The following is a conversation between Nigel Sylvester, founder of Nigel Sylvester Foundation and Tasia McLeod, director of the foundation, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Denver: Nigel Sylvester has redefined what it means to be a BMX athlete, using his creativity and digital content to reach millions around the globe. Best known for his innovative GO series, Nigel’s journey began in the streets of Jamaica, Queens where he first discovered his passion for BMX. But Nigel’s impact goes far beyond his incredible skills on the bike.

In 2021, he founded the Nigel Sylvester Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of underserved youth through the power of bicycles and financial literacy education.

With National Bike Month having just occurred, we’ll dig into this inspiring work that his foundation is doing and how it’s making a difference in communities.

And joining Nigel today is Tasia McLeod, the director of his foundation.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Nigel and Tasia.

Nigel Sylvester, founder of Nigel Sylvester Foundation

Nigel: Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us. Appreciate it.

Tasia: Thank you so much for having us.

Denver: Can you share that pivotal moment in your grandmother’s driveway, Nigel, when you first touched a bicycle, and how that passion got started and influenced your journey?

Nigel: Sure. So, I grew up spending a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. She had a daycare taking care of a bunch of kids in the neighborhood, and my mother worked very demanding hours. So I spent a lot of time there.

And it was just one day… I remember it like it was yesterday… and I came out into the driveway. My older cousin was there; he was hanging out. I think he was fixing his bike, and I got onto the tricycle that was in the driveway.

And you know the tricycle with the two wheels on the back, one wheel in the front, and the pedals are connected to the front wheel, and just being curious, being hyper, being very active, I got on it and started ripping around the driveway. And for some reason, I decided I want to lock up the front wheel by jamming on the pedals. And once I did that, the back of the tricycle spun around as if it was a car drifting.

And my older cousin has seen that, he was like, “That was really cool. Do it again.” So, I pedaled really fast and locked up the front wheel and spun around again. And he proceeded to set up cones in the driveway, and he was like, “You need to do that around these cones,” and I started to drift around these cones on my tricycle at the age of four years old.

And I truly believe that’s the moment that I fell in love with bicycle riding and this path, this journey that I’m on now. It started at that moment, and the bicycle chose me, and I’m forever grateful for that moment.

Denver: Oh, that’s an incredible story. I mean, if anybody asks me later today, “Are BMX riders born or made?” I will say, born.

Well, growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood with limited resources for BMX, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in pursuing your dream?

Nigel: That’s a really good question. It came down to, well, one, when the dream became a thing for me, when I realized that just telling certain people in my neighborhood or in my family that I wanted to become a professional BMX athlete, that was weird, right? It was like, “What is that, and how are you going to do that?” We didn’t see many black BMX athletes on TV or even just in general… it was a handful at that point in time. So, kind of getting that encouragement and support was a bit difficult.

And then second, the BMX industry didn’t really happen in Jamaica, Queens. We didn’t have any skate parks. We had one bike shop that kind of catered to BMX, but it didn’t really cater to it in the way that an aspiring BMX athlete would like and need it to. So, that was also difficult, so I had to venture outside of Laurelton, Queens to be a part of the culture of BMX.

And so did a handful of other kids that rode BMX bikes in Laurelton…we had to travel to.. whether it was Mullaly Skate Park in the Bronx, or whether it was Riverside Skate Park on 108 and Riverside in Manhattan, or whether it was Owl’s Head Skate Park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Those places are all an hour to an hour and a half train ride away from where I grew up.

So, it was one of those things that I had to really go out and try to find. And this is pre-internet. You couldn’t just go on social media or go online and hit a Google search and learn about the sport. It was one of those things where you have to go and sort it out.

But again, I think, I feel, and I know at this point that the bicycle chose me, and I went to go find those things. Wherever it was in New York City, I was there.

Denver: Yeah. Yeah. Makes you wonder, Nigel, sometimes how we did anything before the internet.

Nigel: It does, right? It does.

“I’ve been traveling the world since I was 17 years old, all over, and I’ve learned so much. I’ve been exposed to so much, and it has helped me kind of craft my POV, and I think that has lent itself to how I just look at the world and how I go after my dreams now. Nothing is too big.

Denver: But you know, in a strange way, it probably gave you a really good idea of the whole landscape. If it was in your community, you would have stayed local. But here you’re seeing what the competition is like, what other people are doing, so you probably had a much broader perspective than you otherwise might have if you could have been able to do it locally.

