Mashburn's milk money

Who hasn't heard the old cliche of a professional athlete hitting the jackpot after signing a big contract, and after getting caught up in the lifestyle, ends up dead broke shortly after retirement, having spent all their money on material wealth or poor investments. Some athletes however, don't go down that path. They are more frugal with their money, making wise business decisions and setting themselves up for retirement long after their playing days are over.

One such athlete is former National Basketball Association player Jamal Mashburn, who recently visited Santa Monica College to check out a recent product he's invested in on campus called Cow Wow.

The fourth overall pick in the 1993 draft, Mashburn enjoyed an 11 year career with the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and New Orleans Hornets.

Mashburn retired in 2004 as one of only six players since 1970 to average 20 points per game in his final season, joining elite company such as Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Drazen Petrovic, and Reggie Williams.

"I never wanted to be the guy on the end of the bench waving the towel talking about what I used to be," said Mashburn. "When you get older and your scouting report reads 'great locker room guy', it's time to leave."

When the time did come to leave, Mashburn was able to invest his money into several businesses aside from Cow Wow such as Outback Steakhouse, Papa John's, and numerous car dealerships.

Cow Wow, a form of organic milk that is supposed to taste like milk from the bottom of a cereal bowl, is currently available at Eat St. in SMC's cafeteria.

"We're really trying to understand who our customers are, at first we thought it was for young kids, the obvious connection," said Mashburn. "But what we found is that kids in college, they really like it, they pick it up."

Cow Wow currently comes in the flavors cinnamon, fruit, marshmallow, and chocolate chip. It's still in its early stages, but Mashburn is hoping it can eventually grow into a popular product.

"Right now we're placing it in different places to really understand who our consumer is," said Mashburn. "We're never going to compete with Horizon Milk or anything like that but you've got to start somewhere; the little guy that could."

Aside from just taking a look at his product, Mashburn was on campus to get face to face feedback from students. According to him, that's one of the best ways to be able to evaluate products and decide what, if anything, should be changed.

Mashburn's sense for business started at a young age, long before he had dreams of becoming a professional athlete. His mother used to work as a bookkeeper for the New York City Housing Authority and used to bring him along to meetings where she taught him about debits and credits.

Growing up in Harlem, he was enrolled in catholic school in Downtown New York and had to take a train from home to school and back again. Seeing the discrepancy in the amount of people in suits and carrying briefcases that got off the train before Harlem also played a role in shaping him.

"I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn't have guidance or mentorship or anything like that because in my neighborhood there were pimps and drug dealers," said Mashburn. "My mother told me I had to have something to fall back on."

Mashburn first began investing in businesses only three years after being drafted into the NBA, a decision he feels set him up well for life after retirement.

As far as young aspiring athletes, Mashburn believes they should plan ahead, not necessarily for business, but so that they have something to sustain them and look forward to after their playing career is over.

"One thing you can do is have your own way of developing yourself," said Mashburn. "If you're poorly developed inside, you're going to manifest the results on the outside."