There are a plethora of stories about former professional athletes who have squandered most or all the millions of dollars they’ve earned over their careers. Others have tried to do the right thing and put their money to work by investing in nightclubs, restaurants, or other high-risk businesses only to see these ventures fail.
In an effort to encourage entrepreneurship and teach sound business decision making to current and former players, the National Football League recently held a Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Notre Dame.
“They get approached a lot about business opportunities and investment opportunities and we want to make sure we’re doing our part to educate them to ask the right questions and giving them the information they need to make sound business decisions,” says Kimberly Fields, VP of Player Engagement for the NFL. “The purpose is to give our players an education in business management and hands-on examples of how to apply that learning they’re going to get.”
The three-day curriculum teaches participants how to build a business plan, how to pitch the business to potential partners/investors, as well as financial planning and analysis.
“It’s designed to fill in the gaps between theory and principals they learn in the classroom and translating them into how they apply in the business world,” says Fields. Participants also get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a group of experts who advise them on the ins and outs of that particular type of business.
One athlete to participate in the program — both as a participant and speaker — was J.R. Tolver, a wide receiver drafted in 2003 by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and later played for the LA Avengers in the Arena Football League.
“I’d been operating in the environmental/sustainable space for about 4-5 years and I was looking to further that with an international recycling opportunity and I knew I’d be in over my head if I didn’t educate myself,” he says. Tolver is part-owner of Global Green Logistics which operates a three-person recycling facility in Panama City.
For Tolver, the program helped him figure out how to structure his company to make it attractive for investors.
“I really got a good feel for what it means to start a company from the ground up and how to acquire capital and the ability to network with former players, current players and the Notre Dame entrepreneur network,” he says. “They paired us up with a mentor. We also say through seminars from Notre Dame professors and graduates who started their own businesses.”