Teammates in business: Class of 2014 alumni open fitness recovery center
Former Falcon football players Gabe Martin, Jude Adjei-Barimah use experience at BGSU — on and off field — to start business
By Robin Gerrow
A friendship for a pair of 2014 alumni that started on the Falcon football field has turned into a new business for partners Gabe Martin and Jude Adjei-Barimah.
While June 2020 may not have seemed like the best time to start a new venture because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when a prime location became available near a gym in Phoenix, they decided to seize the opportunity to open the doors to Pro Recovery Zone, offering fitness recovery services including cryotherapy.
“It was through that blood, sweat and tears that our relationship first began” as freshmen football players, said Martin, who grew up in Flint, Michigan. “And even though we didn’t realize it at the time, it was where the idea for our first business came from as well.”
“We were friends through football, but it was from all the time we spent together in the business building that we bonded,” said Adjei-Barimah, who grew up in Columbus. “I remember thinking during those classes with Gene Poor that we were going to end up going into business together no matter what.”
Both graduated from BGSU in December 2014 with Adjei-Barimah going on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three seasons and Martin moving to Phoenix to play for the Arizona Cardinals for four seasons with a brief stint with the New Orleans Saints.
While it may have been injuries that ended their professional sports careers, those injuries were the catalyst for their current business.
“It was time to hang up the cleats and start our new endeavor,” Martin said.
They had remained friends, with Adjei-Barimah going to Phoenix and rooming with Martin during the off-season for training. They stayed in touch, and frequently compared the types of physical therapy and rehabilitation they were each using.
“It really all started at BGSU in 2010 when the only cold therapy available to us was an ice bath,” Martin said.
“When we became pro players, we had all of these other therapies available to us. We were dealing with different injuries, but we would compare notes to help each other. Throughout our careers, friends and family would often ask us what to do about this or that injury, and we realized that the key to recovery was education and availability of treatments. It seemed like the perfect way to transition out of the game and into our next careers.”
“Nobody expects to open a new business in the middle of a pandemic,” Adjei-Barimah said. “But it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up in terms of location and synergy as Phoenix is a hub for professional athletes, as well as a place that focuses on fitness. We saw a chance to become part of the fitness and wellness cycle that was already here by filling a void in the recovery piece. Everyone wants to be their best every day and live pain-free, and we offer modalities and services that achieve that and improve your overall health.”
They credit their time at BGSU, both on and off the field, with their current success.
“We have definitely put our education to use,” Martin said. “We have been able to apply what we learned, and those concepts we heard in the classroom are holding true. I’m so glad I had the proper baseline from BGSU to propel us into the business world when we were ready to tackle it.”
Adjei-Barimah said his biggest takeaway from college was the ability to critically think through problems.
“I appreciate the environment of BGSU as a diverse campus and needed to learn how to deal with people from different backgrounds," he said. "Also, being a student athlete required us to learn skills in time management and the ability to juggle activities that we are able to apply to our business now.”
Their advice to students wanting to venture into the business world boils down to getting experience, knowing your role and finding a mentor.
“We made a ton of costly mistakes as young business owners, but because we had mentors, we’ve kept ourselves away from even more costly mistakes," Martin said. "You’ll learn a lot in school, but you also need to get out there and get your hands dirty so you can learn for yourself.”
“Go get experience now, while you are still in school,” Adjei-Barimah said. “That was one thing I didn’t do. There is nothing like learning how to do the basics of how a business operates before you try to do it on your own."