Nigel: Of course, man, and that’s one thing that I also credit BMX for, just in general. It helped me leave my comfort zone, helped me travel outside of my immediate environment and learn so much about New York City, about America, about the world. 

I’ve been traveling the world since I was 17 years old, all over, and I’ve learned so much. I’ve been exposed to so much, and it has helped me kind of craft my POV, and I think that has lent itself to how I just look at the world and how I go after my dreams now. Nothing is too big.

“The power of the internet is a real thing, and when you use it for good, incredible things can happen.”

Denver: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you have used the internet in a really creative way to break traditional molds of the BMX rider. How have you leveraged digital platforms and content creation to build your career and connect with such a broad audience?

Nigel: The power of the internet is a real thing, and when you use it for good, incredible things can happen. So, like being able to use YouTube and  different social media platforms, I was able to control my narrative; I was able to storytell with no filters.

So, something like BMX, where it’s not a traditional sport… it’s not like basketball or baseball or football, things of that nature where you have these big TV deals and these major platforms that are covering it from multiple different angles, but BMX riding, we have a handful of media outlets, like a global level. 

So, using the internet to create content, to experiment with content and share that with the world and kind of see what hits, what doesn’t hit, what people are into, what people are not into, getting that feedback in real time, so I was able to craft my content output throughout the years based on what I know people would enjoy, or how do I educate or entertain individuals that were like tuning in to what I was doing.

Again, it helped me reach people locally, but also helped me reach people in Paris or Tokyo or Australia or in certain places in Africa and et cetera, and that’s the power of being able to share content with people on that global level.

Denver: Well, one of those pieces of content that really did hit was your GO series. Tell us about it and what you hope viewers take away from it.

Nigel: For sure. So, I was at this point in my life and in my career that I wanted to create a content franchise that I own and that I can pretty much put all the things that I was into this content franchise– meaning bike riding, traveling, my circle of creative influences and athletes and thinkers, art, music, fashion, all the things that I was into that I was kind of like celebrating through my career. I wanted to create something to house all of that. 

And we filmed the first GO video in New York in 2015, and we didn’t have a big marketing plan behind it or anything of that nature. We just knew we had a very amazing piece of content, and we put it on YouTube.

And we speak about the power of  the internet and when you put out something good, it’s going to resonate. And we put it out, and it resonated around the world and in such an incredible way. And it was one of my first videos I put out that got over a million views, and it went viral. I was like, “Man, we have something very, very special here.” So the idea it could take this format, this content franchise around the world… like it was segmented, like we knew we had to go do that. 

And from that point, we created GO videos in Los Angeles, in Tokyo, Dubai, London, Paris, Miami, Las Vegas, pretty much like these very iconic and sought out the cities. We went there and created these GO videos that just highlighted what was going on in that city, highlighted how I interacted with that city… I think most importantly how we connected with the people of those cities who I believe are the heartbeats to these places, and people took to it. 

To date, we have over a hundred million views in seven videos of the GO Series, and that’s something that I’m very proud of, like the idea I remember the first scene I thought about. To think about that first scene, it was supposed to be a football scene with Victor Cruz and Darrelle Revis. That was the first scene of the video I thought about. So, to think that first scene turned into what the GO series and the GO brand is now… again, something I’m proud about and something that excites me.

Denver: Yeah. Well, I’ve always believed there’s no better way to see a city than on a bike. You’re really good.

Nigel: I agree. I definitely agree, man.

“And it had a huge impact on me, and it was very inspiring for me. And also throughout my career, giving back was something that was very important, and she definitely made sure that I did that.”

Denver: You know, you have said, Nigel, that your mother’s example of giving back to the community has had a significant influence on you. How has her example shaped the way you run your foundation and the way you try to impart those lessons to the youth that you support?

Nigel: Of course. So, I grew up in a household where I’ve watched my mother work extremely hard, sacrifice a lot to provide for the family and provide for her community. 

She’s an immigrant from Grenada in the first generation, so she came over to America in her mid-twenties in pursuit of opportunity, and with that, in a way, as a bridge. She’s a bridge for the family that already existed and the family to come and kind of bridging that between Grenada and here in New York. 

