Following a successful 15-year career in the financial sector, Jason Atkins retired in 2009 to spend more time with his wife and four children on 200 acres he purchased in Smithville, Tennessee. He was 37 years old.
Atkins watched as his two oldest children attended public school in rural DeKalb County, which counts 19,000 residents in Middle Tennessee. He saw the limitations of public school resources in a county with a limited tax base.
Atkins also watched as his wife, Shannon, president of the basketball booster club on which her son played, tried to scrape together money to pay for basketball shoes for players whose parents were either gone, in jail or on drugs.
"I watched her butt her head against a wall trying to figure out how to help sponsors get a return on their money," said Atkins. "She'd come home, tell me about some of the cases and ask me what she could do. Kids were being ask to pay hundreds of dollars. If their parents are in jail or on drugs, that's a no-go."
Those experiences led Atkins to form 1 Vision Media in early 2019. The new business also pulls from his more than a decade managing a foundation dedicated to helping inner-city children across the world.
His business model is straightforward: utilize digital media — a jumbotron at a football stadium to start — as a platform to increase revenue from advertising sponsorships for high schools, provide it free of cost to the school system system, relieve parents of the responsibility of being full-time salesmen for their child's sports teams, and prepare interested students for a career in digital marketing.
Atkins is working with the Hamilton County School Board to make Ooltewah High the first school in the nation to implement the program.
"I think the most important thing is that we can use this program to prepare students for a career, just like the Future Ready Institutes," said Ooltewah football coach Scott Chandler. "The idea that we get the technology for free, have the existing money raised by our booster club guaranteed and parents don't have to raise the money would be an incredible thing for any high school program."
Atkins wants to have the program and the jumbotron in place and sponsorships sold prior to the first of Ooltewah's home games on Aug. 30. Presenting an overview to the school board on June 20, he said he realizes the short timeline is problematic for the board but that he is eager to help board members get all the information they need as quickly as possible.
"I am hopeful that when the board members get additional information, they will be supportive," said Dr. Steve Highlander, the board member representing Ooltewah.
Atkins wants to talk further with board members and Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson about the program's financials and potential. Under his proposal, Ooltewah would be guaranteed $40,000-$50,000 the booster club has averaged from sponsorship over the past five years plus a to-be-determined split of any revenue over that amount.
In return, Atkins will invest the estimated $200,000 to install the jumbotron and the software he developed specifically for the program. The school's only financial obligation is to install the necessary wiring from the unit to the press box, something Chandler believes he can get donated.
Atkins will use his share of the revenue to repay the initial capital costs. After that, the school and 1 Vision will split all revenue generated.
Atkins said the jumbotron is only the first step in the program and that a customized app will follow that will enhance the in-game experience for fans as well as be a source of additional sponsorship revenue.
"I believe a school like Ooltewah will prove the model works," said Atkins, whose business plan includes rapid expansion in Tennessee and nationally. "We want to be their partner for the long term and to generate sports revenue for a school when the tax base cannot meet the need. I want parents to sit back and watch their children play a sport, not spend their time raising money."
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