People always wonder what happens to professional athletes after they retire from their respected sport. Do they get another job? What kind of job can they get? Do they just do nothing the rest of their lives? Are they broke because they blew all their money? Do they start their own business? What do they do?
Life After Football: Al "Bubba" BakerAl "Bubba" Baker was a drafted in the 2nd round by the Detroit Lions in 1978. Baker had a successful 12 seasons in the NFL, winning the defense rookie of the year (with 23 sacks which would have been an NFL record, but they didn't officially compile sacks until 1982) and was named a Pro Bowler 3 times. Retiring in 1990 at the age of 34 Baker was still young in the real world. Baker wanted to own a business so he and his wife Sabrina opened a Mail Box Etc. in Shaker Heights, Ohio to practice a turn key operation. One of his goals after football was to open a barbecue restaurant, because he grew up in the barbecue business, and looked up to his uncle "Daddy Jr." owns Jenkins Quality Bar-B-Q in Jacksonville, Florida. This led to him opening up the first Bubba's-Q in 1993.aa
Baker like most entrepreneurs did have his ups and downs. He sold Mail Box Etc. for 4 times the amount he bought it at in 1996, but in 1997 he had to close his first Bubba's-Q. But barbecue was his passion, and he needed to give it another shot. Baker's wife wouldn't eat barbecue because she thought it was too messy, time-consuming, and she hated to pick up the bones by hand. This is when Baker decided to create the boneless baby back ribs (de-boned ribs) and with help of his daughter Brittani they finished the recipe in 2006. This led to the re-opening of Bubba's-Q in Avon, Ohio.
"I came from a family business and it was my passion. My uncle would always say you should open your own to anyone with ideas about what he should do. My family made pit barbecue where the fire was right underneath the meat and I always wanted to make smoked barbecue where it was indirect heat. Fire on one end meat the other and the smoke cooked the meats Low & Slow!"
Baker had a unique product, but the business was still struggling in 2013. Baker was at the bank trying to get an extended line of credit when ABC's Shark Tank called. His daughter Brittani had applied to the show on her dad’s behalf, and the following day he had a Skype interview with one of the casting directors of Shark Tank. Bubba's-Q was accepted and a few weeks later Baker was ready to pitch his boneless ribs to the sharks.
"Growing a business is much more difficult, the NFL is 100+ years and established our businesses are created from vision and following an unseen plan. FAITH!"
After a solid pitch to the sharks Baker had a few interested but ultimately took a deal with Daymond John ($300,000 for a 30% percent stake). Now the show is recorded several months in advance so John told Baker to update his website so that costumers can buy the de-boned ribs online. Bubba's-Q had $150,000 in online orders 24 hours after their Shark Tank episode air and by the end of the week, the online orders exceeded $400,000. This led to the good problem of having to find a new co-packer to supply the demand. After Shark Tank, Bubba's-Q has become an International bucket list restaurant with the farthest guest coming from China to try the Boneless Ribs. Baker says working with Daymond John has been great, and very patient as they work through the process of branding food products. He hopes to start franchising Bubba's-Q so that everyone can enjoy their boneless ribs. Bubba's-Q has won several awards including MadeMan.com – who voted them the number 2 BBQ in America in 2016 and the best barbecue restaurant, and best ribs by Silver Spoon, Cleveland Magazine 2007-2016.
"Nerve Racking! Scariest thing I've done to date! Wet your pants scary in fact or worse, use your imagination." - Baker on what it was like to be in the Shark Tank
"Save your money! Start thinking about what you may want to do now because one injury and you'll be forced into making that decision. DREAM BIG! It's free." - Al "Bubba" Baker
Bubba's Boneless Ribs will be featured on QVC Wednesday, January 25 between 7:00-10:00 pm