This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.
After launching a platform this August to connect field hockey players around the world with coaches and teams, an Ann Arbor company is already looking to expand its reach into other sports.
Uru Sports was founded by Ainsley McCallister, an All-American field hockey player at the University of Michigan (U-M) who also played for the U.S. at the Junior World Cup in Germany in 2013. After graduating from U-M, she played for six different teams across the world, competing throughout South America, Europe, and Australia.
McCallister says her company's name, pronounced YOU-roo, comes from a Maori word meaning access and community, which is what she hopes the online platform provides.
"Basically, I built Uru off something I wish I had as an athlete," McCallister says. "I was pretty lucky to have the opportunity to play field hockey professionally after college overseas, and tons of athletes reached out to ask, 'How did you do it?'"
McCallister began keeping a spreadsheet of athletes and possible opportunities for them. Coaches found out as well, and the idea "started organically" from there, McCallister says. So far, she has placed 250 athletes with teams, but much of that was done via phone calls and manually updating a spreadsheet.
She pitched the idea of an online platform for matching players with teams to a friend who knew how to code and officially launched Uru in August.
In early November, the company announced it was adding new membership levels for both players and teams and a new recruitment tracker tool.
McCallister says the new additions streamline the process and offer ways to better showcase athletes to coaches and recruiters, such as the ability to review a highlight reel of a player's best moments.
The company is currently in the middle of raising a round of funding so it can duplicate the platform for use in other sports. McCallister says she has been interviewing employees who can help the company expand into basketball, soccer, and possibly rugby.
McCallister also hopes to launch an educational campaign to let athletes know about opportunities to play abroad. She says the idea of playing sports around the world after college hasn't caught on in the U.S. to the degree it has in Europe, though she senses excitement about the idea is growing here.
"We've got big plans," McCallister says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at email@example.com.