In recent years, much has been made of professional athletes going broke either during or shortly after the end of their careers. Poor business investments, frivolous personal spending habits, an up-and-down real estate market, and, in some cases, supporting an entourage have traditionally driven athletes to bankruptcy.
Many athletes take the franchising route for their post-playing careers, and several have done so with massive amounts of success. What’s more uncommon is professional athletes starting their own business from the ground up. Here is a look at five successful business ventures (outside of franchising) of former professional athletes.
1. Rick Mirer – Mirror Wine Company
Rick Mirer was the second overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft following a highly successful college career at Notre Dame. After over a decade in the league, Mirer retired in 2004. In 2008, he partnered with winemaker Rob Lawson to launch Mirror Wine Company in Napa Valley, Calif. A portion of all sales of Mirror wines goes to the Mirer Family Foundation and Mirror Wine Company has successfully sold out every vintage of every wine they have released.
2. Brad Pyatt – MusclePharm Corp.
Brad Pyatt is a former NFL wide receiver and kick returner who had stints with the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers in his four-year NFL career. After suffering football-related injuries that he felt were directly caused by the supplements he was taking, Pyatt teamed with Cory Gregory to found MusclePharm in 2008. The mission of MusclePharm is, “To develop and bring to market the most scientifically advanced, safest nutritional and sports supplementation products possible.”
Pyatt has built MusclePharm into one of the biggest and most trusted names in the sports nutritional supplement world. They are now a publically traded company with sales through Q2 in 2014 reaching $96.95 million.
3. Eddie George – EDGE Group
Eddie George and a team of experienced industry professionals founded EDGE, “a collaborative team of planners, landscape architects and development consultants” in 2003 in Columbus, Ohio. EDGE has since opened offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Toledo, Ohio. The mission of EDGE states, “…we look for every opportunity to create economically, socially and environmentally impactful solutions while implementing thoughtful planning and purposeful design.” EDGE now has around 20 employees and is considered a market expert across the Midwest and the South.
4. Venus Williams – V Starr Interiors
Venus Williams founded V Starr Interiors, an interior design company based in Jupiter, Fla. The tennis star is CEO of the company and leads a team of five employees. V Starr offers a wide range of service for both residential and commercial clients and aims to uniquely meet the needs of every client. Some of the more notable clients of V Starr include NFL player Bryant McKinnie and talk show host Tavis Smiley.
5. Maria Sharapova – Sugarpova
Maria Sharapova invested $500,000 to start up Sugarpova, “a premium candy line that reflects the fun, fashionable, sweet side of international tennis sensation Maria Sharapova”. Sugarpova offers unique interpretations of classic candies at affordable prices. The candies first appeared in the United States in August 2013 and have been a hot commodity ever since. In her first year of business, the Russian tennis star made a more than 120% return on her initial investment.