Momar Sakanoko is a French-Senegalese entrepreneur who started his career as a professional athlete. Hailing from a family with a renowned sporting legacy, he started off playing soccer (football), then switched to basketball, thus following in the footsteps of his siblings.
He played and learned basketball in the academy of a professional club called Metropolitans 92. At 12, Sakanoko had already made a name for himself and started gaining recognition in Senegal and Europe as clubs began to scout him.
Like any up-and-coming basketball player, Sakanoko’s dream was to make it to the NBA. To realize his dream, he decided to migrate to the United States and attended Wesley Christian, a popular basketball program in the US.
“After playing four years in high school, I had the privilege to become an ESPN four-star recruit holding offers from high major NCAA D1 program, but right after my graduation I decided to take the professional route and come back to Europe in the process to enter the NBA draft,” he said.
“The experience in high school wasn’t the best, I succeeded on the court but off the court, the program did not treat us the right way. Without going into the details, this was the first time in my life experiencing power abuse in sports in a really intensive way, which really affected my mental health at the time.”
Eventually, Sakanoko took the decision to return to Europe and play professional NBA closer to his family. His first professional NBA debut was in Czech Republic but he would soon cut his contract short, leaving the club and country all together due to racism.
“I did not get any support from the team, the league or agency [which]I was signed with. That same year my agency held money from some of my endorsement deals that I had never been able to see. Talking to my teammates, and other clients from different agencies I have seen that this was more,” he said.
“Throughout my career, I was a victim of racial abuse and fraud from my agency. I am not scared to say that I am a failed product of the industry, but I’m also not the only one. So many athletes, actors, musicians, models, and more do not achieve their full potential because a lot of people in this industry do not have their best interest at heart,” he added.
After canceling his contract and leaving the Czech Republic, he got a contract offer in the Austria first league with Furstenfeld panthers. Shortly after arriving in Austria, Sakanoko’s passion for professional basketball died, prompting his request to be released, thus marking his journey towards entrepreneurship.
As fate would have it, his foray into entrepreneurship began in real estate. From properties he acquired during his active days as an NBA player, he founded the Be Great Company with a mission to build the most dominant multi-service company in the world.
Be Great currently, offers management, marketing, branding, and production services to companies around the world, and has an impressive portfolio of clients, among them being some of the best talents and most iconic global brands. In just 4 years, Sakanoko’s grown his company into one of the most prominent in Europe.
“We develop talents and build their careers, and thereafter, work with brands and companies to enhance their creativity to bring new approaches to innovation and communication. We are currently in partnerships with some leading brands on two upcoming projects that have great future prospects. We also offer production services to media companies in France, and other countries in Europe”, he said.
One of the issues confronting black business owners is funding. Many black entrepreneurs rely on their personal savings to fund their businesses. Knowing entrepreneurship was part of his DNA, Sakanoko endeavored to put aside some of the passive income he made from his multiple investments.
As with most entrepreneurs, Sakanoko started from his pocket. “The passive income made from my multiple investments helped me to start”. “But our goal from the beginning was to be the best company in the industry. So we raised 1.5 million in our first year, 1.5 million from French investors, and with the positive progress of the company, the investors added 2 million more to keep the business going during the turbulent COVID period.”
Beneath the veneer of success, it is easy to assume that Sakanoko’s journey to becoming a serial entrepreneur has always been smooth sailing. Far from it. He has battled racism, cheating, abuse and the pandemic to prevail. And, for others who aspire to be like him, he says, “success starts with you, you need to first find out who you really are, to become the person you need to be, in order to have the things you truly want.”
“Start, nothing is more valuable than your own experience. Your journey is unique, it’s not always going to be a smooth ride without bumps, so prepare yourself and go after your dreams and goals.”