This article also appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Stetson University Magazine — the Significance Campaign issue.
When Andi Garavaglia ’11 was growing up in St. Louis, she was part of a sports-oriented family — a hockey-mad family, really.
Her two older brothers, including a twin who, she jokes, is three minutes her senior, played the sport. Dinnertime conversations were consumed by talk of the National Hockey League and the hometown St. Louis Blues.
So, it became an ironic joke within her family when Garavaglia, after four years as the starting goalie on Stetson’s women’s soccer team, became “the first one to actually get a paycheck from the NHL,” she said, teasingly.
From 2014 to 2017, Garavaglia was based in New York City as manager of retail sales and marketing for the NHL.
To say that Garavaglia has been — ahem — “goal-oriented” throughout her life isn’t just a pun.
“I suppose you can say that I am,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think of myself that way. But I’ve always thought there are teams that I want to be on. … I’ve always wanted to align myself with teams that I see as winning.”
Goal-oriented? As an undergraduate, Garavaglia even studied abroad at the University of Oxford in England during her final Stetson semester. She had spotted the opportunity as a first-year student.
Then, following her stint at NHL headquarters, she returned to Oxford to earn an MBA.
Now, she is putting that MBA to use as an entrepreneur — essentially, playing without a safety net.
Garavaglia is chief operating officer of West Tenth, a tech startup whose app is designed to create a digital marketplace, a “modern main street,” for female business proprietors and their customers.
When she was on the field at Stetson, Garavaglia went through a personal ritual before each game: “I would tap my goal posts and say aloud, ‘For those who came before me. For those who come after me. And just a bit for me.’”
Thoughtful. Introspective. Not coincidentally, Garavaglia majored in psychology.
Her senior thesis explored the psychology of Facebook use among her fellow students. That meant convincing more than 100 of her peers to give up Facebook for one month in order to compare users against abstainers. While her study didn’t yield any significant results, she said, the “Facebook challenge” created a buzz and spurred discussions across campus about the roles of social media.
“One word best sums her up: prepared,” described Camille Tessitore King, PhD, professor and chair of Stetson’s Department of Psychology. “In the classroom, in advising sessions, on the soccer field and elsewhere, Andi comes prepared. But perhaps more significant is the fact that preparation in her case more often than not translates into success.”
In particular, King remembers Garavaglia as a student in her biological psychology class.
“It’s not an easy class,” King said. “If my key on a test was different from what she had answered, I went back to make sure that I didn’t mark the key wrong. That’s how good she was.”
Garavaglia, King added, “obviously is incredibly motivated. She thrived on it. And she is very friendly. She isn’t egotistical in any way, shape or form. Just down-to-earth.”
For her study-abroad term at Oxford, Garavaglia created her own curriculum in the “Psychology of Social Media” and explored her interest in the “disruption potential of technology.”
Garavaglia’s passion for sports, plus her Stetson career and her studies of psychology and social media, all converged to land that job with the NHL.
While a student at Stetson, she had met Jim Haskins ’88, a former university trustee and now group vice president of the NHL’s Consumer Products Licensing division. As a senior, Garavaglia took a sports marketing class under Scott Jones, PhD, who remains at Stetson as an associate professor of marketing. Garavaglia’s class project on the NHL ended up in the hands of Haskins, who became her mentor and ultimately opened the door to her job in hockey.
“I wasn’t hawking T-shirts; I was not hawking sweatshirts,” Garavaglia said of her role. Instead, the job encompassed partnership management with any and all retailers that carried NHL goods in North America — that is, cultivating close relationships with Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and regional retailers.
Her role was to be more of a brand steward and a consultant on retailers’ business, informing them about trends and hot markets, and communicating the “ambiance of cool that surrounds the brand.” She also worked on the NHL’s high-profile, high-stakes events, and with U.S. sports arenas on NHL licensing for retailing in those venues.
Afterward, having never taken a finance class, Garavaglia realized there was more to learn about contracts and business numbers, and she made the decision to return to Oxford for her MBA. There, she served as co-chair of the Oxford Sport Business Network. Also, she met fellow Oxford MBA student Lyn Johnson. The encounter led Garavaglia in pursuit of her next big goal.
When Johnson founded West Tenth, Garavaglia made the jump into the world of tech startups and entrepreneurship.
According to a West Tenth press release, its mobile app, available on the Apple Store, offers free “digital storefronts” to women who own and operate a business out of their homes. The goal is to “elevate overlooked talents, connecting these businesses with community members in need of uniquely crafted services that save them time.”
Garavaglia’s LinkedIn profile carries the tag line “Building a modern main street at West Tenth.”
Still, despite her pursuits on the playing field, despite her transcontinental studies and despite moving from the front office of a storied sports league to an entrepreneurial tech company with literally no track record, Garavaglia doesn’t necessarily embrace the term “overachiever.”
“I suppose overachiever is a flattering way to put it,” she said with a laugh. “But the other way you can put it is that I like to overwork. I like to always be working and always feel productive.”
Especially when there’s another goal to reach.
-Rick de Yampert