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Scoring profits: NFL veteran Mike Adams turned a bad financial situation into a revenue-generating opportunity.

WHEN NFL DEFENSIVE PLAYER MIKE ADAMS WAS FACED WITH SPENDING AS MUCH AS $3,000 ONE summer on T-shirts, he decided to buy the silk screening shop instead. "We would give away T-shirts to everyone that was coming to our free football camp annually," says Adams, 33, whose Denver Broncos went to this year's Super Bowl XLVIII. Adams partnered with fellow NFL player and former high school teammate Gerald Hayes in 2006 to form Rising Stars Foundation Inc. to provide youth in their hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, with exposure to football camps and life skills activities. The camp began with 50 players and grew to 300 by 2011. "It was crazy paying all that money for T- shirts for each kid every year." Adams estimates that he personally spends $20,000 to fund the camp each year.

It was during the summer of 2011 while Adams was out of work for 18 weeks due to the NFL lockout that the football safety decided to become an entrepreneur. After learning that the shop owner where he purchased team T-shirts was retiring, he made her a cash offer (of an undisclosed amount) and enlisted his brother Jerrel, 3 2, to manage the day- to-day operations. But neither Adams nor his brother had any experience in silk screening. There was another missing ingredient. "We had all the silk screening equipment necessary to start the business, including computers, presses, paper, and ink. We had everything except for clients," notes Adams. "We had to get our clientele up and tell people what we do."

Today, Adams is a co-owner of Around The Clock Printing, which provides embroidered clothing to sports camps as well as corporate clients such as Bottle King, Macy's, and Yankee Linen. He projects revenues of approximately $250,000 for the year.

"A lot of people don't see me as a business owner," says Adams, who has played in the NFL for 10 years for three teams including the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers." But I like to learn every aspect of the business. I don't want to own it just because I invested money in it. I actually wanted to know how to print, and now I do."

Gaining ownership wasn't a simple task. The previous owner of the Paterson shop had been at that location for decades and "had a nice client base," Adams says. However, she wanted to charge about three times the asking price if she included her client database in the store purchase. "We said no. We started from scratch and made a name for ourselves," Adams says. He changed the name of the business to Unlimited Graphics and used contemporary methods to get the business off the ground.

"First we had to go about learning how to use all the equipment. We took classes, read books, and looked on YouTube for silk screening training videos," says Adams about the weeks he and his brother spent getting acclimated.

Adams takes pride in the fact that he was hands on. "It was a lot of running around. I had to get an occupancy certificate, business certificates, and fire department approvals. It was a lot more than I had anticipated to get started," he says.

While Adams wants people to know he is serious about his business, it was his pro athlete status and community relationships that would bring in clientele. "Being a player in the NFL definitely helped us get customers. It was during the lockout, and reporters were interested in reporting what I was doing," says Adams.

"We also mostly used social media and word of mouth to get the word out" says Adams, who has about 25,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram. He says his social media presence coupled with the Facebook accounts and hometown reach of his six siblings was their primary means of promoting the business.

Once the lockout ended, Adams returned to the NFL and the print shop began to thrive, garnering business from local schools, camps, and other nonprofit organizations that needed T-shirts and other promotional clothing.

The community was receptive to Unlimited Graphics in part because Adams had already built a reputation for giving back by establishing a foundation in his hometown and a Little League team called the Silk City Cardinals. "Mike Adams has always paid it forward," says New jersey Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly, who honored Adams in February with a community service award for his volunteer efforts in Paterson.

Unlimited Graphics had 50 faithful customers after a year of operation under Adams, but revenues barely hit $100,000. So, when Adams was approached in 2012 by another local silk screen business owner, Cristian Freire, he was open to the possibilities. "One thing Cris brought to the table was the organization and structure we needed to grow. I was a rookie in this business but Cris had been doing this for 18 years. That's why we made a good team," says Adams. The pair closed their individual locations and purchased a warehouse facility in the neighboring town of Hawthorne, New Jersey. They named the new entity Around The Clock Printing.

Through the partnership, Adams and Freire were able to upgrade to an industrial shop with state-of-the-art equipment such as an automatic press that can print 500 T-shirts per hour. "We had very different clientele so we weren't competing, and I had machines he didn't have and vice versa. So, the partnership made perfect sense," says Adams.

While Adams' net worth has been estimated at $ 15 million today, he never forgets his humble beginnings. "The free camps I do were not around when I was growing up," says Adams.

5 Tips for Buying an Existing Business

Looking to purchase a business? Here are some suggestions to help guide you down that path.

1 Check the credit history. Run a credit check on the person selling the business. Why? Non-payment of bills may indicate hidden problems with the business.

2 Don't Just talk to the owner. Also talk to customers and employees to get a feel for the business. Obtain as much information as you can about the business and find out why the owner is selling.

3 Evaluate and investigate. Look into every nook and cranny. The more you know about the business, the more informed you'll be.

4 Negotiate the best deal. Ask the current owner to throw in equipment, office supplies, and company vehicles. If he or she is eager to sell, you could end up with a great many extras.

5 Make it legal. For your own protection, don't try to complete the sale without the help of a tax adviser and a legal adviser who have experience in small-business transactions.
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Title Annotation:THE STARTUP
Author:Spruell, Sakina P.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2014
Words:1117
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