And my entire life I always see her go shopping, and she would go to Costco or BJ’s and just find different food, clothes, supplies, and pack these really big barrels and send them back down to Grenada, and my grandmother would distribute the products that were in these barrels to different people in the community and different family members. And I’ve seen how much of a positive impact that she had on her community and her family back in Grenada, whether it was school supplies for kids, whether it was someone had a leak in their roof, or someone lost their job and was able to live off those supplies and things that she sent back. 

And it had a huge impact on me, and it was very inspiring for me. And also throughout my career, giving back was something that was very important, and she definitely made sure that I did that.

And then in 2021, like, it’s time to concentrate those efforts and create the foundation and have a hub that I can give back to causes that are important to me. You know, I was like: the bicycle is such a powerful vehicle, it’s boundless. I was speaking about how it’s the most accessible motor transportation in the world. It’s like this rite of passage per se. It’s like, “Man, I want to give back to communities and kids in need through bicycle riding.” That was the first goal, and that’s what we started the foundation on… was the idea of that. 

And as the foundation continued to evolve, like, “Man, education is also very important and especially education from a financial standpoint.” And if you think about financial literacy, it’s not something that I think schools speak about enough. 

I turned pro when I was 18 years old. I really didn’t have much knowledge on how money and finances worked. And throughout my career, I realized how important it is to be well-versed when it comes to your finances. So, I was like: that’s something else that I want to make sure that we’re speaking about and supporting through the foundation.

And with the addition of bringing Tasia as director to the foundation, we have been able to really amplify our efforts in regards to giving bicycles back and teaching kids about bicycle safety and education… and then also on the financial literacy side.

Again, it’s something we’re very proud of, we’re happy about… and going to continue to do that work because we’re passionate about it.

Denver: Well, Nigel, thank you for the segue to Tasia because that’s where I was going to go.

Nigel: Of course.

Denver: Thank you. 

Tell us a little bit more about some of these key programs and initiatives that you’re currently running.

Tasia: So, since the inception of our foundation in 2021, our mission is for three main pillars:  to provide access to bicycles to our youth; we also want to empower youth through education like Nigel said, whether it’s biking education or financial literacy, and the final part is the heartbeats of our community, what are we doing to support them in our communities.

So, there are two programs that we are very proud of that we have going since last year is our Switching Gears program. So, Switching Gears is our six-week marquee foundation program where we teach the middle school-aged kids about biking one-on-one. We also talk to them about the mental health and physical health benefits of biking. 

As you know, research shows that 75% of people that bike are more happy, and research also shows with studies: 8% to 10% of people that bike have seen a decrease in depression and anxiety. And you know, that’s a big thing in our youth right now is anxiety and depression. So, anything that we can get to them to stray away from that is what we aim to do. And what we do is we have a nurse that comes in and talks about those mental and health benefits for biking.

And then we have our Financial Literacy program, which we teach seniors in high school before they graduate because as Nigel said: we didn’t have that in high school. Once we graduated, it was like, “Okay, you go to college, you take out a loan.” You don’t know what this loan is. You don’t go to college, but now you’re in debt because you’re taking out credit cards. Where is that literacy that we needed to be more responsible? So, what me and Nigel thought to do was the things that we didn’t have in high school, the things that we didn’t have in middle school– let’s put that in our community, and also support our community with different initiatives.

As of right now, this weekend we are hosting a voter registration at Roy Wilkins Park to support our district councilwoman, Nantasha Williams, because this is a big voting year. So how can we be in our community to amplify our voice and also show the community that we are there to support them? So, those are some of the initiatives that we currently have going on.

“We want to be able to give that kid the idea of: You can do whatever you want, whatever you dream of, and it usually starts in the middle school ages.”

Denver: Oh, those are really interesting, and it’s good to see you’re not redundant because often what you’re doing is you’re looking for what’s missing and  then saying, “Where can we fill the gap?” as opposed to, “Well, this is popular, but 800 other people are doing it.”

And I love the focus on middle school. You know, I’ve always complained. I live in Morristown, New Jersey. There’s just this obsession with grammar school, and then there is again with high school, and middle school is where everything happens. You know, that’s really pretty much where the direction of your life is set because you’re finally free of your parents in some ways and their influence, and you’re getting in with a certain group of friends, but we never pay that much attention to middle school as much as we should. So I’m so happy to see that you guys are there.

