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Facing Off Against Concussions

Farley student Lewis Simon advocates for young athletes’ brains through his line of performance clothing

Turning a personal setback into purpose, Lewis Simon (SESP ’24) is championing a cause close to his heart with Strengthen the Youth (STY House), a clothing brand that aims to raise awareness about concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in young athletes.  

Simon, a long-time hockey goalie who hoped to make a career out of the sport, was diagnosed with a TBI, an injury that affects how the brain works, at 21 years old after suffering a string of concussions. When his doctor told him his hockey career was over, Simon, then a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., said he was shocked. 

“I hadn’t had 20 concussions, I’d only had five at this point,” Simon said, now 25 years old. 

Still, the concussions and their lingering symptoms proved serious enough to halt Simon’s plans, and the news marked a significant turning point in his life. Forced to quit the sport he loved, he transferred to Northwestern University to be closer to his home and his family. 

A fresh start 

Northwestern has since become a space where Simon can learn the ins and outs of running his business, STY House, which he launched in 2021 while being a full-time student at the University. 

The business’ goal is related to his own struggles: to strengthen the youth with the knowledge of concussion safety, prevention, and care. 

According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF), a concussion is a type of TBI caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head which can stretch and damage brain cells. The long-term effects of a concussion can be life-changing, especially when mistreated or multiple concussions are sustained. 

A study published in The Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology found that the incidence of concussions in youth athletes was 12.1 percent. Young athletes with a prior concussion were at greater risk of sustaining a concussion than those without a prior concussion, which could potentially put them at risk of enduring cumulative alterations to their cognitive and motor functions. 

Simon found a way to dovetail his own history with concussions with a more positive part of his background: innovation. 

Lewis SimonSimon grew up around entrepreneurship, as both of his parents started their own businesses. Since he was raised in an environment that encouraged innovation, creating his own startup felt natural for him. He credits his coursework at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for equipping him with business skills and technical know-how that have proved instrumental in growing STY House. He has taken ENTREP 225: Principles of Entrepreneurship, ENTREP 330: Startup Accounting and Finance, and ENTREP 331: Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing.  

Through Farley classes, Simon, who is majoring in Learning and Organizational Change, has broken down and rebuilt his understanding of seemingly straightforward business practices—such as making sales calls and creating balance sheets—to develop a better entrepreneurial toolkit. 

He said Farley classes have proven valuable outside of his startup as well.  

“Take entrepreneurship out of it. They offer really good life skills,” he said. “I have a different perspective than a lot of seniors because I’m three or four years older, so I can see that the things you learn in these classes are very applicable to life.” 

A passion for the cause 

Clinical Professor Eduardo Acuna, who is teaching Simon in his Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing course, said Simon’s ramping engagement in class speaks to his dedication to developing his business. 

Eduardo Acuna“From an entrepreneurship perspective, judging by the level of questions and the rapidity of questions, he’s stepped up his game,” he said. “STY House isn’t a side thing. He has found a passion.” 

Simon’s dedication to STY House is motivated by just that: passion. Driven by his own experiences, he merged two major interests of his—spreading awareness about concussion safety and style—to create STY House, a performance apparel line steeped in meaning. 

“I think anything that you do, you want to be really passionate about, and I am extremely passionate about my journey and how I got to where I am today. Considering the path, the pivots, and the mistreatment I got from doctors, trainers, and athletic personnel, I’m really passionate about helping kids,” he said.  

Founding a business did not come without challenges, though. STY House was originally intended to be a clothing line for men, but when competition in the adult clothing market proved too fierce, Simon pivoted and began designing for a youth audience.  

With a 99 percent customer satisfaction rate according to Simon, a partnership with CLF, and the support of several professional athletes, STY House has reached a national audience of young athletes and parents. Simon said he felt his mission come full-circle when he worked closely with Jack, a 10-year-old hockey player who suffered a concussion and was told contact sports were not in his future. The pair grew close, and Jack eventually designed a shirt for STY House as a brand ambassador, dedicating all proceeds to CLF. He even dressed up as Simon for Halloween, a touching reminder that STY House’s mission is not going unnoticed. 

“I hope it just helps parents and kids be more educated on the concussion field. You know, I think if I was more educated, or if my parents were more educated, I could have spoken more freely about how I was feeling,” he said.  

After graduating, Simon will be starting full-time at Wasserman Group, where he hopes to become an agent in the hockey department. He will also continue to advocate for youth health in contact sports by growing STY House and serving as the head coach for the AAA team, the highest level of competition in youth hockey in the U.S., at the Chicago Reapers Hockey Club. 

“I just want to educate as many kids and families as I can,” he said. “I want to be a resource and a mentor for a lot of these young kids.” 

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