Former OSU women's basketball standout Jessica Davenport applies lessons learned on the court to her T-shirt company.
Basketball fueled the engine that allowed Jessica Davenport to see much of the world beyond her childhood home in Columbus before she turned 30 years old in June.
After injuries ended her professional career in 2014, the 6-foot-5 former three-time All-America at the Ohio State University returned full time to the city to explore a new life as a business owner.
"I've always wanted my own little piece of something in Columbus," Davenport says. "I wanted to have a little shop selling sneakers. Then I found out how hard it was to get a contract to sell the sneakers online."
"I needed stuff to fill a store with so I went online to see how you can get different brands. Then I got into customization and how T-shirts are made and printed. That just took over."
In March of this year, Davenport launched Envy My Tee, an online custom T-shirt and apparel shop housed in a convenient location for its owner and sole employee.
"I work from home," she says. "It cuts down on a lot of costs when you don't have to have a brick-and-mortar location. I want to outgrow my home. That's a goal. My house is paid for so I don't have that overhead. I live by myself, so I have the space to work and do what I want to do."
Basketball, of course, paved the way for more than a world tour that included stops with teams in France, Turkey, Russia and China.
"I did well," Davenport says. "I've always been smart with my money. I've got a house and two cars that I paid for when I was young. That allowed me to explore this venture and to see what I wanted to do with my life after basketball."
She didn't just jump into the deep end of the swimming pool. She studied the project for months and talked to mentors such as Jim Foster, former Ohio State women's basketball coach.
Davenport took a trip in 2014 to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where Foster now coaches.
"She was making the decision not to play," Foster says. "She always had an idea in her mind of what she wanted to do. She thinks about things. She analyzes them. She seeks other people's thoughts and ideas. Then she puts that all in her mind and gets on with it."
Davenport also called Becky Evans, the mother of former OSU teammate Beth Howe. Evans and her ex-husband opened Sport-About-Jackson Inc., a retail sporting goods store in Jackson, Ohio, in 1979.
"I told her that she has to find her niche," Evans says. "There's a lot of competition out there. And she knows a lot of people. She needs to let them know what she's doing. Maybe that person doesn't need what she has. But maybe a friend of his does."
Davenport does orders for individuals, but tweaked her business plan in June to concentrate more on small businesses and organizations. She credits basketball for how she plans a workday.
"It helped me with time management," Davenport says. "I've always been the type that goes into the gym and gets my stuff done. I don't play around. I've applied that to business."
"I have a little dry erase board by my bed. Every night, I write down a list of things that need to be done the next day. As I do them, I wipe them off."
The image of the dry erase board didn't surprise Foster.
"I used to walk into practice and Jess was already there before everyone else at a basket doing her routine," he says. "When you see a player of that level doing the detail work on a regular basis, it's comforting."
Davenport is filling about 20 orders a week and slowly growing each month.
"I don't have a big, screen-printing operation," she says. "I have DTG. DTG is direct-to-garment... You put your garment in the printer and it prints out.
"I don't have setup fees. I don't charge by the color. My website is self-explanatory. You pick a color. You add your design. If you make a design that has clip art on it, it's already professionally done. I print it and mail it out."
Davenport smiles at the thought of expanding beyond her home and adding employees in Columbus.
"I don't know what is going to happen in life, but I want to be rooted to home," she says. "I've had opportunities in basketball and people have helped me along the way. I want to pay back."
Sportswriter Jim Massie covers OSU women's basketball for The Columbus Dispatch.