Accounting and MAcc alumna Rebecca Feickert launches nonprofit
A former KU women’s basketball player, Feickert’s startup aims to help student-athletes become leaders.
From her time studying at KU to getting an MBA at Harvard Business School and co-founding a nonprofit, sports have played a pivotal role in Rebecca Feickert’s life.
Feickert grew up playing basketball in Goodrich, North Dakota, and was recruited to come to KU. As a first-generation college student, studying accounting appealed to her because of the clear career options it provided.
Feickert found success in the classroom as well as on the court — she was on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll numerous times and named to the 2008-09 Academic All-Big 12 First Team. She was particularly motivated in professor Allen Ford’s classes. Remembering a quiz she received back from Ford with a note saying he was disappointed scrawled at the bottom, Feickert said she felt as if she missed a game-winning free throw.
“I think that’s really special, when a professor can have that kind of an impact on a student,” she said. “And it certainly wasn’t just me; I’ve seen him have that impact on hundreds of other students personally.”
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2009 and a Master of Accounting in 2010. The alumna started her career at EY in New York City, where she became part of the international tax group. She later joined private equity firm Partners Group as its first in-house U.S. tax counsel, but returning to school to get an MBA was always in the back of her mind.
“When I really started thinking about who I was and what I cared about and what I was passionate about, it kept coming back to sports,” she said. “I’m no longer a basketball player, but my identity is 90 percent athlete before it’s 10 percent anything else.”
Feickert wasn’t necessarily interested in working in athletics, but she did want to find a way to help student-athletes and decided going through a top-tier MBA program would give her the skills to make a career change and start a business. Feickert chose to attend Harvard Business School and will graduate this May. Next she plans to move to Dallas, where she will focus full time on building up Trey, a nonprofit she co-founded while getting her MBA that aims to help future and current college athletes use sports to become leaders.
During her time at Harvard, Feickert took advantage of opportunities to grow Trey from an idea into a full-fledged business, but its inspiration came from her days as a student-athlete at KU.
Looking back on her experience, she said she felt supported both by KU Athletics and the School of Business. Even so, the life of a student-athlete was challenging. Balancing classes and homework with workouts, practices, games and team commitments can turn college sports into a pressure cooker. If student-athletes don’t figure out how to strike that balance and build an identity beyond athletics, college sports can actually hurt them, Feickert said.
“We know that with more support from an early age, athletes can be successful from college sports and because of college sports, and that’s the mission of Trey,” she said. “We’re a leadership development program, and we help future and current college athletes use sports to become leaders so that they can leverage their athletic experience as a springboard to lifetime success.”
Several other Jayhawks are also involved in Trey. Feickert co-founded the nonprofit with her former KU women’s basketball teammate Ivana Roulhac, and former KU football player Darrell Stuckey is a core part of the team, along with KU graduate Brian Reynolds.
The team currently is looking to the future of Trey and raising seed capital with the goal of building up infrastructure so Trey can launch its first chapter in Dallas. They hope to establish the chapter this year, then start scaling chapters to other select major urban markets where there are a large number of talented football and basketball players from underserved communities.
Trey will offer a multi-year program athletes can apply to be part of or be nominated for. Programming will include workshops focused on college preparation and leadership development and one-on-one mentoring with former college student-athletes. Trey also will introduce an online information tool looking at colleges from an student-athlete’s perspective designed to help high schoolers find a team and coach that will help them succeed.
“Over the long term, the way Trey really scales is making our content available online so that any athlete anywhere or any coach anywhere that works with young athletes can get the support and the information that they need without necessarily having to be part of one of our intensive programs in one of our chapters,” Feickert said.