Tasia: Yeah. And one main reason we focus on middle school, I don’t know if you are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell. There’s this book, he talks about 10,000 hours, right? So, 10,000 hours you start, if you think about it before you turn, like Nigel turned pro 18… 10,000 hours starts at middle school age. So, if you have that dream, if you have that idea, if we’re able to give the kid a bike at that age, it unlocks that potential, like if you keep doing it, whatever it is, whether if it’s a bike, whether if it’s a book, whether it’s a computer, but we want to be able to give that kid the idea of: You can do whatever you want, whatever you dream of, and it usually starts in the middle school ages.

Denver: Well, I do believe that Nigel is the exception to the rule. I think he had 10,000 hours by the time he was six. 

Tasia, what are some of the biggest challenges that a young startup foundation faces in achieving its goals, and what are some of the things that you’ve done to try to overcome those challenges?

Tasia: Like we were talking before, Denver, some of our challenges I would say: we face is funding, but what I’ve heard is that a lot of foundations are dealing with that… funding to be able to get us to expand our programs. Because right now, we have six additional schools that are willing to sign up,  to have our Switching Gears program, and we want to be able to roll out those programs to the schools, but we need the funding to do so.

Another thing is finding teachers and instructors to lead our Switching Gears program. We want people that are as dedicated as we are to bicycling and helping kids and giving back. So, to be able to find those people that fit our core values, that fit what we’re looking for… those have been some of our struggles. But I know, again, we’re three years in, and we’re still new, and what we’ve done over the past three years, our goal is to deliver 10,000 bikes to the community, right? This past weekend, we just hit our 300 bike giveaway with the Boys & Girls Club activation that we did. So, we are on the right path, and we are trending up. 

But again, funding and finding volunteers that would like to teach these classes, that’s kind of like where we’re coming to a hard stop, but I know we’ll get over it.

Denver: Yeah, I’m sure you will. Tasia, how does Nigel’s celebrity status and public recognition enhance the foundation’s ability to achieve its goals? And are there any ways where it can also be a challenge?

Tasia: Oh, I think it’s more enhancing than challenging.

Denver: I would think so.

Tasia: Enhancing, because the kids, and even when we’ll go into the schools and they don’t know why we’re doing a giveaway and I’ll tell them about Nigel and how he’s amazing; it’s when I show them that video, or I tell them what he’s doing… or just go take a look at YouTube and their eyes just light up and after, it’s just like, “Oh my God, I want to be him. I want to be a BMX rider.”

So, I feel like it’s more enhancing and it’s more like, “I wanna do this.” We need more people like, “I wanna do this for the kids’ lives.” And I think that is something so positive and something that I find so endearing when we do these giveaways, or we even come to the schools to speak to kids or have the field day and things of that nature.

Denver: Nigel, let me ask you about some of your partnerships. I know you have corporate partnerships; you also have nonprofit partnerships. We’ve talked about Boys & Girls Club. Tell us about a number of those partnerships

Nigel: For sure. Being a professional athlete, endorsements are a big part of the business, and one of my premier partners is the Jordan brand, which we did a giveaway early this month for National Bike Month, where Jordan brand donated 25 backpacks, t-shirts, and sneakers for the kids at P.S. 118, and that was some pretty incredible as I continue to build that partnership with Jordan brand and Nike… that they’re not just supporting the Nigel Sylvester, they’re also supporting the causes that are important to me, such that… really, really cool.

Then, the Money Mindset program that Tasia  spoke to you about, it’s also supported by JP Morgan Chase, which is really cool that a financial institution such as them would take time to send out an instructor to educate our kids and speak to them about financial literacy.

So, very amazing to have these partners, a bag full of amazing partners, I wanna say, and everyone chips in to do as much they possibly can. 

I also want to salute Hyperice. So, Hyperice is the partner I’ve been signed up with for several years now, and at the end of this month, we’re donating a recovery room to Benjamin Cardozo, which is the high school I went to in Bayside, Queens. Yeah, it’s going to be sick. I believe it’s the first of its kind in a New York City High School, which is very cool, right? I think Cardozo has over 60 athletic programs in the school, and they don’t have a space for these young athletes, these student athletes to recover their body and recover.

