K-State alum is founder of STAA
(October 18, 2012) Many college students pay thousands of dollars to learn how to put together their multiple passions into one job and create a life for themselves. Jon Chelesnik, founder and CEO of the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America, achieved that goal and he knows that “ability is not enough.”
Chelesnik was always passionate about sports. He participated in them during high school and he knew he wanted to continue in college in some way or another. After graduating from K-State in 1989, he began working at a small radio station in McPherson, Kan.
“I reported news and sports, and I hated doing news,” Chelesnik said. “It was good for me. It’s like when your parents tell you to do something and you don’t understand why. Years later you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, they were right!’”
It was in McPherson that Chelesnik met Matt Walters, current marketing consultant and host of “The Game” for radio station KMAN-AM 1350. At the time they met, Walters was attending Bethany College.
“We were both involved in news and sports,” Walters said. “I worked with him for a year and a half, and we fostered a great friendship over the years.”
After working in McPherson, Chelesnik decided to branch out and begin hosting sports talk shows on TV instead of only being behind the microphone. Chelesnik said he loved it for several reasons.
“I discovered that I really liked sports broadcasting,” Chelesnik said. “It’s a wonderful fringe benefit of being in the media, the access to people and places.”
Not even Chelesnik knew that his love for sports broadcasting would lead him to the two jobs that he said were the best of his entire life. In 1999, Chelesnik began hosting a show on ESPN Radio Network and doing sideline reporting and college play-by-play announcing with The Football Network.
“His work is great,” said Steve Smethers, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at K-State and former radio broadcaster. “I’m proud to call him one of ours.”
Chelesnik said his job brought him daily joy, so it was beyond painful to him to only experience it for four years. In 2003, ESPN demoted Chelesnik and The Football Network stopped broadcasting in 2004. Chelesnik lost both jobs that meant so much to him.
“I called my dad and cried,” Chelesnik said. “In that moment, I just needed my dad.”
At this point, Chelesnik began to develop the idea for the next, and arguably the largest, step in his career.
“My recovery from that setback took about 30 minutes,” Chelesnik said. “You realize that life doesn’t stop for you.”
Chelesnik had to move forward, and asked himself the question, “What else do I do?” Thanks to a support system created by his parents and his wife, Chelesnik began to teach himself how to build something from nothing.
“Everything I learned about starting a business was self-taught,” Chelesnik said. “The genesis of starting a business just came from the idea, ‘Now what?’”
Chelesnik founded the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America in 2006 with the plan to share what he had learned throughout his career to benefit others. The agency offers career consulting, resume help and serves more than 520 clients nationwide.
“This gives me the opportunity to help other people,” Chelesnik said.
Walters said he didn’t expect the man he worked with in his college town to become the head of a talent agency, but the move made sense.
“When Jon decided to start his business, it was news to me,” Walters said. “But I think it’s a perfect fit. He’s a guy who’s passionate about sports and pays attention to detail.”
Chelesnik came back to K-State for the first time since graduating to speak to journalism students on Monday. Smethers was a part of the board that allowed him to come.
“It’s an amazing thing that we were able to bring him to K-State,” Smethers said. “And it’s funny, because I haven’t even met him yet.”
Chelesnik advises clients on self-presentation and how to follow up on job openings by continuing to be “politely persistent.”
“It seems like a great idea,” Walters said, “and I’m thrilled that he’s having such success with
Chelesnik said he is thrilled as well, not just about his success, but also about how he gets to spend his days.
“I’ve got a blessed life, to be honest,” Chelesnik said. “I’m very thankful for it.”
Read more at The Kansas State Collegian where this story was originally published.