An Entrepreneur's Journey From Pro Football to Retail Contender
This column is one of a series formed from a partnership between Entrepreneur and NFL Players Inc. Click here to read the other columns.
Adrian Wilson, former NFL safety for the Arizona Cardinals, was tenacious on the field, earning such nicknames as “The Assassin” for his punishing hits, and “The Hulk” for his intimidating physique. Adrian was a tough contender on the field. He maintained hyper-focus on the game of football while he was playing but he was well aware that sometimes the NFL stands for "not for long.'' He realized he also needed to be well rounded in life, outside of the game. Honing the focus and diligence he had for football, he explored his opportunities and interests off the field. That led him to start his own business.
In this short Q&A, Wilson shares what it is like to start a business while playing for the NFL and how to be a contender in his new industry.1. Tell us about your two companies, High Point and Greats, and how you came to start them.
High Point was established in 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona. I saw a void in the Phoenix/Scottsdale market for a boutique style menswear and sneaker store. Through my travels to other major cities across the US, I always found myself a customer at some of the best stores in the boutique space. It was always a dream to own my own store and I thought, “Hey, I can do this in my own town and bring this experience to my fans and neighbors.” High Point has now expanded to El Paso, Texas, which was seen as an untapped market, too.
Greats is more of an investment profile. Through friendships and contacts in the footwear universe, I became an angel investor in a sneaker startup. The concept was an amazing business opportunity. Greats represented something I wanted to be a part of and watch grow from its infancy to what it is today--a highly valued and regarded disrupter in the footwear industry.
2. What were the most unexpected challenges of starting your own brand?
Owning a business is about continually investing in your brand or concept, whether that is financially, emotionally or through knowledge capital, to always grow towards your full potential. It is never a one-time investment with a set-and-forget-it mentality. It took more than just money to get High Point off the ground. It really was a passion project.
3. What has the transition been like going from playing in the NFL to being a full-time businessman focusing on your two businesses, growing your brand, expanding your portfolio with investments, as well as being at the Cardinals facility on a daily basis, working in the front office and with the DB’s?
Transitioning for any professional athlete is always a challenge. The people who have the smoothest transitions are the ones who always have a plan. The key is to create a structure around your plan. As a pro athlete, our whole life is structured. Every practice is structured. Every film session is structured. Every pregame and game is structured. Structure,structure,structure is the key to moving on and entering that second phase of your life and career after the game.
4. What advice do you have for current professional athletes or other employed professionals who are interested in launching their own brand?
Don’t put your name on anything you don’t feel passionate about or doesn’t represent your values just to make a quick buck or for ten minutes of fame. Like Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” I feel this is especially true for your authentic self.
5. Outside of football, who have been some of your greatest influences and role models when it comes to your business?
My family and friends obviously are always a big piece of how I live my life and why I do what I do on a daily basis. From a business perspective, my greatest influences are have been organizations, not just a single person. I look to companies like Nike, Apple and Disney for inspiration. They are companies that are innovators in their respective industries, have amazing work cultures and constantly move the ball forward. As a Nike athlete during my career, I had the chance to visit the Nike campus and participate in some crazy behind-the-scenes activities. All I can say is, if you can get there, do it. Amazing. I also recently traveled to Hong Kong with the Greats team to the Hypebeast headquarters. I really admired how they operate their business and the corporate culture is something I think many firms should look to emulate.
6. What are some trade publications or business magazines that you read and would recommend others to read as well?
Publications I read religiously are Wired, Forbes, ESPN magazines, Entrepreneur, Inc., National Geographic. I love traveling as the airport shop gives me an opportunity to pick up magazines from every interest across a diverse spectrum and learn something new.
7. What’s next for you and your businesses and your brands?
Stay tuned for a clothing private label with an insane team out of NY. This team has been in the works for years. Also, more expansion into new, untapped markets for what we offer.