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Aquinas athlete makes history as social media trailblazer

Grand Haven teen Chloe Mitchell is believed to be the first college athlete to ever legally profit off their name.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — What started as a simple home improvement project quickly turned one Grand Haven teenager into a pioneer.

“I was going off the fact that, 'Hey, this is who I am, I don't really care who is watching,'” said former Western Michigan Christian student Chloe Mitchell.

But as the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” Except nowadays it's more like, “If you build it and put it on the internet, they will watch.”

“I woke up one day and I looked at one of my videos that I posted less than 24 hours ago, and it had hit a million views,” she remembers.

Almost instantly, Mitchell, 19, become a social media sensation who in more ways than one was now headed into uncharted territory

“The first time I got recognized was at the beach this summer and my mind was blown,” she says smiling.

However, her newfound fame was only just getting started. Soon, a single one of her posts chronicling her quest to convert a shed into her own woman cave, valued between 15 and 20 thousand dollars.

Eventually, she monetized her influence by promoting other companies' products on her Tik-Tok, YouTube, and Instagram accounts that combined have a following of over 3 million people. But as she headed off to college, she saw a potential problem.

“I may not be able to capitalize any longer on what I was doing,” she figured.

As an incoming freshman volleyball player at Aquinas, Mitchell was concerned her eligibility was compromised since collegiate governing bodies such as the NCAA didn't allow student athletes to make money off their names while in school. Fortunately for Mitchell, Aquinas doesn’t play in the NCAA.

“The NAIA beat the NCAA to the punch and said, ‘Hey, our athletes can now make money off of signing autographs.’ I think that kind of shocked everybody,” she said.  

The historic ruling back in October allowed Mitchell to continue her business, and in the process, it's believed to have made her the first collegiate athlete to ever legally profit off their name.

In fact, Chloe has been so successful with her online brand, she has since started her own company to help other athletes do the same.

“It means a lot to me,” she remarks. “I've been called a leader all my life and I love to lead.”

A perfect outlook, considering she's someone who — online — has a whole lot of followers.

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