Angelo Crowell was drafted to the Buffalo Bills in 2003, but his connection to Jersey Mike’s began well before that. Utilizing his “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready” mindset, he began to invest in the sandwich franchise he discovered in high school soon after his professional debut.
In an interview with 1851 Franchise, Crowell weighed in on the NFL, advice from his brother and mentors and an audible putting him in the franchising world.
1851: When in your NFL career did you realize that franchising and business would be a second career?
Crowell: Well, I quickly realized this in my first year in the NFL. I needed to find a plan. My older brother, Germane, also played professional football. One day, he set me straight. He said I needed to find a transition plan just in case the game ended today. From there, I looked at what I could do, whether it was coaching or Wall Street.
I have always wanted to be a businessman. Ever since I was young, I always found a way to make money. Whether it was cutting grass or washing cars, I had an entrepreneurial spirit inside of me. I remember a conversation I had with my mother about being an entrepreneur. She explained that my dad was an entrepreneur even being a pastor. He grew the church’s community. So, I realized it at a very young age and began to build and create disciplines.
1851: How did you choose to invest in Jersey Mikes?
Crowell: Jersey Mike’s was the first franchise I invested in. It’s a pretty unique story to be honest. I grew up in North Carolina and have a big family. My mom never cooked during the week because there were so many of us. During my junior year in high school, a Jersey Mike’s opened up down the street and I fell in love with the product. Since I played football, the owner and I connected very easily because of his past with the sport. One day while I was eating there, I asked him how much it costs to own a Jersey Mike’s. He said it was about $200,000. At that point in time, it seemed very expensive. Fast forward three to four years later, I found myself in the NFL. I still loved the food and had the proper expenses to invest.
I currently own 12 locations in three states – Georgia, Florida and Alabama. There are also four in development. At this point, I don’t plan on investing in other companies. Jersey Mike’s has a proven model which can be taken to scale. We don’t have a number, but we want to keep going for sure.
1851: Regarding leadership, what did the NFL teach you? Does leadership on the field translate to leadership in the business and franchising world?
Crowell: The NFL taught me how to focus. In order to be good at whatever you want to do, you need to focus on a skillset. That focus can be transferred into the business world.
1851: Growing up did you have any mentors? Can you recall any advice they have given you?
Crowell: My high school coach told me that I was more than a football player and that definitely stuck with me. My college coach explained that the NFL just provides a head start in life. I have always kept that in mind as well. Additionally, when I decided I wanted to franchise with Jersey Mike’s, the brand hooked me up with Bill Mates, a franchisee in Scottsdale, Arizona. We got along because of his love for sports and he showed me how to be successful.
1851: What advice do you give to college athletes who don't see pro sports in their future?
Crowell: They need to create a plan—a fail-safe plan, a “what if” plan. Collegiate athletes need to ask themselves what if you don’t’ make it to the next level? A lot of younger athletes don’t go through this specific scenario because it’s tough to think about. They float around and figure it out as they go.
1851: What is the value of "grit" in sports? How necessary is it in the business world?
Crowell: It is simple. One must have to stay ready because you don’t want to waste time getting ready. If you need to get yourself ready, it might lead to missing an opportunity. In the NFL, backups are always told they are one play away. As a backup, you must prepare as if you are a starter.
Again, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. That is grit.