The Steelers wideout and his No. 1 fan are now investors in the female-led gaming lifestyle company.
Without our moms, we’d be nothing. Literally! And that’s what makes the latest move from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster resonate with a special kind of warmth.
He and his mother, Sammy Schuster, are going into business together. They’re joining up as investors and strategic advisors for Queens Gaming Collective, a female-driven gaming and lifestyle organization that fights for diversity and equity in the gaming space.
“Gaming is one of JuJu’s favorite things to do, and women empowerment and inclusivity is what I pride myself on,” Sammy told Boardroom. “Believe it or not, I was able to get JuJu to do school work by using gaming as a reward for him. It really served as a driver for him given his passion for it, and as his mother, it’s always incredible to support his every dream, ambition, and endeavor.”
“Queens represents who we are and the changes we continue pushing forward as a society. Looking at the 20 women on the Queens roster and what a large percentage of the gaming industry women are dominating in, I’m excited to learn more about each of their stories,” she said.
The news caps a seed round of over $500,000 in fundraising for Queens, which was joined by women-owned venture capital firm Reign Ventures.
In their advisory capacities, JuJu and Sammy become part of the “Queen’s Court” of cultural ambassadors, a cadre that boasts 2019 Women’s World Cup champion Allie Long and two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis among its members. As part of Queen’s Court, they’ll play a key role in bringing sustained attention to issues of inclusion and visibility that women and minorities face in the gaming industry.
“Welcoming JuJu and Sammy to Queens means the world. There couldn’t be a better mother and son duo to champion women empowerment through the gaming lens,” Queens Gaming Collective chairman and co-founder Justin Giangrande said. “JuJu’s career trajectory and the force with which Sammy has guided him speaks to the mission of Queens. At Queens, we amplify the voices of women and simultaneously, as men, stand beside them.”
“Once we heard about it, we knew we wanted to get involved. Watching Justin and the rest of his team build Queens into what it is now has been incredible. The gaming industry is a $172 billion industry whereby 46% of the audience is women that simply aren’t being heard in the space,” Sammy told Boardroom. “Queens is what’s needed in the industry and the world right now, and the people [Justin has] gotten behind him speak to that.”
“Working with Justin and seeing his passion for everything he does, there was no question in my mind he was going to make this company special. Then, when we met Alisa [Jacobs], his partner and co-founder, it was a no brainer. Watching the two of them make a change in this industry and empowering women voices made me want to be a part of this,” she said.
To mark the occasion, JuJu and Sammy will take part in a live Twitch stream alongside a number of other high-profile mother/son and mother/daughter duos at 6 p.m. ET on May 8, one day before Mother’s Day. They’ll provide live commentary as part of a freewheeling conversation that will touch on the strength of their bond and how they’ll play a role in shaping the cause of diversity and equity in gaming in partnership with Queens.
And perhaps the best part? Hosted in collaboration with Smith-Schuster’s JuJu Foundation, the stream will raise funds to benefit Raise the Barr, a community organization co-founded by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr that provides support and opportunities for single parents and their children.
“The gaming industry is so huge and all-encompassing, you don’t have to play games every single day to be considered a gamer. At the end of the day, it’s really just culture. It’s how people are connecting with one another virtually and it’s an escape for a lot of people as well,” Sammy said. “Generally, we need to focus on diversity and inclusivity in every industry across the globe, there are so many women and people in the BIPOC community whose voices aren’t being heard. So if gaming is the next wave of culture given its size and potential impact, I’m blessed to be helping guide that initiative through Queens. We’re excited to be backing Justin and Alisa and to be behind such an important mission.”