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2 Posts authored by: Dhani Jones

 

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!

 

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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.

By Dhani Jones

Eleven-year pro football veteran and small business owner

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Dhani's Three Tips for Small Business Success

 

Local events provide unique opportunities for small businesses to capture excitement – and increase sales. The story of my career is filled with such events.

 

Before beginning my journey as an entrepreneur, I played professional football for 11 heart-thumping seasons. In fact, in 2005 with Philadelphia, we made it to the Big Game. Today, as a business owner, I seize opportunities like big football games – and other, local events – to create an uptick in awareness, engagement, and sales. You can learn more about my business, BowTie Cause, here.

 

Here’s the playbook for turning an event into a touchdown for your business:

 

1. Define success. Understand what you want from participating in or sponsoring any event before you dive in. What’s your goal? Define it as specifically as you can, identify how you plan to measure success, and create a game plan to achieve your objectives.Unknown.jpeg

 

2. Pick the right event. Knowledge is power, and the first step to leverage an event to benefit your business is to educate yourself. What about the event is relevant for your business? Engage where it’s most practical. For instance, if you own a record store and a music festival is planned in your area – be a sponsor. The important thing is that it makes sense for your business to be present.

 

3. Be true to your brand. Authenticity—from your brand’s message to its voice—is critical to connect with your target audience. Once you’ve identified an appropriate event, ensure your participation is true to your brand. If you own a T-shirt company that specializes in humor and a comedy festival comes to town, equip comedians with your best shirts to wear during their set; if a burger festival is on the calendar and you own a new restaurant, enter the competition; if a surf tournament comes to your local beach, sponsor a surfer and set up a pop-up shop near the event – just engage in a way that is right for your brand.

 

4. Join the conversation. There are many ways to hit a bullseye in this regard. One of the easiest is to get in on the digital dialogue – create content online paired with a trending event hashtag – and bring your brand to an active online audience. Take full advantage of social media. There are many ways to do this, from promoting targeted messaging to event attendees to streaming live video from the event. Engaging visibly online will draw attention to your business.

 

5. Consider working with a partner. If you are not resourced to plan for event engagement, consider partnering with a marketing or PR firm with values similar to yours. An experienced partner can play an important role in developing a truly impactful strategy – and help bring it to life.

 

Each business has its own story, its own goals, and its own way forward. By prioritizing relevance and authenticity, you can leverage the right event for your business to attract attention and win sales. Stay true to your brand and seize opportunities to connect in the most meaningful ways with your audience. And never forget, the way forward is your way forward.

 

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.

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