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Timberwolves’ Anthony Tolliver maintains an active entrepreneurial side off the court

December 15, 2018

When Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver first walked into a $1.45 million, 6,500-square-foot home in Wayzata earlier this year, he stood in the middle of the living room and said: I can already envision it. I already know what its going to look like.

Months later, the home is completely different from a rustic relic out of the 1970s with wood paneling all over to a clandestine retreat with an all-white kitchen, a new gray paint job and a bathroom in each of the six bedrooms.

Tolliver also helped add another touch a second washer-dryer in the home, located in the master bedroom.

Whenever you talk about a million-plus-dollar house, you want as many amenities as possible, Tolliver said on a tour of the property in November. Sometimes you overdo it, but to me its better to have too much than not enough.

But the home isnt for Tolliver. Its not for anybody in his family. Instead, he bought it, renovated it and will sell it, with the help of some friends and business partners.

The entrepreneurial spirit has always been a part of who I am, the makeup of who I am, Tolliver said.

However, Tollivers business acumen goes deeper than just flipping houses. In addition to the hours of work that go into practice, traveling and keeping himself in shape as an NBA player, Tolliver is constantly keeping tabs through e-mail, phone calls and texts on a stout business portfolio that includes a variety of ventures designed to help the 33-year-old keep growing his wealth after game checks stop coming.

In addition to real estate, Tolliver helps run Active Faith (a Christian sports apparel brand), a group fitness brand and, most intriguing, he is invested in two unique companies: Big Blanket Co., which is self-descriptive, and Kid Casters, which makes fishing gear for children.

I dont even fish, Tolliver said. Thats whats crazy.

Getting started

Tollivers entrepreneurial spirit began in his hometown of Springfield, Mo., wanting to make a little extra money as a kid.

We had all the needs. But not all the wants [growing up], Tolliver said. I found out from a young age if I wanted something I had to work for it.

He started his own businesses mowing lawns and detailing cars for friends and family, but after he graduated as a finance major from Creighton in 2007, Tolliver ventured into the world of real estate almost as soon he began playing in the NBA. Along with childhood friend and business partner Kelly Byrne, Tolliver flipped his first house for about $80,000 in 2009, just after the housing market had cratered.

We were able to learn in that new world and start off broke and not have too high of expectations, Byrne said.

Now, Byrne and Tolliver help run a realty company called Say You Can that is involved in multimillion-dollar deals in and around Springfield and Omaha. Tolliver has even involved other NBA players, such as Zach Randolph and Stephen Curry, in some of his transactions.

Hes a big believer in investing in the right people and hes been pretty particular about the people hes placed around him, Byrne said.

Smart with money

The care with which he goes about his investments has been essential to Tollivers growing portfolio. He isnt throwing money around to any friend or family member who may have an idea and a dream. He didnt want to be another athlete who went broke on poor investments and extravagant spending.

I think guys are way more cognizant of not being another statistic, Tolliver said.

He tends to go into business with people he knows, but even if youre a friend, you have to know what youre doing if Tolliver is going to invest.

Its the combination of trustworthiness and also expertise, Tolliver said. Ive had family members, people that I would say I would trust, but Im not going to [invest with them] because they dont know what that business entails. Its not just about trusting the person. Its about if they actually are confident in doing the job.

Its also about investigating every opportunity that may come along, even if its out of Tollivers comfort zone.

Take Kid Casters, a company that also boasts former Timberwolves forward Brad Miller as an investor. That began as an idea Tolliver heard through some friends, although they werent sold on this one at first.

We looked at the market of fishing and noticed none of the fishing companies really in the world were focusing on kids at all, Tolliver said. We said lets go dominate the kids industry.

Now Kid Casters products are featured in several stores, such as Walmart, Dicks Sporting Goods and Cabelas.

Anthonys been an instrumental part in the growth and success of the company, early on taking a huge risk on us, said Kid Casters CEO Ralph Duda, a friend of Tollivers from Springfield. Our relationship is built on trust. Its more of a brotherly trust and its not real corporate. Hes not like a helicopter investor.

One of Tollivers latest investments is Big Blanket. The company is trying to sell you on size that your average blanket is too small and to get your desired warmth you need a Big Blanket, which are 10 feet by 10 feet.

Very ginormous, large blankets, Tolliver said. Were doing it over the top, outrageously large on purpose.

The company follows a pattern for Tollivers investments: Team with someone he trusts to help run it in this case COO Dane Watts, Tollivers former teammate at Creighton and meticulously research its viability.

Like with Kid Casters, Tolliver thought it was kind of dumb, but the research suggested otherwise.

Every house in America has multiple blankets, and probably 80 percent of those are too small, Tolliver said.

Big Blanket recently had an online Kickstarter with a goal of raising $10,000. Its now over $50,000.

Handling his business

Just how does Tolliver juggle all these varied interests while still maintaining a demanding career in the NBA?

I definitely am a huge believer in delegating, Tolliver said. You know what you know, but you dont know what you dont know. Trying to be an expert at everything is really counterproductive.

Tolliver isnt much involved in the daily operations of any of his investments, but friends loop him in on big decisions. When Active Faith needed a new CEO, Tolliver was a part of the interview process.

Hes as engaged as he wants to be, Byrne said. With him doing what hes doing, it doesnt make sense for him to be making day-to-day decisions.

But Tolliver still spends a lot of time helping grow his investments. To promote Kid Casters, Tolliver will attend the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) in Orlando. He has also traveled to China on behalf of the company.

In China hes a celebrity NBA player. It really lends credibility to what were doing, Duda said.

And Tolliver will occasionally do what he did in late November, which was to check on the two houses in the Twin Cities. Tolliver isnt making decisions on what color paint to use or the kind of carpeting to install.

Ill come through and act like Im a buyer, he said. If I was in the market to buy this house, would I? I try to be brutally honest and tell them my biggest feedback.

In St. Louis Park, Tolliver hadnt yet seen an under-construction smaller starter home. In late November, the house looked nowhere near complete. The kitchen was bare, rugs were rolled up on the floor. However, Adam Sullivan, another business partner overseeing that house and the Wayzata house, said it was almost done. Tolliver explored the barren basement and was too tall to fit in certain areas of it without ducking. But he looked around and liked what he saw.

This is a classic flip, Tolliver said.

Soon, he and his wife, Jessica, were back in the car, on their way home. Tolliver may never see that home again before its sold. But he doesnt need to see the finished handiwork to feel a sense of pride. He already had it.

Taking an idea, curating it, getting the right people, getting it from an idea to executing it to a thriving business, Tolliver said, its so much more rewarding than just flipping a house.

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