If it’s making money, don’t give up on it, said Roy Scott, rapper-turned-founder of Healthy Hip Hop.
A new partnership with Champ System — a growing Kansas City sports apparel company with a popular hip hop-inspired mascot — will keep the performance- and tech-based startup in school gymnasiums and beyond as Scott’s company continues a pivot meant to scale its operations, he said.
“Even though we’re transitioning away from having all our revenue tied up in the live events — we’re still pushing forward with our technology — there’s still a market for live shows and we still make money,” Scott said.
With Champ taking the field alongside Healthy Hip Hop, the brands are now developing new content for Scott’s online educational platform, as well as plotting out live productions, he said.
The vision is to establish a franchise model that will allow performers — dressed as the Champ mascot and perhaps a mascot version of Scott — to spread out across the country, hitting more cities than Healthy Hip Hop could as only a two-man operation, he said.
“We can contract out other dancers and DJs to show up and show out,” Scott said. “We’re fine-tuning the model locally, but there’s a bigger picture.”
The popular Champ mascot, which has already appeared at sneaker festivals, schools, First Fridays, and even the 2017 Kritiq fashion show, will be key as Healthy Hip Hop aims to expand into such cities as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Dallas, he said.
“A lot of kids, especially in the urban core, want to see someone who they can relate to,” Scott said of Champ, the mascot modeled after Champ System founder and former professional football player Maurice “Champ” Woodard. “He’s got the dreads, he’s kinda swaggin’ out. It just fits perfectly with Healthy Hip Hop.”
Teaming with Champ System comes about six months after co-founder Reggie Gray left Healthy Hip Hop. Half of the company’s former live performance duo, Gray now serves as executive director of Black Privilege, a nonprofit that supports black-owned businesses in Kansas City.
The parting was amicable, Scott and Gray said, both acknowledging its roots in Healthy Hip Hop’s traumatic experience with a never-aired episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The two scored a deal during filming, but their segment was ultimately shelved — denying them national exposure for their educational platform and a $500,000 investment through the show, Scott said.
“Obviously that was devastating. I was like, ‘OK. A life-changing moment. Bam. Slam them in the trash can,’” he said. “After I got out of my funk, I knew we had to find another way to get there. We got in the trenches with entrepreneur resources. And when the pivot came, we just weren’t in the same place. It took the wind out of our sails, which is understandable.”
In May, Scott won top honors in the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge on behalf of Healthy Hip Hop, adding another $20,000 to the company’s already impressive list of monetary awards.
The latest funding news: Healthy Hip Hop is now going through due diligence on a grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation for $100,000 in matching funds, Scott said.
“All the pieces are coming together, but it’s a grind, bro,” he said.
Grind going global?
Champ System’s tagline — “We Global” — resonates with Scott, he said.
“I’ve always had a global vision for Healthy Hip Hop,” Scott said. “I’ve had to rewind back — to take the local steps to get there. It’s about culture, fashion, music and uplifting people – children and families.”
A collaboration with Champ seemed natural after meeting Woodard at a multicultural business event organized by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Scott said, noting a previous professional relationship with the Champ System founder’s brother, Murray Woodard, a program officer at Kauffman.
Scott followed Champ on Instagram and was immediately impressed, he said.
“There ain’t too many brothers that got their own shoe,” Scott said. “I was like, ‘This is dope.’”
Now donning Champ apparel himself, the Healthy Hip Hop CEO said he previously considered creating his own tie-in clothing line, but working with Woodard was already proving to be a winning decision.
“Our co-branding is really going to change the game,” Scott said. “It’s going to really elevate us.”
Woodard and the Champ mascot will be part of programming streamed into classrooms through Healthy Hip Hop’s educational component, which is currently being beta tested in three major metro markets across the country, Scott said. The full launch is planned for January with sales targeted at schools and districts.
A direct-to-consumer mobile app is expected in summer 2019, he said.
“With it, the parent who wants to stream Healthy Hip Hop music can stream it exclusively through our app, and they can also create content in a safer environment for kids,” Scott said.