Paving her way in a challenging journey to success, facing numerous challenges and obstacles, Danielle Cantor Jeweler has broken the glass ceiling to become one of the most empowering women in business.
As the Partner and Executive Vice President at FAME, Danielle is passionate and dedicated to her clients with a result-driven approach. Her achievements have inspired many women to pursue their dreams and break barriers in their respective fields.
Danielle’s success is a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and perseverance. She continues to set an example for women everywhere to strive for excellence in their careers.
We caught up with Danielle to learn more in-depth about her professional journey.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at FAME. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to spend time in or around the professional sports business. I wasn’t sure if I could necessarily make a career in the sports industry because it simply wasn’t on my radar back then. I had several relevant and impressive summer jobs/internships in the sports industry. However, I didn’t believe there was a real future for me in the business side of professional sports. I thought I was going to work in finance or marketing, like most of my friends and peers coming out of the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton at the time. I figured I could volunteer, find “passion projects” to do, get involved with Boards and non-profits in the sports world, etc., while ‘making a living’ in the finance industry. But, after contacting SFX Sports Group, because I had read that David Falk sold his company, F.A.M.E, to SFX (a large media conglomerate making waves in sports and entertainment at the time) for a large sum of money, my heart was set on pursuing a potential career in sport. I was hired for the summer as an unpaid “intern” (they didn’t even have such a thing as interns at the time) in marketing and finance.
I quickly realized that I had to follow my passion for the business of sport, regardless of the SIGNIFICANT difference in pay from the job opportunities I was offered in finance, accounting, and marketing. Eventually, I was offered a full-time position at SFX in the Talent Marketing division. Over the next 5-6 years, I worked my way up from Manager to Director to Vice President of Basketball Marketing.
When I started at SFX in May of 2000, it was a growing full-service sport and entertainment agency with about 1,100 athlete clients and approximately 900 employees across 7 SFX Sports offices across the United States (and another two offices in Europe). In 2007, SFX (owned by ClearChannel Entertainment) was acquired by Live Nation, and the sports-related business was not part of Live Nation’s long-term vision, so each agent/sports division restructured and moved on. I was weighing my options at the time, as I was working closely with/for several prominent basketball agents and their respective clients, so I was conflicted about my future. Ultimately, when David Falk told me about his plan to relaunch FAME, this time as an ultra-boutique sports agency, and he shared with me his vision and the opportunity for me to become his partner in the business, I was all-in, and we relaunched the new version of F.A.M.E., together, in 2007.
I did not PLAN to become an NBPA Certified Agent. As I said, I always knew I wanted to have a career in sports, but I decided to focus more on financial management or marketing/endorsements. This role evolved, naturally, over many years in the business. Over the years, I tried hard to lead with my values and avoid getting caught up in the ‘rat race’ of the NBA agent business. This industry is filled with unethical people and questionable business practices. It was tough not to ‘walk away’ many times when I constantly felt that no matter how hard I worked or how unconditionally dedicated I was to my clients and colleagues, people continued poaching clients, cheating, and cutting corners all around me.
I never lost focus and never tried to push too hard. I think staying focused on relationships—earning and gaining the respect of the NBA owners, General Managers, top executives at big companies, and NBA athletes alike—is how I thrived. I always cared more about my relationships than accolades, media attention, salary increases, job titles, or anything else. As long as the folks with whom I continued to work- whether daily internally or with key stakeholders and executives negotiating across the table—respected me and valued my role, I felt that was enough!
Everyone has a different path and a different journey. There isn’t a blueprint, a formula, or a roadmap to becoming a successful agent. Working for a huge sports agency was the perfect way to gain exposure to and experience in all aspects of the industry. I was willing to do whatever kind of work was needed on any given day, so I had the opportunity to learn about each area where our agency focused, including public relations, media training, client services, real estate services, investments, financial literacy, tax prep, legal services, branding, marketing, and so on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it allowed me to see the world of representing professional athletes from a holistic perspective, and I was able to do so through many different lenses.
Then, once I became a Partner at F.A.M.E., I evolved into the leader that I am today; I continue to rely on the knowledge and experience I gained throughout this 23-year journey working with NBA athletes to add value for my clients, my partner, and colleagues, and the folks with whom I’m working, negotiating, and collaborating every single day. I grew the most as a leader from challenging times, obstacles, and failures. I became the confident leader I am today because of the years of grinding, hustling, and patiently observing the ecosystem around me.
Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.
