Father and Son have business in their blood
Former UK football player Ron Mack grew up in Lexington’s east end before going on to play defensive back at the University of Kentucky. After hanging up his football cleats, he moved to Atlanta to work in commercial banking post-grad and lived there for a decade before returning to Lexington in 2014, when he began researching the area where he grew up. The research helped inspire him to found Legacy Equine Academy. LEA is a non-profit that connects students to the history of African American jockeys. It’s a passion project for Ron and wife Carla, who works in youth services at Edythe J. Hayes. LEA partners with Fayette County Public Schools, and exposes students to opportunities and connections within the equine and agricultural industries.
It’s not easy to get on Ron Mack’s calendar during May and Derby season, but he made the time to share a father-son story just in time for Father’s Day.
Ron Mack bought his son a yo-yo in February 2020, only weeks before the world temporarily shut down. The devoted dad says honestly, “I thought he’d play with it for a few days and it would end up under his bed and he’d move on.”
Stoney admits the pandemic helped him in honing his skills and taking his yo-yo expertise to the next level. He says, “If it wasn’t for that [the pandemic] I would still be decently good, but having that time to practice, to understand it all, it helped a lot.”
After sharing videos with his parents and sisters, the EJ Hayes seventh-grader quickly developed an impressive following for his viral videos on social media. So viral that FOX network producers reached out to him for the new Wayne Brady-hosted show, Game of Talents.
In November, the network flew the whole family to Hollywood for the shoot. The show aired earlier this year in April — a reality television series that pits teams of contestants against each other as they try to figure out the hidden talents of the mystery performers. Ron says of the experience, “He talks about business and I think that’s what he wants to do, but the production of it all was a great interest to him as well.”
EJ Hayes principal David Hoskins says, “What Stoney has accomplished is truly amazing. He’s taken a skill and passion, and [is] making a name for himself from it. We are proud of him and lucky to call him a Hayes Panther.”
Yoyo Mack: the CEO of Yoyo
So, how do you make money with …a yo-yo?
Over the past year, Ron says, “Stoney has basically created his own business by leveraging, marketing and branding his incredible yo-yo skills. He has crafted a [brand] on Instagram where he has nearly 100,000 followers and multiple videos with over 1 million views, including one video with 5 million+ views.
Instagram (where he is known as YoYo Mack, the CEO of YoYo) has “verified” him which means he gets paid for his video posts. Stoney also has his own sponsors — one of which created an online store to sell Stoney’s “Yo-Yo” Mack signature yo-yos. He earns a percentage of profits and has sold out four times in three months. He also has an agreement to wear and promote a line of clothing and earns commission from sales linked to his store.
Ron says, “There is a whole yo-yo world out there that maybe you and I don’t know about. But it exists.”
Stoney has competed in national tournaments and met people in the industry who have made a living with the pastime.
Asked about long-term goals for his reach of 90,000 instagram followers, Stoney was quick to clarify that it was actually closer to 99,000 (at press, he had already topped 100,000), adding, “I want it to make me an influencer in Atlanta or L.A.”
Stoney says of his dad, “He’s helped provide a structure of having someone to go to if I ever had questions or having a role model to look up to —base it off of what he has done.”
Asked if this experience has brought them closer, Ron quickly replies “absolutely” while Stoney smiles and shakes his head in good-natured denial. “No,” he explains, “we’ve always been close.”
Ron says, “Our relationship has evolved in a different way. A lot of times we’re talking business, how to develop this, how to take advantage of the moment. That’s added another aspect because we’ve always been very close as father and son.”
He adds with a laugh, “We have meetings now,” explaining, “because that’s what it takes. I tell people that I try my best to manage it and to protect him because he is out there online, but other than that, I really try to stay out of his way.”
Ron says, “Stoney has demonstrated excellent business acumen and great creativity of content with his video posts. He’s also had immeasurable experiences for a 13-year-old kid. I can only pray he will apply it to whatever endeavors that lie ahead for him.”
This article also appears on page 11 of the June 2021 print edition of ace magazine.
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