TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, July 10
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
To many, the likes of Derek Jeter and Eli Manning – of New York’s Yankees and Giants – may seem like idols; celebrities that live on the television in fame and stardom.
But to Huntington’s own Kelvin Joseph, these people aren’t celebrities – they’re his clients.
“The reality of the situation is that when I tell people what I do, I seem excited,” said Joseph, who was named the chief operating officer (COO) of sports memorabilia provider, Steiner Sports, on July 1. “I am a sports fan… If I watch something on television in my spare time, it’s sports, [but] once you start being around celebrities more, you learn that they’re just people; you treat them with respect and expect that same respect back from them.”
Joseph is able to work with these celebrities through the New Rochelle-based Steiner Sports, which came to fruition over 25 years ago and has since worked with over 2,000 of the world’s most popular athletes alongside their leagues and teams.
While the company is best known for providing quality signed memorabilia, Steiner Sports also works to spice up corporate events by scheduling appearances of big-name athletes along with helping to ink deals between corporations and their clients by supplying gifts like special trips to Yankee games.
“We have the ability to invite clients to the game and then, after the third inning, we have second base pulled up and give it to the client,” Joseph said.
But the Huntington native didn’t start out with Steiner Sports. In fact, the road Joseph has taken to reach his new perch as the company’s COO and executive vice president of sales has been a long and impressive one.
After graduating as an honor student, volleyball player and wrestler from Walt Whitman High School in 1997, Joseph moved on to Pace University. There, studies took up most of his time, but Joseph also had higher ambitions.
“I’m always pushing myself to go further,” Joseph said. “One of my goals was to get a job at a ‘Big Four’ accounting firm by the time I graduated.”
By age 19, when Joseph completed his freshman year, he landed a position at Ernst & Young.
“I had to set the bar higher,” Joseph, who then went on to become a certified public accountant (CPA) by age 22, said.
After becoming a CPA, Joseph worked for Ernst & Young until he was called in to run his wife Samantha’s company, Samantha Shoes, while she took a leave to have the couple’s children: Kelvin Jr. and Pamela. Once she returned, Samantha “got rid” of Joseph – as he jokingly said – and the husband sought his next career move.
“The reality was that the company wasn’t big enough for two executives, but I was ready to get back to corporate America,” said Joseph, who then landed a job as an auditor for Saks Fifth Avenue. “I spent three years flying to different stores across the country where I had to do things like fire people, and I wasn’t really into it.”
Then, in 2009, a golden opportunity emerged for Joseph who was now a multi-faceted businessman.
“I saw an opportunity with Steiner Sports where I thought I’d be able to use my love of sports, my background in finance and my background in efficiency all together as one,” Joseph, who would go on to earn four promotions in his first five years with the company, said. “When some people get high up in a company they start treating people differently, but I don’t want athletes treating me differently, so I don’t want to do that to the people I work with. Everybody is important.”
Now one Steiner Sport’s head honchos, Joseph seeks to move the company forward with new ambitions and plans aimed at extending reach further than ever before.
“Sports memorabilia is an excellent gift – it’s both appreciated and memorable – and we’re trying to get that word out to moms, girlfriends and wives,” he said. “[Also] we want to help Long Island businesses grow.”
In order to do that, Joseph said, Steiner Sports has aimed to help Long Island businesses – like one of the company’s biggest clients, 1st Equity Title & Closing Services, in Syosset – to improve reach of corporate events.
“We’re able to make title insurance seem cool,” Joseph said of his work with 1st Equity. “They had an annual event that used to draw about 300 people, but when we took over and added athletes to the event they started to get 1,500 people to come out.”
To some, Joseph’s plate of responsibility and obligation may seem full, but to Joseph, “work doesn’t feel like work.” In fact, the 35-year-old works what he describes as his “dream job” and raved of how perfect a position the job has put him in.
Living out of the North Bronx, just 45 minutes away from the city and Huntington, Joseph has ample opportunity to enjoy the life of New York City while still being close enough to visit his hometown – where his mother still resides – every now and then.
“I love Long Island,” Joseph said. “I’m appreciative of how I grew up there and I really thank Walt Whitman for giving me the great foundation of which I use today.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills (Thursday, July 10, 2014; A6)