David Falk originally sold F.A.M.E. to a large media company in 1998. He was a visionary. SFX was one of the first large full-service sports agencies, and David Falk saw the market opportunity before anyone else. The many talent agencies in sports today (like CAA, Wasserman, Klutch, Excel, etc.) wouldn’t have the proof of concept or the business model without companies like SFX and visionaries like David Falk. Before David Falk changed the landscape for professional athletes to become brands (what he did with Michael Jordan really didn’t exist before, and certainly not for black athletes in team sports), there were very few business opportunities for those athletes beyond their playing contracts on the court or the field.
Then, David saw the industry trending towards huge full-service agencies representing hundreds of athletes. He decided to buck the trend again, returning to being a small, ultra-boutique agency to be different from everyone else in the space at the time.
When we relaunched F.A.M.E. in 2007, the vision and model were about being small, highly personal, individualized, and selective with our clients. In an era when sports agencies were a one-size-fits-all, high-volume, transactional business, we aimed to provide our clients with the highest quality individualized service and guidance. We saw our clients as partners rather than just another asset in our extensive inventory of business. Our business model was, and still is, built on quality service, a holistic approach to each athlete as his own business and brand, and only having a maximum of 10 active NBA clients under management at a time. We’re able to be more selective with the clients we recruit and sign, we’re able to spend more time with each client and their families, have deeper connections, and make more of an impact, both on and off the court.
After spending the first seven years of my career in a massive agency with hundreds of clients, it became increasingly more challenging to provide the level of service I wanted to provide, and to add value for my clients in ways I wanted, simply because of the sheer volume of clients. What I enjoy most about my job IS the relationships I build and maintain with my NBA clients, from the time they transition from college into the NBA as rookies, throughout their careers both on and off the court, and into retirement/post-NBA playing days.
The contracts I negotiate for my clients, both on-court and marketing/branding/endorsement contracts, provide financial security for them, but those are transactional. The lasting impact I hope to make on my clients’ lives—the opportunities and tools I hope to provide through educating them about business, introducing them to entrepreneurial opportunities, and empowering them to use their enormous platform to impact the communities around them—that’s what keeps me engaged, motivated and challenged every single day.
Enlighten us on how you have impacted the sports talent management niche through your expertise in the market.
As one of the very few women to crack the glass ceiling—being a successful agent in a male-dominated space—I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure more and more women have an opportunity to be successful, and to make a lasting impact, in this industry. Just a few short years ago, I was recognized as the only agent who identified as a female representing active NBA players. I was shocked to learn that statistic at the time, and I made it my mission to ensure that every talented young woman, and each little girl, could do the same. I spent time mentoring women in the sports business and taught and still teach classes in Collective Bargaining, salary cap, and negotiations.
I am constantly finding new ways to connect with and inspire other females looking to pave their way in this industry. Of course, I believe I make an impact on my clients’ lives and on helping to build their legacies. But I think the most significant impact I can make in this industry is opening doors for others to shine and continue championing other womxn in the field and elevate their stories.
Women often find themselves set up against one another, competing for a single seat at the bargaining/Board table. Women must champion each other. We must remember that we’re not competing against each other; we’re competing, together, with each other…for MORE seats at that table. We must amplify each other’s voices. Call out each other’s wins and, just like we do on the field, remember that we’re all in this TOGETHER…your win is OUR win.
Where do you envision yourself in the long run, and what are your future goals for FAME?
I have been here, doing the same thing, for 23 years. F.A.M.E. expanded our business by launching a venture arm, investing in, and advising, early-stage companies intersecting the world of professional sport in some way. That business is flourishing, and it is constantly evolving! I spend time mentoring young folks, doing speaking engagements, teaching classes in law school, and serving on advisory boards for a handful of companies and organizations. I am always ideating and pushing myself and our group to reach new heights.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into this sector?
It’s not enough to have a passion for sports and think that equals a career in the business side of sport. Many humans enjoy professional sports. It must go deeper than that. Try to find a way to differentiate yourself. Create value and become an expert in something, but don’t try to be an expert in everything. You have to bring something to the table. You can’t expect others to help you, so you have to give them no choice—bring the value they can’t afford to miss.
If you can’t find a way to do that, be willing to do whatever it takes to learn the craft and create that value. Use the network you already have to make connections. Be present. Connect and passionately engage when talking to people. When you disengage, leave the person wanting more; you do not need anything from that person other than a new connection. The best opportunities come unexpectedly, so focus on personal relationships rather than the potential associated opportunity.