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If you watched NFL football any time from 2006 through 2014, you’ve likely heard the name Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley was a nine-year NFL veteran who played for the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. He played his college ball for Florida State. Now, Wimbley is an established entrepreneur whose passion for business is easy to admire.
Wimbley’s business, KW Growth Holdings LLC, is the parent company to many ventures and projects that he is involved with under the KW Growth Holdings umbrella. The former NFL star has broken into many different fields and industries, such as tech, athletics, apparel, restaurant, pets and more, and is always looking for the next big opportunity. He is also a very community-oriented person.
StartupNation had the opportunity to sit down with Wimbley for an exclusive interview, and pick his brain about entrepreneurship, sports and the similarities and differences between the two.
Check out our Q&A conversation with the athlete turned entrepreneur below:
What has football taught you, and what lessons did the sport teach you that you’ve carried over to the business world?
You have to really focus on being intelligent and smart. It kind of ties in with what characteristics (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick, who I met with before going to the NFL, looks for in football players. It’s something (that I learned) being under (former Cleveland Browns head coach) Romeo Crennel my first time in the league and also being under (assistant coach) Mickey Andrews at Florida State, as well.
I think that these principles have really helped me go a long way on the football field, but they’re also helping me out in entrepreneurship.
I think for a lot of people who get into entrepreneurship, they think it’s going to be easier than what a lot of people find out it actually is. But I’ve been enjoying this. I think it’s a process. I’ve been meeting a lot of really unique people who I think are interested in what we do, and they’ve been a part of helping us grow and helping us serve the community in which our companies are present in. I think having intelligence, and being tough, and having resilience and the ability to bounce back (is what football taught me about business). There will be setbacks on the football field, there are no perfect games, and there are setbacks in business as well. So, I think how you go about dealing with those are extremely important.
Also, another thing that is instrumental is really building a solid team. So, you really rely on other individuals within the company to know what their roles are and to be able to execute. So, it’s more like being a coach off of the field, and ultimately trying to comprise a game plan or developing a strategy that works best for you and the people within your company.
Can you talk about KW Growth Holdings, the business you started, and the various projects within it?
Some of the companies I started out with initially were in the pet industry. I am one of the owners of a pet relocation business called Premier Pet Relocation, based out in California in the San Francisco area. I am a partner (with) Vanessa Stanghellini. I became interested in that company because I was moving; I was traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Oakland Raiders, and my dogs needed to be transported. Her company did a great job. She presented an investment opportunity, and I invested. I really liked her business plan.
I was also approached by (another) company to invest in their startup, and it was a clothing company called Not Human Clothing. I wanted to go back into my hometown of Wichita, Kansas and invest there. There were a couple of companies that I started before investing in Not Human. One was a barbershop, Twice As Nice Barbershop, and the other was a Wings & Things restaurant. Both of those started in my hometown and were some of my earlier investments. While I was in Oakland, I also invested in a dog registry called Bull Breed Coalition Registry. We are now approaching our second National Championship for that, which will be in North Carolina in November.
Another area in which I am expanding into is the tech sector… And the latest companies that I’m involved with are Stadium Status Fitness and Elite Combine. These two companies are going to work together on a number of things in the sports world. Everything from position-specific training to linking people looking for specific (athletic) services with the people who are providing those services, which includes former NFL players, former or current coaches and former Division I college athletes.
We’re also going to be connecting people with those who provide services in acupuncture, chiropractic work and massage. It’s similar to other booking platforms out there, but I think this one is special because it’s really going to be comprised of people within my network who we know have the credibility, and have either played the sport (of football) at a very high level or people who are very professional at what they do when it comes to health and wellness.
We’re about to open up a fitness space in Tampa, Florida, where I currently live. I opened up my first fitness studio in my hometown in the neighborhood where I came from. With Elite Combine, that’s a platform that will get kids exposure and hopefully get kids to college. There’s going to be a mixture of things on there, from helping kids prep for the SAT and ACT, to working directly with the districts in which the kids are playing sports, then connecting those schools and kids to the universities and opportunities that are available when it comes to continuing education and playing (sports) at the next level.
Additionally, I am continuing to invest in companies that help our companies out. I’ve invested in an event and staffing company, and there are some others in the fitness space who I still want to collaborate with. We will remain to be pretty heavy in the tech space, and continue to merge the digital space with the sports world.
You are active in the community. Why is it important to be involved in the community, and what are some things you have done to better it?
I am really interested in seeing my hometown continue to grow and continue to put talent out that’s recognized on a national level. I’ve participated in “Shop with a Jock” events to help bring Christmas to those who are less fortunate. That was done with EAG (Sports Management) and (CEO and founder) Denise White. I’ve also donated money in my hometown toward kids’ scholarships through a program called Beautillion, and another called Fashionetta, which focuses on African American kids coming out of high school who are headed into college. We’ve had people write essays and speeches to receive the money toward their education.
Another way I am looking to give back is through a partnership with Jamela Peterson. We’re looking to give startups the opportunity to gain capital. She developed an incubator program that takes people who have never written a business plan, and walks them through all of the steps of writing a business plan and securing financing for your business.
