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The Rise of the New Athletepreneur: How Athletes are Building Portfolios to Plan for the Future

October 4, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Kara Saunders
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As Jeff Foxworthy said in 1995, “you’ve got to diversify with your money.” CrossFit athletes are taking this advice to heart by investing in a variety of businesses. However, they just aren’t burying cash in a mayonnaise jar or betting on races at the dog track. They are actively pursuing business opportunities far beyond their gym or online programming.

One big thing: For years, many athletes used to plan for their post-CrossFit Games future by selling their programming or opening an affiliate in their hometown. This is no longer the trend as more and more athletes are focusing on ways to build their portfolios in a variety of ways, some not even directly related to fitness. 

  • Mrgaux Alvarez was one of the first to start a company entirely outside of fitness, launching a winery — The Vine Yard — while still competing at the Games, a business she still runs. 
  • Mat Fraser has found multiple ways to keep himself busy after winning five straight titles. He created a popular YouTube channel that showcases his post-Games life and he partnered with Hybrid Performance to exclusively distribute his programming. Oh, and he started a popular supplement company with the Buttery Bros that just inked a major nationwide distribution deal with health supplement giant GNC. 
  • Annie Thorisdottir probably has the most active portfolio of current Games athletes. She’s an active investor in Yerbae and board member, launched sports-focused headphones with Katrin Davidsdottir, with rumblings of more in the works. 
  • Kara Saunders took a similar route with fitness accessories. She co-founded Activ Eyewear, which launched in 2020. 
  • While Sara Sigmundsdottir doesn’t own a piece of WIT as far as we know, he name is on the clothing label. In all likelihood, she’s receiving a royalty for each article of clothing purchased.
  • Five-time CrossFit Games competitor Jacob Heppner, though now retired, launched two separate start-ups during the pandemic, one of which he just sold to the gym software giant PushPress for an undisclosed sum. Additionally, Heppner owns Functional Eating and GRIT Performance. 
  • Recently retired Scott Panchik created Stream Fitness alongside Heppner. Stream Fitness is an online platform that provides at-home fitness classes to people around the world while simultaneously providing a place for coaches tosell their programming. Panchik also launched a new programming iOS app called Unlocked

Grow with the times: While many athletes are moving forward with business investments, two OGs actually began by founding their respective athletes before expanding in a major way. Jason Khalipa founded CrossFit Santa Clara one month after winning the CrossFit Games, but he opened an additional 20 locations. Khalipa now runs NCFIT, a massive affiliate program that has helped over 1,000 gyms. 

  • Rich Froning founded CrossFit Mayhem, which has become hallowed ground in functional fitness. However, Froning’s pursuits are far more in-depth. The champ now has Froning Farms, the Buffalo Brew Coffee House, Mayhem Athlete online programming, and — most importantly — Mayhem Mission. 

The bottom line: The CrossFit athletes continue to get stronger and faster with each passing year, but they also are becoming more business-savvy. Numerous big names are focusing on other ways to build up their portfolios and invest in their respective futures instead of simply starting affiliates. This trend should only increase in the coming years, setting the stage for a fascinating future.

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