Sometimes you find your passion. Other times, your passion finds you. In my case, it came from a friend.
In 2000, my childhood friend Kunta Littlejohn was in the middle of his battle with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – something that’s impossible to imagine until it strikes so close to home. I didn’t know how to support him. I only knew that I wanted to do something – whatever I could – to help.
At around the same time, I began my professional football career as a linebacker with the New York Giants. Kunta and I spoke often as he underwent treatment and I began my journey as a professional athlete. He was fighting for his life while I was launching into the national spotlight. As my star rose, Kunta told me, “If you wanna be somebody, you gotta rock a bowtie.”
At first, I took the statement for what it was: one friend imparting some light-hearted advice on another. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the enormous potential inherent in a tiny fashion accessory. A custom-designed bowtie could be used to tell his story of perseverance, resilience and survival – and bowties designed to support good causes could move mountains for those in need across the nation.
I started my business by listening and, like other business owners, I became passionate about identifying what the market needed and growing my business.
Today, BowTie Cause provides an avenue to support individuals and organizations they believe in by rockin' a signature BowTie. What began as an idea has transformed into a powerful tool for philanthropy – and a growing enterprise. I hope each bowtie will serve as a catalyst for conversation while having a meaningful impact for those in need. Bowtie Cause now helps raise money and awareness for many charitable organizations, from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to USAID.
It would never have been possible to empower the causes and people that BowTie Cause touches without taking a leap – to pursue a passion, to build a business, and—ultimately—to transition from one career to another as a business owner. I played professional football for 11 seasons, but now I am fully dedicated to enterprise.
Football and business are similar in that you take great care to reach the Big Game. In football, you take care of your body like you take care of your business. Your goal is to reach the Big Game. As a business owner, your Big Game may be reaching the Fortune 100.
However, running a business has challenges different from professional football. Sales, for example. Sales can be challenging, and I’ve learned it’s important to have a compelling product and a good story in order to thrive – whether that means growing your business into an empire, or growing your business to sell it.
Professional athletes know that their careers won’t last forever. The advice I share with them is the same advice I would give all small business owners: plan while you’re planning. By this I mean focus on your current enterprise, but always look ahead to the next great idea, the next opportunity, and the next adventure.
Kunta knows what I’m talking about. He beat cancer, and you know he’s rockin’ a bowtie!
About Dhani Jones
Dhani Jones is the owner of BowTie Cause, which empowers numerous organizations with custom bowties designed to support their initiatives. Before his journey into entrepreneurship, Jones played for eleven seasons in pro football as a linebacker in New York, Philadelphia, and with Cincinnati. Additionally, he hosted the Travel Channel series, Dhani Tackles the Globe and the CNBC series, Adventure Capitalist. He is a guest contributor to the Small Business Community.