01 May The Plight of the Athlete Entrepreneur
The key is having a ground zero mentality: being able to put in the work to build your foundation before you really even know what the house could look like.
Everyone starts at ground zero when you think about it. Whether you’re at that certain place in life, in your career, or with other goals, you have to start somewhere and you have to be driven by something. For me, everything that I’m involved in is driven by passion.
I found my passion at Hofstra where I played college football. There was no fanfare, no bandwagon; if you wanted it, you had to work it and earn it. I found more passion in my former teammate Drew Brees who, despite everything he’s accomplished, has exhibited that same ground zero mentality since we met in 2006.
And most recently I found my passion in entrepreneurship.
My transition from running routes to running businesses started when I was still in the league.
During my fifth or sixth season with the Saints, I made my jump into entrepreneurship with an indoor football team that I owned and operated in my hometown in Pennsylvania. I played the NFL calendar with the Saints in the fall and then would fly back to Harrisburg and run every aspect of that team in the spring: marketing, sponsorship, game operations, advertising, content.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was an education that I couldn’t have paid for.
The time I spent with the Stampede changed my perspective completely. It helped me see the front and the back of the house while understanding what it takes to pour the foundation.
I remember walking around the field during pregame in the Superdome looking up at different signage and thinking up possible activations for Crystal Hot Sauce and Raising Cane’s Chicken. I fell in love with the work and that was the spark for me that jump-started the journey I’ve been on.
My strategy firm, Dynasty Sports Group, was born out of me being injured as an athlete. After my third year, I got to a point where I was tired of being reactive to injury. I started to Google different products that could help me stay healthier and be proactive with how I was managing my body. I reached out to several wearable and performance tech companies through the contact forms on their website and most of the time, the people that were getting back to me weren’t from the sales team; it was actually the decision makers in the C-suite.
It was an ah-ha moment for me when I realized these people who move the needle see value in having a conversation with me–and that I could build a career through the knowledge I received in return.
Just like everyone else, it’s crucial for athletes to network and build relationships. In any part of life, there’s going to be certain things that are within your knowledge base which you’re going to be considered an expert in, but at the same time, to be able to connect with other experts in their space is essential too because it introduces and facilitates perspective on both sides.
To any athletes out there reading this, part of what you’re building is a platform that can open doors for you. If there’s a space or an industry that you’re interested in, chances are, because sports and entertainment is one of the most universal unifiers that we have, you will have the ability to walk through that door if you find the right relationship.
HITTING GROUND ZERO
Sports will always be an avenue for athletes to find opportunities, but we all still have to start somewhere.
When I spoke on an athlete investment panel at Hashtag Sports in 2017, it lit a fire in me. Joining guys like Hawk and Mundy on stage, it was confirmation that we can really make some noise in this space.
There have been very few athletes I’ve met that didn’t have a passion outside of sports. There’s a unique transferable skill set that lives within anyone who is able to become an elite athlete: irrational confidence. It’s the belief that even if the odds are stacked against you, you can still outwork the odds.
When you combine that irrational confidence with a unique perspective and a unique outlook, there are people out there capable of building or investing in businesses that can scale.
Walking the halls and feeling the energy of the entire industry at HS17 confirmed for me that us athletes have earned a seat at the table and it helped inspire the launch of my new athlete education program in partnership with Columbia University.
This spring and summer, we’re teaching a series of courses built around two program pillars: venture investing and entrepreneurship. They’re two sides of the same coin: on one side learning to think like a builder (the entrepreneur) and on the other side learning to think like a buyer (the investor).
My experience has shown me that as long as your foundation is in education and you’re learning as you’re going along, you’ll figure it out. I couldn’t be more excited to help that next athlete entrepreneur figure things out.
Post originally appeared as a contributor story on Innovate by Hashtag Sports