Courtesy of Disrupt Foods
Professional athletes make a lot of money in a short period of time. This makes them ripe for crooks and the like and many find themselves in bankruptcy just a few years after leaving the game.
Malcolm Jenkins and Joe Johnson want to change that – while also bringing more black and Hispanic Americans into the business world. Jenkins, a security star for the NFL New Orleans Saints, and Johnson, who has 12 years of experience in retail operations, co-founded Disrupt Foods, which operates 12 Papa John’s branches in the Northeast. .
Disrupt Foods plans to add 11 more locations in the New England area over the next four years and is looking to add more franchise brands as well. But he also created Athlete Franchise Partners, a new platform designed to provide franchise opportunities to professional athletes.
The idea is to help athletes find, fund and operate investments in well established fast food franchises.
âWe want to create meaningful connections between athletes and big brands,â said Johnson, COO of Malcolm Inc. who runs Disrupt Foods, in an interview. âThere are a ton of athletes who are interested, they are about to start. We wanted to create a vehicle to create opportunities. “
Athlete Franchise Partners is inspired by Broad Street Ventures, a venture capital fund Jenkins started last year that features NFL players Jacoby Brissett and Duron Harmon as investors. Broad Street is designed to provide black and brown athletes with some of the same investment opportunities as major venture capital funds.
Broad Street has already made 10 investments. Some of the companies he has invested in are expected to go public.
âPeople love athletes,â Jenkins said. “We are using this to our advantage.”
Franchisees also love athletes and often court athletes as potential franchisees. For athletes, franchising can be a great source of income long after they’ve left the game, thanks to the money they can generate.
Jenkins and Johnson founded Disrupt Foods in 2016 by opening a Papa John’s in Philadelphia. The pair were inspired by people like Junior Bridgeman – whose 12-year success as a professional basketball player was only surpassed by his incredible success operating Wendy’s restaurants after his retirement.
They thought Papa John’s would be a good investment because of its quality positioning. But they also saw potential for growth in the brand. âWe didn’t want to be a little fish in a big pond,â Johnson said. âWe wanted to identify organizations with white space opportunities.â Papa John’s was the smallest of the Big Four pizza delivery guys.
But they also understand that some brands are better investments than others. While franchising can be a good, safe investment, smaller, lesser-known brands can pose a big risk – as shown in a report on franchising issues released by US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto this week.
That’s why Athlete Franchise Partners targets big fast food brands, which can be more difficult investments for newbie operators, even if they are famous athletes and artists.
At the same time, the two also understand what these brands need to thrive. âWe personally know other athletes and artists who have franchises but don’t have strong operations,â Jenkins said. “Operations is the name of the game in the franchise.”
At the same time, many of these brands do not have a strong black or Hispanic representation in the property. A third of the American population is black or Hispanic, but only 18% of franchise owners are, and that number drops even more by watching the biggest chains.
âIt’s top to bottom,â Johnson said. âThere is a diversity issue on boards of directors and management teams and this is certainly true for the franchise base.â
By targeting athletes with an effort like this, these brands could diversify their ownership base while bringing in well-known operators coupled with powerful operators. âThese are vehicles to allow more blacks and brunettes to have these opportunities and to help people enter this industry,â Johnson said.