Good Life

Inspired by his grandmother, Emmy winner becomes entrepreneur

Penn State graduate Kyle Godwin founded Marvalous Entertainment in 2014.
Penn State graduate Kyle Godwin founded Marvalous Entertainment in 2014. Photo provided

She believed in him. He didn’t need to explain.

When Kyle Godwin told family and friends he was leaving ESPN, he received his share of reservations. He had done well there, winning an Emmy, a Peabody and a Webby while working as an associate producer for the network’s acclaimed “30 for 30” film series. When he told his parents the news, they were — understandably, he said — concerned.

The Penn State graduate was then in his early 20s. Leaving the Worldwide Leader in Sports to start your own production company is a hard sell, especially to Mom and Dad.

But with Marva, he didn’t need to assure himself. For his grandmother, a former schoolteacher, that was her job.

“I told everybody,” he said. “But with my grandmother, I didn’t have to explain everything. She was just like ‘OK, whatever you need, I’m there.’ ”

His company, Marvalous Entertainment, is named after her. Its mission, he says, is to inspire others with its content. Since its founding in 2014, the company has worked with nonprofits helping inner-city youth, one that helps feed the homeless in Philadelphia and another that helps couples on their big day. Its first project, a short video documenting an Atlanta organization’s work with homeless veterans, was shown in the White House.

He credits his grandmother for encouraging him.

“At that time, for me that was big,” he said. “Unfortunately she didn’t survive to see that come to fruition.”

Just months after starting Marvalous, he lost her. But she continues to inspire him and his work, Godwin, 30, said.

And now, he has another lady in his life who does on a daily basis, one just as demanding but also the one who — more than anyone else, he said — he wants to make proud: Civil Rose, his 6-month-old daughter.

“I already got the inspiration from the company and journeys from it,” he said. “But I got a little inspiration sitting in my lap literally as I edit, knowing that’s not going to be enough. If I can let my kids know that their father would put money into a business of theirs, if I showed them if you put in all your efforts, then you can be successful with whatever you want to do — that’s the inspiration for me.”

Q: When you were thinking of starting out on your own, you mentioned your grandmother supported you early on. What did that mean to you?

A: I was still at ESPN at the time. In that process (of starting Marvalous), I couldn’t really think of a name. Marva, she was a schoolteacher; she was willing to change people’s lives. I had friends whom she had taught, and once they found out she was my grandmother, they treated me with a different respect. I felt like if I was going to be leading a new wave of inspirational, thought-provoking content, then why not use one of the people who inspires me?

Q: Nine out of 10 Fortune 500 companies are headed by white males. Wealth in America is largely controlled by one subset of the population. Being a young entrepreneur, being a minority and working in the media, is there a responsibility, whether you want it or not, of being a role model for underrepresented voices?

A: That’s a good one. Me as a 30-year-old entrepreneur minority from a city, I’ve always been of the understanding that “humble and hungry” will always get you dinner. And so that’s really what my goal is: I want to be the most inspirational filmmaker of all time. That’s subjective, but I want to inspire others with the work I do.

With Marvalous, I hope the visuals allow others to speak a little louder in a way where they don’t have to talk at all. And that’s what I told my friend (Sarah-Ashley Andrews); I produced a video for her company. For example, her company is Dare 2 Hope, and she was recognized this year by Jay-Z and the Shawn Carter Foundation for Made in America (Music Festival). They sought her out through her social media.

Obviously the homeless population are some of the most affected. She’s huge on recognizing and showing the signs of suicide, and helping prevent it. For me, I feel like I helped play a part in that with Marvalous Entertainment; I helped to get her voice heard. So now if her voice is heard by Jay-Z, who is that minority owner whom we’re talking about, now we’ve changed the game. We’re now in a whole new realm where we can push the envelope a bit further and now we’ve got some basis to stand on.

Q: You worked at the highest levels of entertainment in the sports industry. What made you want to leave ESPN and start out on your own?

A: That’s an excellent question. I got that from a lot of people, even my family. I had worked in films seven years prior to starting the company and I knew there was a response that I would get when I told people what I did (at ESPN). When I would introduce myself, I would never tell people my job; I would just tell them “yeah I work in TV” and then if they asked again, I would tell them a bit more, and finally when I gave them that last tidbit is when you would notice the change in their reaction. That response was very satisfying and rewarding and I always took pride on the films that I worked on — I worked on more than 60 films — but I never understood totally why the filmmaker made that film or where they even got the idea from. So I found myself taking, in a sense, some type of credit for a product I had no idea why it was created. So that led me to believe if I can get that type of response from something I’m (not personally connected to) and can put that energy into, imagine what kind of response I would get if I were to know why I created the content, know how I came about the content and still produce a good product.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy