how did you plan everything out? Any resources you used to write a solid business plan?Luckily for us our two founders backgrounds are in law and marketing so we were familiar with writing business plans. Between the three of us, we kept going back and forth until it was perfect.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?The toughest decision I’ve made was saying no to money from a company whose product/view point I didn’t feel represented by non-profit. We were in our infancy and we really needed funds, but had to hold true to our beliefs. It would have been very easy to take the money, but it wasn’t who we were or are to this day.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?I wake up early around 6:00 am, shower and get my thoughts for the day in order. I’m usually at my desk around 6:30 am, when I start digging into YCP emails. Around 8:00 am, I switch to my real estate business. Four days a week, I exercise from 11:30-1pm at the gym or I play ice hockey. Grab a quick lunch after that and work until 6:00 pm or later depending on events for YCP or my business. I strongly believe in exercise everyday. It helps me think clearer, make better decisions, stay healthy, and increases my energy.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape You Can Play Project?My father has been my biggest influencer and role model. He is in his 70’s now and works like he just got out of college! He maintains balance between work and his home life and has fun while he is doing it. Same is true with YCP. Patrick, Brian, and I work really hard with our staff and board members. When we get together, we make sure to really enjoy one another’s company. It’s important to have levity in any situation.
When it came time to register your business with the state, did you handle the legal paperwork yourself or did you have an incorporation service like LegalZoom do it for you?Brian Kitts has a business/marketing background and registered our non profit. For my personal business I do use a private real estate attorney.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?Balance is so important. Working out, eating well, and spending time with your loved ones/ friends makes life enjoyable. I recommend scheduling everything you want to do because if it doesn’t get into the schedule, it doesn’t get done. Both my husband and I have very hectic schedules, so we make sure to pencil in time to hang out and relax together. It works!
We’re huge believers of every entrepreneur keeping their business’ finances under control. How do you keep You Can Play Project books in check?We have an accountant for YCP to keep track of our finances. We also are very judicious with our spending.