Taking a risk: Jason Lewis

Columbia salesman hopes to start nonprofit youth league
Sunday, November 6, 2011 | 4:44 p.m. CST; updated 7:15 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 6, 2011
Jason Lewis wants to grow his client base as an insurance salesman at AAA and start a nonprofit youth sports league for disadvantaged children in Columbia. He is currently working toward his MBA in Sports Management at Columbia College.

Jason Lewis was tired of feeling like he was replaceable. He’d worked for numerous banks and mortgage companies since graduating from MU in 2002, and in 2009, he was laid off from his job as a mortgage broker.

“Shortly after I lost my job,” he says, “It got to a point where I was like ‘Wow, I’m never gonna be happy unless I start my own business.’”

So Lewis, 33, went back to school. He’s taking prerequisite courses at Columbia College, in pursuit of a master’s degree in business sports management.

But there was a problem: During the first year of taking classes, with a wife and three kids to support, he couldn’t find work. He never considered himself at risk of sinking into poverty, but that’s exactly what happened.

He couldn’t pay the bills, and his family went on food stamps. He declared bankruptcy. “It was a humbling experience,” he says. 

In November 2010, Lewis got a job selling insurance at AAA, and things slowly began to turn around. He’d been receiving various forms of financial assistance through the center, and when he heard about its business start-up program, he had an idea.

Two ideas, actually. 

First thing’s first, he says, he needs to take care of his family. He’s trying to build his client base at AAA, and wants to use any microloan money to hire a sales assistant so he can spend more time recruiting clients. He hopes this can put him a step closer toward opening his own AAA office. 

If he can reach a certain level of financial security, then he’ll go after his dream. Lewis has always had a passion for athletics. He played football at MU and coaches his kids’ sports teams, and he hopes to start a nonprofit youth sports league for low-income kids. 

When he was growing up, he says, he couldn’t afford to play on an expensive club team, and he’s frustrated when he sees poorer kids being priced out of certain sports — and often priced out of having something to do during the summer. 

He’s done some research and crunched some numbers, and his ideas will take time, money and manpower. But he’s found a direction, and he’s determined to follow it.

“I need to be able to get out there and make good money for my family,” he says, “and at the same time, do what I love to do, and that’s coaching.”

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