TKB caught up with Cabrinha Team Rider Jon Modica last week to chat about his latest business venture, Nutmeg Education. Slated for full release next month, Nutmeg is an online resource for educators, and it highlights what many don’t know about Modica: he’s passionate about teaching kids and committed to improving education.
With a degree in Human Development, a teaching certificate in elementary education, and a master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown, Jon Modica is far more than a curly-topped, wave-riding, kite junkie. He’s a business-savvy, mission-driven, education advocate … AND, a curly-topped, wave-riding, kite junkie.
Full Name: Jon Modica
Number of Years Kiteboarding: 12
Favorite Kite Vacation: I have a new one every year! Right now, it’s Guincho, Portugal.
Age When you began your Pro Career: 18 at Triple-S Invitational
Age when you started your business: 25
What’s the name of your business, and what does it do?
Nutmeg Education. It’s an online toolset for K-12 teachers. They can do everything from build customized tests, quizzes, homework and digitally send them to their students. Students login to take the assignments and Nutmeg then gives them free online games and video to help them if they have any weak areas!
What made you decide to start your own business? And, more specifically, this particular business?
I’ve wanted to become a teacher since college, but like most teachers, I really hated the pressure teachers face from standardized testing. After I went to graduate school for education policy, I decided the best way I could help was by creating great and affordable tools for teachers to help them ease the burden of standardized testing but helping them focus more on the content that the students need to master, and less on the test itself.
What lessons has riding professionally taught you about entrepreneurial efforts?
Like everything in life, you’ve got to be able to work with what you’re given. Not every trip I’ve gone on has gone smoothly (almost none to be honest). Damien Leroy taught me how to work with what we have and in business, just like being a pro kiteboarder, you’ve got to be able to take what you’re given and make it work. Success isn’t made from simple ingredients, it’s made by throwing a whole pile of problems together and figuring out a solution.
Has running a business cut into your time on the water, and if so, what’s your secret to balancing the two? What’s your typical weekday look like?
I don’t get to ride nearly the amount of days anymore, but when I’m on the water I ride twice as hard to make up for lost time. There is no secret to handling them, you just need to work as hard and as long as you can, that way when the wind comes in, you don’t feel terrible taking an hour or two off. My typical week varies so much that there really is no typical week. I spend about 50% of my time in NYC and the other 50% in FL. Some weeks I can take off an hour or two 2 or 3 times a week, and other weeks I can’t take off 5 mins and work 8am-midnight 7 days a week.
A full-time career in kiteboarding sounds, to some, like “living the dream”. You’re choosing to kite AND start a new career. What does your “living the dream” equation look like these days — and how has it changed over the years?
“Living the dream” to me has never been to be a pro kiteboarder. For me, riding is a release, and when you can do it all the time, you become jaded and don’t really appreciate how amazing it is. I’m living the dream now: I get to work my tail off for a really good cause, and then when I find time on the water, I appreciate it more than ever.
Describe your ideal kite-work balance. How do you see this equation changing as your business grows? What advice would you give people interested in achieving a similar balance?
Ideally, I would love to be on the water 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours each session. That would be perfect. Just enough time to really savor it, but not enough to put me behind in work. Maybe down the road I’ll have enough free time for this, but right now I’m just focused on getting things moving. I’m not sure if I’m the best person to get this advice from, but I’ve always thought that if you love your work as much as you love your sport, you’ll be fine. Just love what you’re doing, and be the best one at it.