We also have a program where we try to help kids understand entrepreneurship. We’ve made plans to do a fresh food market where the kids are going to grow their own vegetables and then sell them, and we help them through that process. (Jamela has) been involved in helping kids publish and sell their own books, so there are two separate aspects to this: a socialpreneur aspect (with the kids) and an incubator program (with the business plans).
While you played in the NFL, you attended the Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program for players. How did that help you become an entrepreneur?
I think it is a great program by the NFL that gets all of those players who have an interest in entrepreneurship together to really learn from some of the top professors in the country. We were able to listen to (Stanford University) Professor George Foster, and they brought in different companies, as well.
One of those companies was led by a gentleman who started up an airline, and another one was GoPro. It was great to hear from all of those major corporations about how they made it. It was also cool to hear stories from (celebrity entrepreneurs) like Ashton Kutcher, and how he took his Twitter following and leveraged that to be able to gain equity in companies. I think that’s something I’ve utilized as well, and I think it’s going to work really well with the sports platforms I talked about, because it’s such a natural fit.
What are the goals for KW Growth Holdings as a business, and how do you want to personally grow as an entrepreneur?
We’ve spent the past three or four years just really researching and developing, and I’ve poured a lot of capital into my company. I’ve really been able to form great relationships with people. So, within this quarter and the upcoming year, we’re looking for a lot of growth and scaling.
I feel that in 2019, we’ll be able to take all of the information that we’ve built up in the past three years and extract a value from it, and hopefully we’re able to help a lot of other people be able to achieve their goals and achieve their dreams while working with or collaborating with our company. So, I am extremely excited about helping people who don’t know which way they want to go in business or help them develop in sports, or helping people get out and enjoy their pets or enjoy their family, which is what a lot of my companies do.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, either as an entrepreneur or athlete, and how do you still use that advice today?
A big influence for me was when I was at Florida State, and I was under the tutelage of (assistant coach) Mickey Andrews, and he used to tell us “Get two percent better every day.”
That’s one of those things where you think about and you wonder, two percent, where does that come from? I think we (as players) were so used to people telling us to give 110 percent, but you think about it and realize that’s not really possible. But what you can do is get better every single day.
When you add all of that up after the culmination of all of the practices and hard work, you can add that up to 100 percent, and you’re ready. Another one of his quotes was, “Every day you get better or you get worse, but you never stay the same.” That’s another one (I follow).
On the flip side, if you had one piece of advice for someone looking to start their own business, what would it be?
I would just tell them to really educate themselves and try to surround themselves with people who have experience in that particular field. Ask a lot of questions, and be prepared to work a lot of hours. In entrepreneurship, you’re going to have to contribute more hours and work harder than you typically would in a 9-to-5 job.
Was starting a business always something you wanted to do when your playing days were over, or did you find that passion later on while thinking about life after football?
Well, I read a book by Robert Kiyosaki called “Rich Dad, “Poor Dad,” and I’m sure a lot of people have delved into that book.
For me, I think it was really taking a hard look at the traditional mindset: go to school, get a good education, work a 9-to-5 until you’re 65-years-old and then retire. But, I grew up in a space where I was able to watch Mark Zuckerberg create this platform that ultimately is now one of the most influential platforms in the history of mankind, which is Facebook.
I would say that looking at the way that we connect through our social media platforms, and how that is changing lives, I felt that was a great opportunity for me to jump into a market where typically the barrier for entry would be difficult. But now I am in a space where I am able to identify talent and compete at a level where in the past, I may not have been able to compete in because of access. But now there’s accessibility to talent, and I am able to utilize the resources that I was able to get through my professional career.
A business was an opportunity to continue my legacy, and help educate my kids and have something for them to look forward to if they don’t have an interest in sports; they can always join in our family businesses. I just didn’t want to go about things the normal way, and I wanted to retire (from the NFL) early, so entrepreneurship seemed like the best vehicle for that option.
Would you say that going from an athlete to entrepreneur is a natural transition, or do you have to work a little bit harder coming from such a different field? What are some differences and similarities in the two professions?
I think there were some things that are natural, and some things that are challenging for NFL players. I think a lot of players may struggle with their development off of the field. Football is a game where we’re highly competitive, and then once you’re out of football, it’s kind of hard to turn that off.
I think being able to develop a network of people who are there to help you with that transition is very helpful. The thing that I find to be very similar is that teamwork aspect.
You need to be able to get with a team where your vision is aligned with their vision, and ultimately you come up with the strategy and the game plan, and then you execute or you take action.
I think in the NFL, everything’s kind of comprised for us. The coaches come in and create the game plan. Once you’re done with football, it’s kind of all on you. A lot of (players in the league), maybe didn’t necessarily understand that it was a great opportunity for networking, as we met so many people from so many different spaces that can, and are willing to help you, once you are done with your sport.
In addition to his many entrepreneurial endeavors, Wimbley has participated on such shows as “American Ninja Warrior” and MTV’s “The Challenge.”
A huge thank you to Kamerion for taking the time to speak with us, and for giving us a glimpse into his passion and desire for both entrepreneurship and sport.