Mike Steadman was a champion in the ring, but as an entrepreneur and leader, he’s championing the leaders of tomorrow.

A few months ago, our own CEO Jim O’Farrell was interviewed by “Iron” Mike Steadman, but in this article, we learn more about Mike himself.

Originally from Texas, Steadman lived with his mother and older sister. After attending the prep school for a year, Steadman entered the U.S. Naval Academy where he was introduced to boxing.

“Boxing really changed my life. If you spend a lot of time training at inner city gyms, you see a lot of young people that think the only option is to go pro. At the Academy, it wasn’t like that. I saw that I had the opportunity to build a meaningful life … I could be a military officer. I could go on to do more,” says Steadman.

During his time at the Naval Academy, he boxed his way to three National Collegiate Boxing Championships. Steadman went on to serve as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, deploying to Afghanistan, Japan, and the Philippines. After leaving the Marine Corps, Steadman moved to Newark, New Jersey, where boxing is a way of life. He served at an all-boys school in downtown Newark and had the opportunity to see firsthand the challenges the students were facing while living alongside them on campus.

Wanting to bridge a gap between the community’s youth and opportunity, Steadman opened the IRONBOUND Boxing Academy in a partnership with the city of Newark and building the gym from scratch with partners Gary Bloore and Keith Colon.

“Some people golf. Here in Newark, we box. Boxing sells itself to the youth in the community,” says Steadman.

What’s unique about Steadman’s IRONBOUND Boxing Academy is not just his own entrepreneurial spirit, but his aim at helping youth become business owners. In Newark, a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, but IRONBOUND exposes young boxers to opportunities like freelancing, being a solopreneur, and owning a small business. IRONBOUND offers small business grants and business coaching to young urban entrepreneurs.

Steadman says that it’s also important for his amateur boxers to not only see him boxing and running his business, but to see how he is outside of the gym. He says he’s cognizant of what he shares on social media and views it as another opportunity — like a classroom where he can teach and share. He shares podcasts, books, and courses he’s found to be valuable. And, beyond his own students, he believes in sharing opportunities like grants and programs that might help other similar businesses.

“There’s nothing harder than running an inner-city gym for Black and Brown kids. Other coaches can see what I’m doing and hear about what they can apply for. It benefits us all. One team, one fight,” he says.

As an entrepreneur himself, Steadman knows the importance of supporting other small business owners, too, in what he calls a “lifting as I climb” philosophy. He believes in giving other entrepreneurs a chance and helping their business take off and says that every entrepreneur has an obligation to support the ecosystem of small business owners.

“What’s the point of reaching the mountain top if you’re the only one there? Share opportunities, support one another, and bring people up with you,” says Steadman. “I like connecting the dots that otherwise wouldn’t exist, including meeting funders from small businesses right on up to the big ones.”

Steadman may have been a champion boxer in his own right, but the impact he’s making outside of the ring with local young is setting up the future leaders of America for gold.

Written by: Sheila Rupp