By Hunter Dail
FGCU’s Franco Miller and Dakota Rivers have goals of playing professional basketball when their college careers are done. In the meantime, Miller and Rivers are budding entrepreneurs.
Miller and his brother have a clothing company in their native Bahamas while Rivers has built large social media followings on TikTok and YouTube with his basketball tips.
These two Eagles have taken advantage of a new NCAA rule called Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court — by a unanimous 9-0 vote — upheld the Ninth Circuit ruling that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cannot restrict education-related compensation benefits for student athletes. In the last 16 months since NIL has been enacted, players at top schools have received five-, six- and seven-figure endorsement deals.
Miller’s and Rivers’ deals aren’t as lucrative, but it gives them a little extra spending money — something they wouldn’t have been allowed two years ago.
Through meetings with Mark Bole, an instructor in FGCU’s prestigious entrepreneurship program, the two players have picked up some good tips.
Ironically, social media didn’t make a good first impression with Rivers.
“One of my old friends introduced me to TikTok in December of 2019,” he said. “I first thought, ‘This is so ridiculous. I’m not going to do it.’ Then I thought a little more and realized it could be beneficial to helping people get strong, faster, quicker, or knowing how to dunk or jump higher.”
One video turned into two, and over a couple of years, Rivers had done about 300 videos. He found it fun.
He also found out how viral it could become when people said he sounded like rapper Lil’ Yachty.
“The video blew up,” said Rivers, who now has 346,000 followers on TikTok despite taking a six-month break, along with 52,000 followers on YouTube.
Rivers also has an ambassadorship with JBL and Crocs.
“They don’t give me a lot,” he said. “But I have enough to get some food at night.”
While Rivers built a social media following, Miller and his brother, Tahnaj Thomas, a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A affiliate in Altoona, Penn., started designing clothes.
“We talked about it at first and thought it’s something we would want to do outside of sports,” Miller said.
Since the brothers’ playing seasons are completely opposite – September to March for Miller and March to August for Thomas – the two often communicate through FaceTime or Zoom calls. Their brand, JBY (JBYclothing.com) stands for Just Be Yourself.
“What we liked is that our brand was modeled and has its own stamp,” Miller said. “We make graphic T’s — things that are more original, something where you could tell it’s from Bahamas.”
They also have used ideas from each draft for a design. So far, they’ve sold about 400 items from their collection.
“Our schedules conflict so we’ve had to put it on pause,” Miller said. People still can make orders. “But we’ll work on this as best as we can and pick it back up.”