"What should a company stand for?" asks entrepreneur Felix Sención '93, one of Crain's 2007 Forty under 40 New York Business Rising Stars. "It needs to be more than profits. It needs to make a change."
As owner of sports media company The Mundial Group, Sención has put his theory to practice, inspiring soccer fans of all ages with Fútbol Mundial, a sports magazine dedicated to international soccer. With the recent expansion of his business into Read Fútbol Mundial, an interactive school program which strives to pique grade-schoolers' interest in non-fiction reading, Sención's passion for inspiring change has taken flight.
Sención began honing his entrepreneurial skills as a student in the Communications Department at NYU. A transfer student, Sención juggled four part time jobs and still found time to launch Pit Productions, his own event promotions business. The small company was run out of Sención's basement apartment in the Bronx, and before long, generated enough profit to pay Sención's tuition bill.
Upon graduation, Sención took a job in finance, but soon found himself increasingly drawn to entrepreneurial ventures. He joined the staff at the New York Daily News, where he helped to build an in-depth multicultural department-the first of its kind at a mass market paper. Over the course of five years, Sención's interest in providing services to multicultural communities grew into a full-fledged passion. When Hurricane Jorge devastated the Dominican Republic in September 1998, he organized a celebrity golf tournament, which raised $50,000 in aid for those who lost their homes. These efforts caught the attention of executives at NBC, and the network asked Sención for help with their first English-language special on the Dominican Republic. When the network showed its gratitude by specially thanking Sención for his assistance at the close of the program, inspiration took hold.
"I realized that there would continue to be a need in serving this ethnic, Latino marketplace," Sención said, "and the place where it was lacking the most was sports."
Determined to provide marketing services to multicultural communities and organizations, Sención left the New York Daily News and launched Sensación Marketing Creatives in February 2001, housing his office just one and a half blocks from the World Trade Center. When 9/11 occurred seven months later, Sención lost everything.
Luckily for Sención, and other small business owners in the lower Manhattan area, a NYC Partnership with the Chamber of Commerce provided small businesses with office equipment to get back up and running. With confidence restored, Sención reassessed his business ventures, and launched Fútbol Mundial in spring, 2002.
Since then, the magazine has become the country's largest Spanish-language sports magazine, reaching millions of readers of all ages. When the magazine ran an article titled "Say No to Racism" in September, 2006, Sención received a drawing from a little girl who had been reading Fútbol Mundial with her father each week. The message on the front of the drawing read "Say no to racism," and on the back, she wrote, "My favorite team is Las Chivas. I always read Fútbol Mundial."
Inspired by the girl's words and dedication to reading, Sención decided to create something to encourage children and families to read together. With world-famous soccer player Pelé as the spokesperson of the initiative, Sención launched Read Fútbol Mundial, a pilot campaign to support youth success through reading and soccer. The program joins a kid's sports magazine with lesson plans and a reading log for students. The goal is to get kids reading non-fiction material thirty minutes a day, five days a week. Read Fútbol Mundial is funded solely by Sención, but with aid from public and private funds, he hopes to integrate the program in schools around the country, as well as expand content to include baseball and other sports. Ultimately, Sención believes that by combining the power of kids' interest in sports with a push for non-fiction reading, it will be possible to change the 70% drop out rate currently plaguing Latino students in urban public schools. To read more about the mission of this innovative program, please visit the Read Fútbol Mundial website.
When asked to share a bit of advice with students today, Sención urges them to simply remember their ABC's – take action, believe, and have confidence. "You will always face challenges starting out," says Sención, "but with a lot of care, a lot of creativity, and a lot of research, you'll be able to turn your passion into something special."