Meet Chris Gronkowski, Former NFL Player-Turned-Entrepreneur Who Invented ‘The Ice Shaker’ — A Vacuum-Sealed Protein Shaker
It’s a common trajectory: After years in the NFL, figure out how to successfully start a hustle of your own. For Chris Gronkowski, older brother to New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski, that hustle is next all-time great Bro invention: The Ice Shaker, a vacuum-insulated, stainless-steel protein shaker that holds ice for over 30 hours. That’s even longer than a Yeti Rambler, RTIC Tumbler, or Ozark Tumblers.
As a fullback, Chris was a journeyman around the National Football League, with stints from the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts, and the San Diego Chargers before ended his career with an injury.
“So my story’s kind of crazy…” he tells me over the phone earlier this month.
“I was playing four years in NFL, bounced around. Started three years, three different teams. Fourth year, went into it, got hurt. But what ended up happening during that time was my wife — well, my now wife. At the time, my fiancee at the time and she was like, man, this sucks…”
I chatted with Chris for about 40 minutes as part of BroBible’s LIVING THE DREAM series of entrepreneurs, adventurers, and dreamers living their best lives. Gronkowski shared the story behind his adventure into entrepreneurship with the Ice Shaker. after leaving the NFL, which started with his wife’s custom laser engraving business for weddings.
“At that point, I started making more money than I was making in the NFL. I left the NFL and my salary increased. So I was kind of a good transition.
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“Every time you go to a new team, I got to get a new job. And so finally, after the second team, she’s like – ‘Yo, I’m going to figure out something I can do at home, because this is just not working. Every new city, new job, once a year — we move five times in five years since college ended.’
“So she started hand painting wineglasses at home and I kind of brushed it off and kind of laughed about it. But she started selling them like crazy. And at that point, it took so damn long to do each glass, you know, 15, 20 minutes to hand paint them that it wasn’t really worth the time. So at that point, I told her to try to find a way to scale this better, faster, and more efficiently.
And so she went out and got a vinyl cutting machine and she started doing bottles, tumblers, double tumblers, and pretty much personalized them for the wedding industry. And at that point, it really started to take off. She started making some decent money. And at the same time, I got hurt playing in the NFL and took an injury settlement from the Chargers.”
What year was that?
So that was in 2013.
At that point, I came back and I saw that the personalization market was just absolutely huge and pretty much limitless, especially with the wedding industry – People will spend whatever they have to spend on a wedding. So at that point, we took some of my money and started investing in industrial machinery so we could personalize gifts by laser engraving them. We bought a couple of machines to scale this company and then take it to the next level.
So at that point, I started making more money than I was making in the NFL. I left the NFL and my salary increased. So I was kind of a good transition.
That is crazy. This is all before you debuted the Ice Shaker bottle too, correct?
That’s correct. So what happened with that was we actually were doing a lot of other cups and these stainless steel vacuum insulated cups started coming out. And a lot of people were buying them from us for groomsmen gifts, wedding gifts, or just holiday gifts for Christmas and stuff like that. So I got introduced to them and I loved them, but I couldn’t bring them to the gym with me because they didn’t have the classic pop top or didn’t open up easy or they just didn’t have a top on them at all. And at that point, I was like, man, these are cool. I use one every day. But I’m going to the gym once or twice a day, so I want to bring the cup with me.
I was using the same plastic shaker that everybody else was using. I had cabinets full of them. I’ve probably had hundreds in my life. And finally, one day in the summer– about a little over a year ago now — I get to the gym and by the time I got there, my water was warm and my cup holders in my car were full of condensation. My hands were all wet. I was making little circles all over the gym floor. I’m like, man, there’s got to be an insulated bottle I could throw my pre-workout in or my post-work shake in and bring it to the gym with me and actually keep a cold and not sweat all over my hands and in my car.