Business

Lessons From the Football Field: 6 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Former Boise State University wide receiver David Mckinzie shares how he’s using the lessons of the gridiron as an entrepreneur to build his media and clothing businesses.

Nicola McIntosh May 21, 2019

David Mckinzie III has a lot of irons in the fire.

When he’s not hosting a pageant or corporate event, you might spot him “on the blue” getting the crowd fired up for Boise State game day, advising students at the university’s Venture College or mentoring contestants in the Idaho High School Entrepreneur Challenge.

Or, he might be on the phone with a mentor himself as he grows his startup business, Bow Tie Hustle, which merges his passion for fashion with his entrepreneurial drive and love of being in the spotlight.

Mckinzie, also known as D Mac, was a student-athlete at Boise State who majored in Communications with an emphasis on media/marketing and played as a walk-on for the football team under Coach Chris Peterson and Coach Bryan Harsin — both of whom he credits with teaching him the following lessons about life and business.

dude in a blue shirt and open jacket
Mckinzie wears a Boise State licensed design from his company, Bow Tie Hustle.

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #1: Start with excellence

“When you’re in an environment of excellence you can do something that you think is great, but excellence is the norm,” he says. “You had two touchdowns? Who cares. Being around that was huge for me.”

While he says football “was never my end all, be all,” the sport helped him establish a work ethic and created a fire in his belly to prove himself. He says he came out of football and hit the ground running, and just two years after graduation, he’s proud of everything he’s accomplished in a short time.

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #2: Check your feelings at the door

“Football is the game of life. If you’re hurt, if you’re having an awful day at school, if your girlfriend broke up with you, you better check all of that at the field because you’ll get literally annihilated,” he says. “Nobody cares about your feelings. It’s Division 1 football so it’s all about how can we get this job done.”

He says Coach Pete exemplified how to build a strong culture. “No matter who you were, you felt that you were needed there. He treated everyone with respect. He was about family, then life, then football. He made everybody connect with each other and showed us that nobody is above anybody else.”

dude at a football game
Getting the home crowd fired up.

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #3: You control your destiny

Coach Harsin “was different (from Coach Pete) but in a good way,” Mckinzie says. “He would tell us, if you don’t like your situation do something about it to change it. Work your butt off, change your outcome, don’t pout.”

 “Coach Pete helped me understand culture and helped me understand how to treat people and run a company,” Mckinzie says. “Coach Harsin helped me by saying nothing’s ever going to be perfect. Are you going to sulk about it, or are you going to change it?”

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #4: Your network is your net worth

In the startup world it’s all about networking, Mckinzie says, but “I don’t do it just to get a card. I ask, ‘How is your family?’ ‘What’s new with you?’ This is Coach Pete coming in. I really generate friendships with these people. If you go about your networking in an authentic genuine way, it pays off.”

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #5: Surround yourself with great mentors

“If you’re around other eagles, you become an eagle,” he explains, and rattles off a long list of mentors who include — in addition to Harsin and Peterson — Ed Zimmer and Michael Sumpter of Boise State’s Venture College, developer Tommy Ahlquist and James Hepworth of Crunchbase.

"Honestly when I see people who are successful, I become obsessed with how does one man do that? How does he achieve that?”

He's also received mentoring through the Zions Bank Business Resource Center in Boise with the center’s director, Karen Appelgren. “I’ve talked with Karen multiple times, and she knows so much about the nuts and bolts of owning and running a business,” McKinzie says. “She’s taught me that it’s about so much more than the product — you have to lay a strong foundation.”

man speaking to a crowd
Speaking gig at the Missouri Governor's Ball.

Entrepreneurial lesson from the playing field #6: Have faith

“If you pray, if you seek him, and you put feet to faith, I think anything’s possible,” Mckinzie says. “If you take on that you can do a lot of great things in a short amount of time.”

Looking ahead, Mckinzie is fired up about his latest projects, which include assisting with public relations, marketing and casting for the Sony Film “LIT,” a biopic about R&B quartet The Chi-Lites and organizing a tribute to The Miracles.

To hear more of Mckinzie’s lessons from the gridiron, check out this BVA Dev podcast hosted by Kevin Miller and Tommy Ahlquist. 

If you’re looking to start or grow a business, Zions Bank offers a wide variety of resources for entrepreneurs, including the Business Resource Centers in Utah and Idaho. As the top U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) lender in Utah and Idaho, Zions Bank offers SBA loans as well as other business financing options to fit your needs. Contact a banker at a Zions Bank branch near you to get started.

Nicola McIntosh is Social Media manager for Zions Bank.

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