Joyce Anderson

Founder of Honest Game

Through sports, Joyce Anderson learned early that determination and hard work breed results. She was a four-year NCAA Division-I starter for Columbia University’s women’s tennis team, where she was a two-year captain, team MVP, and All-Ivy League honoree. At Evanston Township High School, just north of Chicago, she has guided countless student-athletes through the college athletics process both as an advisor and was the head girls’ tennis coach. In 2016, she was awarded Regional Coach of the Year by the Illinois High School Tennis Coaches’ Association. She serves on the NCAA Eligibility Center High School Advisory Group and as President of the board of directors for Girls Play Sports, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering leadership and confidence in girls through their participation in a wide variety of sports. Prior to working in education and non-profits, she was an attorney at Sidley Austin in Chicago and enjoyed her pro bono work in a variety of areas including fair housing, family law, asylum and a death penalty appeal. Her experiences in education, athletics, and nonprofits inspired her to switch gears and co-found with Kim Michelson, Honest Game, a public benefit corporation, to level the playing field for all high school student-athletes. Joyce has a bachelor’s from Columbia and a law degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Evanston, IL with her husband and three young sons.

Where did the idea for Honest Game come from?

After years of helping student-athletes navigate the college academic eligibility process, and seeing how human error and lack of understanding can affect eligibility, we knew we needed to do more. Some 800,000 student-athletes every year find themselves academically ineligible for college sports. We also know that college student-athletes are nearly 30 percent more likely to graduate with their bachelor’s. Nonetheless, there continues to be a socioeconomic divide in youth and college sports. With educated strategic guidance, directed motivation and technological support, students can drastically improve their learning outcomes and we can level the playing field for all!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day starts with a cup of hot tea and getting my children off to school. I start off with our KPIs to check the tasks I have for the week. Lists keep me organized and help me prioritize what needs to get done first. I find great satisfaction in crossing items off my lists. Dedicating large chunks of time to one task keeps me focused and allows me to really dive deep into the details. Of course, we have calls throughout the day that break up my chunks of focused time but being efficient with my time is essential, as my work day is also interrupted early by my three children coming home from school. Work often starts back up after they have gone to bed. Evening time is when I am able to get to the tasks that were not at the top of the priority list earlier in the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I use maps, charts, user flows, and outlines. My brain works in a linear fashion, so seeing each step mapped out allows for me to find the holes and think of different scenarios.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Talking about race. I love that books like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi are mainstream. For so long, it was impolite to make others feel uncomfortable by pointing out ignorant comments. I love that understanding our differences and trying to help others see our own pain is becoming an encouraged practice. It’s also okay to apologize when you’ve made a mistake. We all say things we didn’t mean. Instead of hoping nobody noticed, the trend is now to talk about the elephant in the room so we can all learn and move on.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always try to finish one thing before starting another. While it’s difficult to really work on one thing as an entrepreneur, this habit allows me to complete tasks even when there are 100 tasks on my to-do list. Also, it can’t be perfect all the time, so you have to execute without fear and if it doesn’t work out, be OK with a pivot.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be open minded, as you never know where you will end up!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The NCAA genuinely cares about their student-athletes.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Ask for advice. Admit you don’t know all the answers. Seek out those who have been through it already. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Study hard. Study your customers. Study your business model. It seems obvious, but many people simply go with their gut and start spending money. If you really dig deep reading, doing customer interviews, and understanding the basics of your business, you will be well-positioned to make quick and decisive decisions.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

At the outset, my co-founder and I were nit-picking over decisions, which led to many arguments and lots of wasted time talking in circles. We got through it by doing multiple personality tests, examining those tests deeply, and learned to understand how our individual strengths add tremendous value to the business. Now we are champions at communicating with each other and finding compromise!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A dev shop that focuses only on MVP (minimum viable product) builds for early-stage startups.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Data entry! It is way more efficient to have someone at a lower wage enter in simple data and have founders do QC!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

A CRM called Pipedrive helps us manage our customers, leads, and deals.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz: In what’s often a rat-race climate of college admissions, young people need to do some self-exploration.

What is your favorite quote?

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does and that is his.” – Oscar Wilde

Key Learnings:

  • Learn to effectively communicate with your co-workers to encourage harmony and efficiency
  • Study hard – knowledge will power sound and quick decision making
  • Ask for advice and admit when you don’t have the answers
  • Execute – don’t let fear delay action