We recently took time to get to know the dynamic duo behind 8 in the Box (8itB) Productions – Harrison Larner, Medill ’23 and Matthew Coronado, School of Communication ’23. 8 in the Box Productions is a startup helping college student athletes monetize their NIL (name, image, and likeness).
How’s it going?
Matthew: Really, really great. We’ve talked about how fun this has been several times. What experience could be better than this? With 8 in the Box, we’ve learned so much about how to work with clients which is something we hadn’t experienced before this summer.
Harrison: It’s been really great to work on our project full time, instead of just nights and weekends.
How did you meet each other?
Matthew: We met our freshman year in our dorm room. We were across the hall from each other! And we had a big friend group that was actually a part of the company at one point.
Harrison: There were 8 of us, actually. We’re still friends with all those people! But it’s just Matthew and I running the ship now. The name of our company comes from the fact that there were 8 of us, though, to begin with.
Matthew: It’s also a football term.
Harrison: So it started with 8 of us making general sports video content and over time, it got more specific and we kind of had more people drop off as life just happened.
What’s been the most valuable session so far this summer?
Matthew: We just had one that was super engaging with Rick Desai. It was so helpful. All the sessions have been great, and even though everything we talk about is helpful, it may not always apply to what we’re working on.
Harrison: I really liked what he shared about growth metrics versus vanity metrics. It’s easy to get caught up in the vanity of it all – getting views on videos isn’t actually that hard but getting an audience that trusts you is hard. That was a good reminder for us.
So tell us what 8 in the Box is.
Matthew: As it is right now, it’s Harrison and myself helping athletes with video content that they can then build an audience around, and then monetize it. The monetization is only possible now because the NCAA changed the NIL (name, image, likeness) laws in place. That only happened on July 1.
Harrison: We made a pivot. We used to be making YouTue videos about kicking in the NFL.
Matthew: Looking back on it now, the reason we made this pivot is because of how the law changed – and it came down to, well, it was such a huge opportunity. We should use the time we have in Jumpstart this summer to fully pursue it instead of chopping our time in half. There’s a much higher ceiling with the NIL idea than there was with the YouTube videos we were making.
Harrison: The YouTube videos is why we can do what we do now in a very genuine way. That’s what we pitch to athletes we want to work with. We may not have your ability in sports, but we know the field and the creative side.
Harrison: The NIL law is actually different in every state, so in dealing with some athletes, it’s legal and everything’s fine, whereas dealing with others in other states, it can be different.
Matthew: But regardless, there is a hole in the market that no one is filling.
Harrison: Where we step in is helping athletes monetize themselves through social – where eyeballs are – and showing them that the best way to engage fans is through videos. Through helping athletes make video content, we’re able to help them grow, sell more, and get them more opportunities to work with bigger brands.
Do you have any competition?
Matthew: We have talked to a lot of student athletes about this exact thing. One person we’re working with at Northwestern shared with us that while he’s gotten a lot of offers about NIL, he hadn’t heard a single pitch like ours. It’s because no one is willing to put in the work to help athletes actually create content.
Harrison: Brands will slide into their DMs, which is what he was referring to, like “hey, let’s do an autograph session,” but we want to work with them, not just pay them a few bucks to advertise a website. Not a lot of people who have the knowledge of creating videos have the tech side, too. We really get into the weeds and do the stuff that others aren’t willing to do or don’t know how to do.
Matthew: Plus, we’re the same age as the athletes, which helps.
Harrison: We aren’t scammy!
What are some challenges you’ve faced in building 8 in the Box?
Matthew: We definitely are not perfect. Because the space is so new, and it’s really the wild wild west right now, we don’t really know what the best avenue to make revenue for us will be yet. We don’t know if it’s going to be having partnerships with athletes where it’s like, “we’ll help you out and we’ll do a split of the revenue that’s made from the posts,” or if it will be partnering with universities and we get a flat fee or flat rate – so it’s just new and we don’t know yet.
Harrison: Or maybe we’ll work with brands. We’d like to try that out, too.
Fast forward a year – where are you?
Harrison: We would really like to have an official partnership with Northwestern and maybe with another large institution to provide support to their student athletes, or be working with large brands on how we can integrate college athletes into their advertising. We’re working with a handful of people now, but all that’s stopping us from growing is hiring more editors. There has to be a certain amount of hours put into editing.
Tell us a little more about you.
Harrison: I’m a rising junior, class of 2023 – studying journalism and I have an entrepreneurship minor. I’ve been making YouTube videos since middle school. They were horrible! And as I got older, I realized that entrepreneurship provided an exciting challenge I wasn’t finding in other places. I liked spreading good messages and working with people and improving their lives at the same time, while making cool stuff.
Matthew: I’m also going to be a junior in the fall, and I’m in the School of Communication. This is all brand new to me. I never really thought about myself as an entrepreneur, or having that type of personality so it was so funny the first day I was in The Garage, I told Harrison about how much of a culture shock it was. It just wasn’t my experience to to be with such business-minded people, but it’s been so fun to learn the in’s and out’s of how it all works. My background with comms fits into what we’re doing because I spent a lot of time studying the patterns of social media. I bring that expertise to our team – so we have a good dynamic.
Harrison: It’s hard to describe why we work so well together. We have complementary skill sets but we’re close friends in and out of the company.
Matthew: We just have different ways of going about things. We’re open and transparent about how we work together.
To learn more about 8 in the Box, head to their website: 8intheboxproductions.com
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the startup teams admitted to Jumpstart, The Garage’s pre-accelerator Program. For more information about Jumpstart, clickhere.