- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - National Football League defensive end Everette Brown is quick on his feet, a formidable defender and a fierce competitor.

Now he’s learning how to position himself as a winning small-business owner.

Brown, who opened the Charlotte area’s first Tropical Smoothie Café in November last year, was to be part of a panel during a breakfast event, “Franchises: Picking the right one for you.” The discussion focused on what’s involved in taking this route to small-business ownership.

Brown’s first experience at a Tropical Smoothie Café was in 2005, when he was a freshman at Florida State University looking for a snack between classes.

The fast-casual restaurant, with 365 locations nationwide, serves smoothies as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to the company, the menu is designed to “inspire healthy lifestyles.”

It quickly became Brown’s go-to spot, he said. For years, all he ordered was The Health Nut - a smoothie with blueberries, mango, banana, almonds and whey protein - swapping out the mango for a scoop of peanut butter.

When he finally decided to test some of the other smoothies, as well as the wraps, salads and sandwiches, Brown was surprised to find he liked them all.

“It didn’t feel like any other restaurant, any other café,” Brown said.

So when drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2009, one of his first getting-to-know-Charlotte expeditions started with a Google search for the area’s local Tropical Smoothie Café.

“They didn’t have one,” Brown said. “I thought…’That’s crazy.’ “

Fast-forward four years and four trades to other NFL teams: from the Panthers to the San Diego Chargers to the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles to the Dallas Cowboys.

The lack of consistency was frustrating, said Brown, recalling the popular “NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’” saying. Wanting to be on the field but sitting on the sidelines, wanting to prove yourself on a team but continually being traded - it was stressful and depressing, Brown said.

So while football was still his No. 1 priority, Brown spent some of his down time researching his other ambitions, “instead of getting all in your feelings and worrying about things you can’t control.”

Brown said he’d always been interested in entrepreneurship but preferred a proven strategy over one he had to create. So during his year with the Cowboys, Brown researched different franchises.

He strongly considered opening a Chick-fil-A. But then he saw Charlotte - where he hoped to settle down - wasn’t hurting for another one. Brown wanted a company he believed in, a product he enjoyed and a hole in the marketplace. So he turned to another favorite brand.

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