A Powerful Drive To Invest In The Future
The Great White Shark. For decades, that nickname has described Greg Norman as he stalks the links – his white blonde hair shining in the sun as he preys on the competition with his signature bold and aggressive style of play. The nickname has also come to represent Greg Norman in business. An astute entrepreneur, over the years, he has boldly and aggressively assembled an international corporate enterprise, which bears his name: The Greg Norman Company. Now, in conjunction with the University of Miami (UM) Sport Industry Conference, Norman has turned his drive toward helping the next generation of sports entrepreneurs by participating in “Greg Norman’s Search for the Next Great Sports Entrepreneur.”
A fierce competitor on and off the greens, Norman is perhaps one of the most successful athletes to parlay his sports fame into entrepreneurial accomplishment. As the “Great White Shark” on the course, Norman won more than 90 tournaments worldwide, and claims the distinction of having held the number one position in the world golf rankings for a remarkable 331 consecutive weeks. Off the course, Norman is one of the first athletes to successfully build a “brand” around his name and his career.
Today, The Greg Norman Company boasts a diverse portfolio of more than a dozen well-established and successful companies, all bearing the iconic shark logo, across a wide variety of markets including Consumer Goods and Services, Real Estate, and Investments. The range of Norman’s companies includes Greg Norman Golf Course Design, the Greg Norman Collection (Golf-inspired activewear for men and women), Greg Norman Estates (Vineyards and wines produced in California, Australia, and Argentina), Greg Norman Developments (Housing developments, including Medalist Village in Jupiter, Florida), and the Great White Shark Opportunity Fund (Alternative lending and flexible capital source for small- and midcap growth oriented companies via an asset-based debt lending structure). Regardless of the focus, there are certain traits that bind all of these seemingly disparate companies together: Passion, confidence, authenticity, and leadership. Those traits derive from the personality of the man himself, and are part of what he will be looking for as he works with the finalists in the University of Miami search.
Although Norman entered the business world with quite a degree of fame, he was a professional athlete by training – he did not have a business degree. He did; however, have an entrepreneurial drive. He has created a second career independent from his history-making golf career through hard work, determination, and the advice of professionals in the business realm with whom he interacted. Norman now takes the opportunity to repay that, by helping other entrepreneurs himself.
As he explains, “I started working with startups and small business in a formal capacity in 2013 when I launched the Great White Shark Opportunity Fund. I did this as a result of the Global Financial Crisis, a dislocation in the traditional lending markets, and overregulation of small business, which impeded their ability to grow and prosper. I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship and the impact it can have locally, nationally, and globally. I myself am an entrepreneur. Having made the shift from a professional athlete to a businessman required me to have a vision and also someone in the business world that believed in that vision. In my case it was Paul Fireman, CEO of Reebok, who helped me develop and grow my Shark brand. It is thrilling for me, almost three decades later, to have the opportunity to do it for someone else.”
Norman’s involvement with the University of Miami and “The Search for the Next Great Sports Entrepreneur” is part of that process. “Every day, I receive business plans, emails, and letters from budding entrepreneurs looking for me to invest in their startup, so this was really a natural progression. My office was in touch with some of the professors at the Sports Science Department at University of Miami, and the idea to do a worldwide entrepreneur search came organically. When I was presented with the idea, it was a no-brainer.”
Alicia Jessop, University of Miami Sport Administration Assistant Professor, agrees that Greg Norman was the logical choice for the Conference keynote speaker and, even more, was the perfect representative for the “Next Great Sports Entrepreneur” competition idea that the college wanted to run to coincide with the conference. “The Sports Industry Conference is designed to provide a platform for students to access leaders in the sports industry, and it is hard to find a bigger leader than Greg Norman,” she says. “When we approached his office with the idea, he agreed almost immediately. And he’s been very hands-on. He asked if it was OK if he assembled the team of investors himself, and then he went right out and did it. These are powerful people who truly want to help.”
Norman concurs. When asked about his involvement, he says quite proudly, “The entire thing has my fingerprint on it – I have been involved every step of the way from the very first meeting with UM. I have been fully engaged in every capacity from shaping what this would look like from a long-term perspective, to choosing my panel of investors, to sifting through hundreds of applications, and to choosing the final five. Obviously, I will be there on March 24 to determine who and what I will invest in and, as with everything I commit to, I will be dedicated to the success of the company. This is important to me, so I have made it a priority.”
And how involved will he be with the winner? He answers without hesitation, “If I choose to invest in one of the finalists and have an equity stake in their company, then I will be just as involved as I would be with any of my other businesses.”
That speaks volumes about a man who could very easily sit back and “enjoy the good life” on any one of the best courses in the world – or simply take in the stunning view from his own Jupiter, Florida home for that matter.
Jessop agrees. “He is so collaborative and easy. He really wants to pass down his entrepreneurial knowledge to help people.”
As of February 10, the five lucky people vying for the opportunity to pitch to Norman and his panel for the chance to receive the financial backing and investment needed to jumpstart their business are: FIOMET – Scott Rap, MD; Spalk – Ben Reynolds and Michael Prendergast; Snaptivity – Volha Paulovich; Game Cart – Pete Bastawros; and The Grint – Jose Torbay.
“We received hundreds of applications from around the world – including eight countries and five continents,” Jessop says. These finalists truly have remarkable qualities that set them apart. Their March 24th presentations should be exciting. As the presentations will occur after we go to press, InJupiter online will have the final results.
Norman himself is excited about the project. “I absolutely love this space – it is a passion of mine. To have the opportunity to discover the ‘next best thing in sport’ and to give a head start to some young man or woman is really special to me.”
No InJupiter article about Greg Norman and Florida would be complete without mentioning something else that is special to Norman – Jupiter itself. If you spend any amount of time in Jupiter you will quickly learn that he is well known and respected in our community.
I had to ask, what was it that initially drew him here? He answers, “Jupiter reminds me so much of where I grew up in Australia, on the ocean. This area also has perfect weather and conditions to practice year-round when I was playing full-time, professional golf. I am fortunate enough to have a magnificent piece of property on Jupiter Island that enables me to live the incredible lifestyle that the area affords.”