By Tom Ottaiano, CEO, Today’s Business
Looking back, the journey will always teach you more than the destination. It will push you even if you’re not ready. The journey will force you to learn what you are capable of and who you really are.
Our journey started with a conversation in the locker room. Chris Hogan and I were close friends on and off the field. We promised each other we would give our dreams all we had and we would support one another the entire way through.
This was no small dream. This was the NFL.
Our plan was to both make it to the league and play at the professional level. At the time, both Chris and I were labeled as “long shots” to make it on an NFL roster. That didn’t stop us. We gave it 100% and we truly believed we could shock the world and get to the level we wanted to be at. There was nothing that was stopping us, and we supported each other fully. The dynamic of our friendship meant that we pushed one another because we knew we had all the potential in the world.
Two Different Paths
2011 was the year of the NFL lockout. Chris and I saw our dreams starting to dwindle and we came to terms with it. What if the dream was over? Just when we thought we were about to hit a dead end on the long road to our dreams, the lockout ended.
My career in the NFL was short-lived, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Once I decided to hang up the cleats, there was a moment where I told Chris to keep doing him and I would worry about the rest.
I began shifting my focus from the daily grind of NFL training to the workplace. I realized that I wanted to control my own destiny. Instead of working for someone, my new goal was to build something great and be my own boss. Together with my college roommate, Chaz Cervino, and our friend and internet guru, William Ash, we entered the digital marketing and branding world.
Today’s Business and a new dream was born.
Becoming a Brand
When Chris was on the practice squad for the Buffalo Bills I was in a meeting with a huge supplement brand. The brand was identifying key issues that would later develop into influencer marketing. They were endorsing athletes and receiving nothing in return. They were lacking when it came to their social media presence. Here we were, in the meeting with this potential client with a massive opportunity to change the game staring at us in the face.
There was just one catch, we had to pitch a practice squad athlete as the man that could fix their problems. They didn’t know who Chris Hogan was, but I told them that he was a star and we would ensure that he fulfills every obligation.
We didn’t know it at the time, but that meeting not only jumpstarted Chris’s brand, but it also flourished into a multi-million dollar enterprise. We knocked on opportunity’s door and we were ready.
Most “entourages” cost athletes and entertainers serious expenses. Ours is a bit different because we make money. We took the team approach to our business and everyone has a role. Chris worries about his performance on the field and I take care of everything else.
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Today was pretty amazing... got to go back to where it all started @monmouthuniversity and Share our story, @chrishogan_15 And I came along way from that locker room, but far from finished! Thank you @monmouthuniversity and @muhawks @muhawksfb for having us. #flyhawks #tbteam #alwaysopen
We’ve come a long way from the two guys who were in the locker room waiting for our dreams to begin. These last eight years have been a whirlwind.
Most athletes are known for being broke five years after retirement. In Chris’s case, his net worth will be considerably higher post-career because of our branding efforts. As a team, we agreed that football is only a short stint in one’s life, and we were planning for the future.
The best part of our journey is that it has never felt like work. It has always felt like we are building something great. We still are every single day.
Our entourage has emerged as a serious contender in this game. We have built a foundation that is multidimensional, have successfully launched two different companies who have amassed over 30 million dollars in sales, and have developed our own brands “Undrafted” and “Always Open.” Additionally, we have built great partnerships with brands like Menlo Club, Nike, New Republic, and Pepsi.
We have also successfully launched our private investment fund. We’ve invested in a plethora of different business ideas, franchises, real estate, and even a professional lacrosse league. The Premier Lacrosse League is a brand new league started by some of the world’s best lacrosse players that will be launching on NBC Sports June 1.
We are not done yet. Our goal is to build our house of brands to over the eight-figure mark within the next five to seven years.
For all of us, the journey has just begun.