Former Arizona Cardinals star safety Adrian Wilson turned a childhood passion into a post-NFL business venture. In 2008, while still playing for the Cardinals, the defensive standout opened High Point Shoes, a lifestyle boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Wilson plans to expand his High Point banner in 2016, but he also hasn’t left the game he played for more than a decade. The football player-turned-store owner is now a scout for the Cardinals. He will be rewarded for his loyalty today, when the Cardinals take on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game, as the team has named Wilson its honorary captain.
Wilson spoke with Footwear News about why he opened High Point Shoes, players shopping in his store and his approach to opening more storefronts.
What made owning a retail store appealing after your NFL career?
At first, it was a hobby. I didn’t look at it as something that was going to be a moneymaker, something I was going to be taking a check home from every month. I started it to bring some type of culture to Arizona. I wanted to bring the cultures of New York, Miami, Chicago — all the places I visited while playing sports. When I went to other states and to the retail spaces there, I would see all this fly stuff. I wanted to bring that back to Arizona, bring that culture back here to Arizona.
Do you look at owning a store differently now that you’re not on the field playing?
I’ve learned so much about running a business — from not having to play football 24/7 to being in that front-office role, you learn so much about how a business operates. Some of the things I learned, I’ve incorporated into my own personal business as far as how big businesses are run. The day-to-day stuff from when I was playing to not playing, the day-to-day is a bit different.
What’s your role with the Cardinals?
I’m a scout. I did an internship over the summer, and hopefully at the end of the year, when everything goes well, I’ll get a business card that says what I am. But until then, I’m up there grinding every day, breaking down film and trying to help the team win.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 17, 2016
What have you experienced as a business owner that you were surprised by? What are some of the toughest tasks you’ve faced?
The day-to-day is probably the toughest thing that I overlooked that I probably should have been focusing more on. And having the right talent in place. That’s huge when you try to grow a small business. When you have the wrong people [and the right people] in the same space, it’s hard for people to grow, and you want everybody to grow within the organization, you want everybody to give their best. The thing that I learned the most is the day-to-day operations and having the right people in place — that’s huge.
Do you find owning a business just as rewarding as having an NFL career?
If it weren’t for my NFL career, I probably wouldn’t have the store, so I think the NFL was the main focus. My main focus was being the best I could be on the field and then let everything else figure itself out as far as maturing into a man and me wanting to be more than just a football player.
How have you been able to expand your High Point Shoes banner so rapidly?
Money, for one. For two, you’ve got to have the right people around you, you’ve got to have people you could trust and you’ve got to make the right moves for your brand. You can’t just put your brand anywhere just because every other brand is there, like an L.A. or a New York or Chicago; those markets are so overpopulated with different brands. It would be nice to have your brand there in all those places so you can say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a store in L.A.,’ but it may be worthless. What’s the point of putting a store there if it’s not going to flourish?
What are your plans to expand?
New York is not going to be the end-all, but there’s probably going to be a lot of focus spent there because I have a lot of things I do in New York, so a lot of focus is going to be there. There’s plenty of places that I would like to open, but I the market dictates exactly where you open u and where you want to be as a brand. I don’t want my brand to be surrounded by a whole lot of other brands around it. The other brands can influence how your brand operates, and I don’t particularly want that.
Do any players come into your store?
Tons of guys come in. Any team that’s in town, they want to come and shop at High Point. All the Cardinals players shop there, too. In the spring and summer, Arizona where athletes come in from spring training to summer camps to basketball games, whatever it is. Arizona is like the main destination for athletes, even in the summer, during offseason training, all the athletes are out here, so you have to keep the store fresh, you have to keep things constantly coming in and you have to keep sizes constantly coming in.