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Jasmine Maietta Founder Round21 Basketball

Athlete to Entrepreneur

The path to starting a brand that blends art and sport was not a straight one. Jasmine Maietta grew up in (very) small town Oklahoma, a first-generation— daughter of immigrant parents from India. She played basketball from a very young age, with her cousins and brothers as teammates and opponents until eventually going to a Division III school which gave her a way to keep playing.

The Early Days

Jasmine Maietta Round21 Art x Basketball

As an athlete, Maietta shattered a lot of stereotypes, not only for the Indian community but for young girls and other students at her high school as she went on to play professional basketball in Spain. And, she didn’t stop there. Maietta went on to coach for 6 years before transitioning to a 20-year career on the marketing side of sports. That’s Jasmine’s thing, she doesn’t want to be labeled as just one thing and that’s always led her to pursue her own path. 

“I’ve never set out to do a specific job, but the one thing that’s always been constant for me is sports. The sounds of sport has been the soundtrack of my life. From a basketball ball bouncing on Oklahoma dirt roads to basketball courts in Spain to TV shoots with Tom Brady, those sounds have been with me everywhere I go.”

Tapping into Athlete's Off-Court Passion 

Art and Sport Round21 Basketball Representation NBA

In 2011, during the NBA lockout, Jasmine Maietta, then marketing director at Hasbro, got the chance to talk to athletes about what they love to do when not playing basketball. That conversation turned the NBA lockout moment into a platform for NBA Players Kevin Love and Blake Griffin to express their passion for Jenga (and sell a lot of games along with it).

That moment for Maietta along with numerous others at Reebok, Hasbro, Under Armour, and Peloton were the driving force behind Round21's business model. Maietta wanted to completely disrupt the idea of putting company agendas ahead of what’s right for players and fans. She wanted to prioritize the people above the brand.

The Round21 Platform 

By doing so, Round21 was born and so was the mission to bring more self-expression to sports. Maietta saw first-hand how athletes and artists were used to sell products without any creative control over the message and wanted to create an alternative.

The Round21 platform unifies artists, athletes, and fans to express stories and individual identity through products and experiences that represent the people’s values.

Born During the Pandemic

Going at it full-time as a solo founder since 2020, the entrepreneurial journey for Maietta hasn’t been easy. The first year was during the pandemic when everything was uncertain. But, Maietta saw an opportunity as everyone was stuck at home.

NBA Round21 Art and Sport

“Knowing fans and players were spending time at home, we used the canvas of a ping pong (paddles) as a place to express the message of social justice and mental health. The NBA took notice and brought our paddles into the NBA bubble as a way to spark a conversation about social justice and equality and I knew we were bringing more meaning and identity to the sport.

After that NBA moment, Round21 launched a Kickstarter campaign which promoted the idea of art x sport and crushed their goal. Then, the brand grew with a Shark Tank appearance and partnerships across the NFL Players Association, the WNBA Players Association, the US Women's National Team Players Association and more.  When artists and athletes reach out to Round21 for guidance or support, she shares the same thing with them.

“Know your personal story and personal brand and develop it—knowing you control it. A lot of times athletes and artists get handed someone else's story to tell and bring it to life. And, a lot of times they passively go along with it. Every decision you make should be in service of the story you are trying to tell. And that includes the company you keep. I suggest they take stock of their values and their roots and clarify their story for themselves to ensure everyone else will understand it.”

More Representation is Needed

That philosophy is something Maietta also aims to shape Round21 by but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had entrepreneur doubts here and there. When she reflects on the early days of Round21 she mentions how the people she would network with came from totally different backgrounds and lived experiences. 

When we started, I was introduced to so many people including other entrepreneurs and investors and I felt very much like an outsider looking in. I never questioned my work ethic and commitment, but started to question if I could simply do it because I couldn’t relate to them."

Brittney Griner Round21 Art and Sport Womens Sports WNBA

Now 4 years in, Maietta has led Round21 to partner with over 100 artists and 30 teams, leagues and athletes leading with her original vision of making standing out a new standard in sports. 

“I sometimes go back and look at the brand documents from 2019 and 2020 and realize so many insights and values still hold true in how we operate the business today. And, how so many small moments have led to momentum for what’s to come. Our goal is to continue doing this alongside our community of fans, artists and athletes so they can be part of a new way to represent in sports.”