In the latest episode of The Business of Giving, I had the pleasure of speaking with two remarkable individuals who are making a significant impact in their community: Nigel Sylvester, a professional BMX athlete and founder of the Nigel Sylvester Foundation, and Tasia McLeod, the director of the foundation. Their mission is to empower underserved youth through bicycles and financial literacy. This conversation sheds light on their inspiring journey, the challenges they’ve overcome, and their vision for the future.

The Genesis of a BMX Icon
Nigel Sylvester’s passion for BMX riding began in an unexpected place—his grandmother’s driveway. Nigel recounted, “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.” This moment was pivotal, igniting a lifelong love for BMX that would eventually propel
him to international stardom.

Growing up in Jamaica, Queens, Nigel faced significant challenges in pursuing his dream. “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,” Nigel explained. Despite these obstacles, his determination led him to seek out opportunities across New York City, honing his skills and developing a unique perspective that would later define his career.

Leveraging Digital Platforms for Global Reach
Nigel’s innovative use of digital platforms has been a cornerstone of his success. He emphasized, “The power of the internet is a real thing, and when you use it for good, incredible things can happen.” Through platforms like YouTube and social media, Nigel has been able to control his narrative and connect with a global audience. His GO series, a content franchise showcasing his bike riding, travel, and creative influences, has garnered over 100 million views across seven videos.

This digital approach not only elevated his career but also enabled him to reach and inspire a diverse audience. Nigel shared, “It helped me reach people locally, but also helped me reach people in Paris or Tokyo or Australia or in certain places in Africa.” His ability to create compelling content that resonates with viewers worldwide has been instrumental in building his brand and expanding his influence.

The Nigel Sylvester Foundation: Empowering Youth
In 2021, Nigel founded the Nigel Sylvester Foundation to give back to his community and support underserved youth. Inspired by his mother’s example of giving back, Nigel explained, “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.” This spirit of generosity and community service is at the heart of the foundation’s mission.

Tasia McLeod, the director of the foundation, highlighted their key initiatives: “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.” Their programs, such as Switching Gears and the Financial Literacy program, aim to equip young people with essential skills and opportunities to thrive.

Overcoming Challenges and Expanding Impact
Running a young foundation comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in terms of funding and finding dedicated instructors. Tasia noted, “A challenge 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.” Despite these hurdles, the foundation remains committed to its goals, including donating 10,000 bikes to the community.

Nigel’s celebrity status has played a crucial role in enhancing the foundation’s visibility and impact. Tasia remarked, “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.” This recognition has helped attract support from corporate partners like Jordan Brand, JP Morgan Chase, and Hyperice, enabling the foundation to expand its reach and resources.

As the foundation looks to the future, both Nigel and Tasia are focused on scaling their programs and exploring new initiatives. Nigel shared, “We also have a goal of donating a skate park to Jamaica, Queens… that’s something that I’m very passionate about doing.” Additionally, they aim to extend their efforts internationally, as demonstrated by their recent bike donation in Grenada.

In conclusion, the Nigel Sylvester Foundation is a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and community. Through their innovative programs and unwavering commitment to giving back, Nigel and Tasia are transforming lives and inspiring the next generation of leaders. Their journey serves as a powerful reminder that with determination and a clear vision, we can create meaningful change in the world

To listen to the full interview or read the transcript, just click here.

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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