He was a highly-touted quarterback coming out of high school in Austin, Texas.
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He set numerous school and conference records while playing for Purdue University. He was tapped as an NFL All-American four times. And in February 2010, he led his New Orleans Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in the franchise's history.
Drew Brees is certainly a champion. But did you know he is also an entrepreneur?
He is the initial franchisee in the Crescent City for a well-known sandwich shop chain. He sports a clothing line which donates proceeds to charitable organizations. And he also embodies the entrepreneurial spirit through his work with a charity foundation that bears his name as well as an entrepreneurial program for high school students.
Brees is leading the effort to bring Jimmy John's sandwich shops to New Orleans. The quarterback says he was a huge fan of the chain's sandwiches while he was in college, and that he sometimes missed them when he moved away from the Midwest. After relocating to New Orleans, Brees decided that he wanted to combine his love for Jimmy John's products with his goal of becoming a part of the famous Big Easy culinary scene.
In 2007, Brees decided to jump into the apparel industry by launching his own line of T-shirts called ByUGear. The business started with him and his wife designing shirts on their own and soon established a large presence in Greater New Orleans retailers. Now, ByUGear can be found in many other stores; Brees even designed shirts for the Saints' Super Bowl playoff run which netted ByUGear $275,000 in just three weeks.
A portion of ByUGear's proceeds is donated to the athlete's charity group called the Brees Dream Foundation. The organization has raised millions of dollars to fund charitable causes in West Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue), San Diego (where he began his NFL career), and New Orleans. In fact, the Brees Dream Foundation has been a major part of the Big Easy's reconstruction efforts since Hurricane Katrina struck the city, supplying funds used to rebuild parks, playgrounds, and schools.
Brees is even doing his part to encourage future entrepreneurs. He has partnered with Idea Village, a nonprofit organization that fosters entrepreneurism in New Orleans, to reach out to high school students – especially those who are disadvantaged. Together, they created a program called the Trust Your Crazy Ideas business plan competition. The entity goes into a school and promotes brainstorming among the students, and then assists them in putting together a business plan. Then the students implement the plans and raise money for their school or pet cause. At the end of the year, the foundation will choose the best business model as the winner of the competition – and then match whatever funds were raised by the idea.
Brees points out that many professional athletes are well-suited for entrepreneurism because they are highly-motivated self-starters who are not fazed by adversity. He says that being part of a team, he has learned that it becomes necessary to adjust and improve every year in order to stay ahead of the competition – skills that are invaluable in the business world. And Drew Brees is poised to remain a force in the marketplace and entrepreneurial community of New Orleans long after he retires from football.