And for me, being an athlete for all these years, I’ve been riding for BMX bikes professionally for 18 years, been riding for bikes my whole life, I know how important recovery is. You want longevity in any sport. Taking care of your body is probably the number one thing. So, being able to provide resources that would be located inside the school for the student athletes and also the faculty… you know what I mean… like these teachers, these assistant principals, these principals are running around chasing kids all day from 6:00 AM to 4:00 PM in all these hallways and whatnot and dealing with that, I could imagine this a lot. You know, I could imagine this a lot. 

So, again, this recovery room that we’re donating to Benjamin Cardoza at the end of this month where both Tasia and I and everyone involved in the foundation are very proud  to donate this room, and we know it’s going to be put to good use.

“I would tell foundations and organizations looking to connect with younger individuals: Invest into content, invest into really good storytelling… that has made a huge difference in my life and throughout my career.”

Denver: Yeah, yeah. Well that’s really cool. It’s another case of you doing something that a lot of other people aren’t doing, you know, running to a spot where no one is, and that’s a great way to have an impact. There’s no question about it.

You know, I talk to an awful lot of nonprofit organizations, and let me ask you, Nigel, a couple things that they asked me about… maybe you have some thoughts on it… and one is about really connecting with the younger generation. What do you believe nonprofit organizations can do to effectively reach younger… whether it be… prospective donors, or advocates, or people who are really interested in the cause that they represent?

Nigel: Right. That’s a really good question. In my opinion, I feel you have to meet those younger individuals where they are. You know, it’s very, very important. You know, early in this call, we spoke about attention span, right? You only got a few seconds to catch them, and after that, it’s done. 

So, I think something that is a good meeting point that we’re well-versed in and has been a cornerstone in my career is content, making compelling content that is engaging, that’s going to educate or entertain, and meeting those young individuals where they are on these social media apps. I spend hours on them, and I’m sure kids spend even more hours than me on them, you know? So, I would tell foundations and organizations looking to connect with younger individuals: Invest into content, invest into really good storytelling… that has made a huge difference in my life and throughout my career.

Denver: Yeah. Yeah. And it also sounds like you’re saying: Spend an extraordinary amount of time on those first 10 or 15 seconds.

Nigel: Oh yeah.

Denver: They’re not very good. Don’t set it up. Just get to it.

Nigel: If you might have to make 15 seconds, man, I think: better be good in the first 5 to 10. You gotta catch it, you know?

Denver: Well, you know I’m older, you know what I mean? I got the 15-second route.

Let me ask you both of this, looking ahead, and I’ll start with you, Nigel: What are the future goals and vision for the Nigel Sylvester Foundation? And are there any new initiatives or dreams that you guys are thinking about, or is it truly expanding what you’re doing already to a much bigger platform?

Nigel: Of course, man, like Tasia mentioned earlier that we have a very big goal of donating 10,000 bikes, and I feel like we definitely want to reach that goal as soon as we can so we can put another goal on the board.

Denver: Yeah. That’s a good attitude to have. Yeah.

Nigel: Right. We want to reach that as fast as possible. 

And then also, we also have a goal of donating a skate park to Jamaica, Queens. Though there were like, I believe, there’s one or two, but we feel that we have a really specific point of view of a skate park that we want to donate to that community.

Again, like growing up in Laurelton, Queens, I know for sure in Laurelton in the neighborhoods around, we didn’t have a skate park. I used to travel very far from them, and I know how those facilities, those areas galvanized communities, keep kids off the streets doing things that they probably shouldn’t be doing. So, that’s something that I’m very passionate about doing, and I’m sure Tasia has some things in mind that we discussed that she’s also passionate about executing.

Tasia: Yeah, we definitely want to expand our giving. This past February, we had the opportunity to go to Nigel’s mom’s hometown in Grenada to donate 50 bikes for their independence. So, we realized that it was a need too. Why stay domestically when we could go internationally because that’s a need as well, right?

So, even partnering with different tourism boards, we want to do and be able to expand our foundation, giving that way as well.

Denver: Okay. And Tasia, for listeners who want to learn more about the foundation, tell us about your website and what visitors will find on it.

Tasia: Yeah, sure. So, the website, you could find all our information is On there, you’ll see our past events that we’ve had; you’ll see our contact information if you want to reach out and support in any way, as well as our pillars and our missions and our programs that we have going on.

Denver: Fantastic. Well, I want to thank both of you for being here today. It was such a pleasure to have you on the program.

Tasia: Thank you so much, Denver. Appreciate it.

Nigel: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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