Brad Barritt is a rugby legend. Having played for England, the British and Irish Lions and Saracens, as captain, he has a whole host of triumphs. Now he has a new challenge, running his own business.
Born and raised in South Africa, ‘rugby was in the blood’ for Brad Barritt. Both his father and grandfather played for Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, whilst his other grandfather played for England Under 21’s.
After starting his career at Cell C Sharks in his native South Africa, Brad was a Super 14 finalist in 2007, won the Currie Cup in 2008 and racked up 80 caps for the club before he moved to Saracens that year. Brad is now captain and has 231 caps for the team, as well as racking up 26 full international caps for England and playing for the British and Irish Lions.
However, outside of rugby, Brad has always had a keen interest in business. After completing an undergraduate degree in South Africa, he admits he always wanted to continue his education.
“When I got to Saracens they had this new influence in getting players involved in either education or business, something outside of the game.”
Through a specially structured programme, Brad was able to complete a masters in Business Management at the University of Hertfordshire. But, rather than stop there, Brad went on to start his own company, fast growing coffee brand Tiki Tonga.
“I want Tiki Tonga to be that name that resonates a
message of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle
and to be the vessel that brings people together off the pitch.”
“Tiki Tonga came around because it was a passion. If you’re going to get involved in a personal business or as an entrepreneur, it’s got to be something that inspires you and that you’re passionate about.
“I met my business partner, Justin Stockwell, though the Saracens circles. I’d had a shoulder operation and, in the act of coming out of anaesthetic, I was obviously given a few happy pills!
“I sent some weird emails and one of them was to Justin pitching an idea about a coffee business.”
Whilst coffee may be the product and the passion, for Brad Tiki Tonga is about bringing people together.
“We’re living in the age of over stimulus from mobile phones, tablets and television. The way in which people best connect is face to face. A product that gets people out and about with a healthy and balanced lifestyle is coffee.
“Even in the professional rugby scene, no longer are players going out for beers regularly. Day to day, the way in which people connect is through coffee.
“I use it as a way of stimulating myself before training, raising my metabolic rate but, more importantly, it’s the way in which I connect with people. I’m not a beer drinker, so the way I meet up with friends or spark new relationships is over a coffee.
“I want Tiki Tonga to be that name that resonates a message of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and to be the vessel that brings people together off the pitch.”
Aside from the obvious benefits of owning your own business, Brad believes it is vital for athletes to have a focus outside of their sport.
“I think what separates the people at the top is their mentality. Having an interest outside of the game is crucial in terms of allowing your body to relax, unwind and destress from the day-to-day rigours of sport.”
Brad goes as far to say that, if you are 100% focused on rugby it can have the adverse effect.
“Having something that allows you to be creative and get your brain ticking will only stimulate you more when you come back to rugby.”
“Having an interest outside of the game is crucial
in terms of allowing your body to relax, unwind
and destress from the day-to-day rigours of sport.”
Brad admits that juggling running a business, a young family and professional sport is not easy. In order to do so, you need to be extremely organised, hard working and motivated. Luckily, in order to get to the top in sport, most athletes already have these qualities in abundance.
For any athlete thinking of setting up a business, Brad believes you need to be ‘settled in your professional life’ and be ‘disciplined enough to not let it affect your day job.’“When I’m at rugby I’m wholeheartedly in it, living it and breathing it. My days away from rugby are my opportunity to put my creative and thinking hat’s on.”
For Brad to start exploring your options outside of sport than when you are playing.
“With sport, and rugby especially, your avenue to meet people and pick up key contacts has never been greater than now. Having an interest outside of rugby allows you to have a proper conversation.
“You go to these events and you’ll talk about the game at the weekend and most players don’t really have something else to put forward to a conversation.”
Through the network that rugby brings, you are in contact with successful businessmen and women who can offer advice. Why not use the opportunity to pick their brains?
“It’s been said countless times how hard it is for athletes
to leave their day jobs and find that same buzz. Being
prepared is the best vehicle in allowing a smoother transition.”
As well as the importance of an interest whilst playing, a lot is made of athletes’ transition away from professional sport. Whilst retirement is not on the horizon for Brad, he believes he has done everything he can to prepare for his eventual move away from rugby.
“It’s been said countless times how hard it is for athletes to leave their day jobs and find that same buzz. Being prepared is the best vehicle in allowing a smoother transition.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect when I do retire but I feel I’ve tried to cover a few bases.”
Brad’s past includes Heineken Cup triumphs, Premiership trophies and tries against New Zealand, but his future is focused solely on Saracens and Tiki Tonga.
Covering music and sporting events (Tiki Tonga also specialise in Espresso Martini’s), Brad also harbours hopes for Tiki Tonga to open its own shop and coffee roasters.