Earning His Leisure Through Leadership

Abdoulaye Sow with Earn Your Leisure founders

An alum always comfortable in leadership roles led to a prominent role with Earn Your Leisure, a finances media company that gained popularity as a business podcast.

No matter whether you believe leaders are born or developed, leadership is a quality that gets people’s attention. Abdoulaye (Ab) Sow ’18/’19 made it a point to further sharpen his leadership skills at SUNY Brockport which propelled a promising career that currently has him serving as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Earn Your Leisure (EYL).

EYL started as a business podcast and quickly turned into a major media company in the financial sector.

Sow realized a playing career in the NBA was unlikely to happen as teammates in high school possessed better scoring talents. So, he placed an emphasis on becoming a better leader, which as the team’s point guard included learning the roles and tendencies of his teammates.

That ability to facilitate and guide a basketball team has translated to the business world. As the COO of EYL, Sow is heavily involved in every component of the operation.

“I think of it like basketball, like I’m the point guard of the company,” said Sow, a four-year member of Brockport men’s basketball. “I might call the play, but I have to know everybody’s position in the play. Anything operations I have my hands on. I’m involved in almost every phone call, every email, whatever it might be. Whether that’s communicating with our CFO, talking with our lawyer daily, whatever it may be. I like to describe it as a bunch of responsibilities like I’m the point guard that makes sure everything is set, and then I let all my wings go and do all the scoring.”

Brockport – Growth and Development
With the realization that professional basketball was an unlikely future scenario, Sow knew he needed to focus on his academics. After selecting SUNY Brockport, Sow remembers taking his first couple of exams and thinking, “We didn’t have tests like this in high school!” But thanks to some academic guidance from his advisor and assistant basketball coach Seth Johnston, Sow quickly found his footing.

Sow’s academics prospered as an undergraduate criminal justice major. All the while the men’s basketball record improved each successive season, culminating in a 19-8 record and an NCAA Division III Tournament berth during Sow’s senior season in 2017-18.

Abdoulaye Sow basketball

“Ab was constantly talking to his teammates providing encouragement when it was needed and appropriate or challenging them to be better when it was needed,” shared Johnston. “Ab has a unique ability to read people and understand what they may need at a certain point in time.”

Although Sow never came close to leading the team in scoring, his on-court personality caught the attention of onlookers at several games and tournaments.

“I remember we played a tipoff tournament at Case Western Reserve and after the championship game we had a man that was at the game come down to us and offer Ab an internship,” explained associate head coach Joe Clarke. “He wanted his contact info because he was that impressed with how he led on the court, on the bench, how he interacted with his teammates and coaches, etc.”

Johnston verified the encounter and offered another instance in which Sow’s leadership abilities caught the eye of a fan.

“We had another person want to meet Ab after watching him lead and motivate our team to rally from a double-digit deficit for a road win. This person owned an AAU organization and wanted Ab to be a part of it saying, ‘I’ve never seen a player lead a team like I saw tonight. Is he always like this?’”

Sow earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and followed that with a master’s degree in athletic administration while working for the College in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) office. Upon completion of his graduate studies, he worked for about a year and half as a New York City admissions counselor.

Earn Your Leisure – Hands On
Troy Millings, the co-founder of EYL, was the after-school counselor of Sow in elementary school. The two stayed in touch and after the tragic loss of Sow’s father, Millings strongly encouraged him for a job with Operation Crossroads, a financial literacy program for teenagers. Sow accepted the position.

Abdoulaye Sow times square While Sow was working at Operation Crossroads, the EYL podcast was created by Millings, Rashad Bilal and Michael MacDonald. It focuses on financial literacy, but includes the financial perspective on pop culture, sports, and entertainment. EYL has exploded in popularity and the business has expanded to a multi-media company.

The company annually hosts extravagant festivals with celebrities in attendance with the goal of educating people on their finances in an entertaining way. This year’s attendees at the Atlanta based Invest Fest included Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Rick Ross, T-Pain, T.I.P., and the list goes on.

“We wanted to get away from the conference vibes. Most times you go to a conference you sit down, you have a pen and paper, someone preaches, and you jot things down,” Sow said. “We wanted to get away from that but still have the educational aspect of it, so Invest Fest is a three-day festival in Atlanta and basically what it is, is a mixture of festival and financial literacy.

“You get the same vibe that you would get at Coachella, Rolling Loud, with musical performances, a bunch of people there, food trucks, but at the same time it’s education, it’s financial literacy. We have panels, fireside chats, workshops on credit, real estate, how to podcast, anything and everything of that sort. It’s fun and it’s educational at the same time.”

Sow was offered a position as a manager for EYL a couple of years ago, and his leadership skills were quickly recognized. Shortly after joining the EYL team, he was promoted to COO.

So, the debate may continue to rage on whether leaders are born or developed but there is no arguing people gravitate to individuals in possession of strong leadership skills.

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Author: Kevin Stiner



Posted: September 19, 2022