This might sound cliche, but Blake Lawrence’s heroes are his parents.
His mom is a well-known Kansas City anesthesiologist and his dad is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City.
But these prestigious positions have nothing to do with why Blake admires his parents – they are his heroes because they have shown him how to make his story matter.
Blake looked up from his desk and pointed to a poster on the back of his door, “That’s me,” he said.
It was a photo of a Husker football player.
It was hard to recognize Blake in the photo, what with the helmet, red jersey and pads, but Blake said when he played football he felt like he had found what he was meant to do. He described how he carried around a football since he could walk, and had grown up being known as ‘Blake Lawrence the football player.’
But Blake doesn’t play football anymore.
In October 2009, he went from being a starting Husker linebacker to a former player because of numerous concussions, and suddenly he was no longer ‘Blake Lawrence the football player.’
His dream and identity were gone. Now what?
Blake said he sought out his parents for advice as he frantically began searching for his next steps.
More than words of encouragement, Blake said he found their own stories as the best fuel for moving forward.
Before his parents became a doctor and CEO they were high school sweethearts who became teen parents. The two got married and raised their family together for a few years, before divorcing when Blake was 4 years old.
However, the labels of pregnant teen and single parent didn’t stop either of his parents from pursuing what mattered. For Blake’s mom, it was becoming a doctor. She balanced life with two young boys and the demands of medical school. For Blake’s dad, what mattered was helping others. He worked low-paying jobs at a runaway shelter and the Big Brothers Big Sisters program long before he was ever promoted.
Yes, they went on to become well-known in their fields. They both remarried, giving Blake two additional parents who he loves and admires, but that happened because they made a choice early on. They chose to let their decisions, not their circumstances, dictate their lives and shape their identities.
And as a 20-year-old college student, Blake had a similar choice to make.
He decided that just because football couldn’t be his dream anymore, didn’t mean he was out of options. Especially in the context of what his parents overcame, Blake said he had no excuse for not pursuing another goal.
Blake quickly saw that finding unique ways to solve problems was a strengths of his, which led him to launch Hurrdat, a social media marketing company, in 2010.
Three years later he and a few friends started opendorse, a company that connects marketers with athletes to build stronger social media campaigns.
Some might question how fast Blake pivoted from football to the entrepreneurial world, but to Blake it just made sense. As a kid, he and his brother were always finding ways to turn a quick profit. They bought and sold candy bars on the playground and even started a basketball league where they promised kids new shoes and a ride to games – needless to say this endeavor was quickly shut down by the principal – but that kind of innovative thinking set the stage for Blake’s future.
Blake knows how to see a problem and find a solution. Much of his story is about finding what matters in the midst of disappointment, and choosing to move forward.
Blake is 26 years old, and a lot of his story is yet to be told. But if it continues to be about building great companies with people who care, that’s what matters most to Blake.