Our next guest is former Colombia international turned TV Analyst & On-Camera Host, Melissa Ortiz.
Hi Melissa, a quick glance over your online bio and you will see Olympian, Former Pro Footballer, TV Analyst, In-Stadium Host for the New York Red Bulls, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Kickoff Coffee Company. I know there are more roles and projects you are involved with, in short, you are busy! Tell us about yourself, your journey and how you ended up where you are today.
Yes absolutely, so in a nut shell… I’m Colombian American, born in the US to Colombian parents and moved over to Colombia — the capital city, Bogotá.
I’ve represented the national team in the Olympics and other major tournaments over the course of eight years. I studied International Business at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
When I was playing and especially as a pro, I would often get interviewed by the media, sometimes at their fancy studios, this sparked my interest to get into media at some point in my career once I was done playing. Due to the lack of support and funding and that many women players go through, even to this day, I decided to retire from playing soccer.
I didn’t know how to get into media, but I just started posting videos on my Instagram and Facebook accounts regularly. I created videos around what’s going on in the world of soccer. Chatting about the Premier League, La Liga, NWSL, women’s World Cup and soccer in general. I would do it in a way where it was more blogging or through stadium experiences. I knew I had to build up my reputation and portfolio, start growing my own brand in order to get my name out there.
This line of work is not related to my studies, it was always a challenge. So, that’s kind of how I started to get into media. And thankfully, a few years later, here we are today and I’m broadcasting with large networks!
Yes, as you’ve mentioned, I’m also the co-founder of Kickoff Coffee Co, which we launched this year. A very exciting project which we will speak about later in this interview.
You’re were In-Stadium Host for the New York Red Bulls, what are the preparations involved and what did a normal week look like for you during experience in New York?
I loved working with the club and everyone that was involved. It really helped me gain confidence, especially on the mic and in live event scenarios.
Honestly, I didn’t do any prep going into it. It’s just kind of like, all right, let’s see how this goes and learn from there! On matchdays, I would arrive at the stadium three hours before kick-off and then make sure everything is all set up, in terms with the mic in order to cover the entire game, getting involved and interacting with the fans.
As mentioned, you are the Co-Founder of Kickoff Coffee Company. Coffee and football, what a combo! Could you tell us more about this project/company and how it all started?
The project and the company all started this year during the pandemic. The idea behind it was bridging the culture of football and coffee together. My brother actually came up with the idea and I got involved as I loved the sound of it. So it’s my brother, myself and his wife that launched the company.
It made sense to us because one, we’re Columbian — we love coffee and everything about it. And two, we obviously love football!
In the United States, fans watch the Premier League, La Liga and all of European football in the early or late morning. Then perhaps the Champions League, around 2:00 PM — 3:00 PM. Drinking a coffee or espresso is the perfect pick me up. We found that coffee was highly involved in many of these rituals around soccer.
Also, as a former pro in the locker rooms, there was always a pitcher of coffee available. So, it all clicked to link the two cultures of coffee and football together.
We donate 10% of our coffee sales to foundations and organizations that utilize soccer as a tool for social development.
It’s only our first year, but we’re very excited for all the attention we’ve gained, sales made and donations given. It’s been a really great experience and there’s a lot of room to grow.
We’ve got to mention your playing career, you represented your country in international tournaments! What are your key memories and highlights from your time playing for the Colombian Women’s National Team?
I loved playing with the national team and being able to live in Columbia. What was the most beautiful thing about my entire experience are the friendships I’ve been able to develop. Some of my friends from the team are still some of my best friends to this day. One of my key memories was participating in the women’s world cup.
Participating in the World Cup was special. My debut game, in Germany, against Germany I scored just a few minutes after I got on the pitch, which was so exhilarating. It was extra special because my family was there watching from the stands.
Playing in the Olympics is definitely a fond memory, for many, it’s an opportunity that comes round once in a lifetime. It was incredible, one that I’ll never, never forget.
Was the plan always to remain within football after you retired?
I think deep down, yes. The plan was to always remain within football. When I retired, I took off a year off because I just felt mentally and physically tired, and I didn’t know how to cope with retirement. I didn’t know what it felt like to not have my normal day being around practices, games and with my teammates — it was a really difficult transition.
After that year, I got back to into it and that’s when I got more involved in the media side of it. I knew whilst playing that I either wanted to get into media or marketing.
What general advice would you give to people aspiring to get into sports presenting and broadcasting? What key skills are required?
General advice I would give to someone is just put yourself out there as much as possible. I did not graduate with a degree in communications or broadcasting. I had zero experience in the field.
It’s just about really putting yourself out there and not giving up, being hesitant and keep creating. The more that you put your name out there, the more people’s heads turn and that one person will give you a chance.
If you do well and you prove yourself there’s no limits really.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m excited about the diversity that is starting to grow within sports media.
We’ve always seen just white male talent on television, especially here in the United States. What has happened over the past few years has been really cool to see how more companies, whether it’s in media or not becoming more inclusive.
I think it’s something that excites me, especially being a woman in this industry, which is not easy whatsoever. On top of that, being Latin.
It’s giving me excitement and also very motivating to know that there could be more opportunities for people like me and others in this industry as it continues to grow and open up doors.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
Well, just to state the obvious, most people don’t talk enough or focus enough on women’s sports in general.
In my area of work, I do cover soccer in general, whether it’s men’s or women’s. The large percentage is dictated to men’s soccer.
I think little by little it’s going to start to change in the sense that women’s soccer is going to be viewed more. Women need to be given a larger platform in order for things to change. It has to start with us. It has to start with talent, with the networks and the media companies.
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