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Pete and Niki Hoppins are English ex-pats living the American dream in Portland, OR. Married (to each other) with two kids; they are the owners of the English football pub, the Toffee Club in Southeast Portland and the founders of one of the nation’s most original and popular amateur football leagues—the Toffee League. You can now add brewery owners to their list as they opened Away Days Brewing Co next door to their pub in August of 2019.
Let’s talk about the Toffee Club first, how did that come to be?
It’s always been a dream of ours to own a bar, but maybe in retirement, like we’re gonna like finish up the corporate jobs and then move back to the UK or somewhere a bit more tropical, open up a bar and semi-retire. But it actually all kicked off when my brother Jack moved over to Portland and we asked him, “Okay, well what are you gonna do?”
We were brainstorming ideas about what he’s going to do in Portland. And then that snowballed into bringing the idea of owning a bar to life sooner than we thought. We were throwing around ideas of what this could be and I think we’d already built the deck—the concept of what it could be—before we even started seriously looking into it. We specifically thought about Portland. We were like, “what’s Portland missing?” There wasn’t really a proper pub, like an English pub. That kind of culture doesn’t really exist.
There were football bars, but there was an opportunity to combine pub and football culture together in an authentic way and bring that to Portland. So we looked at a bunch of different venues. And then we saw this, the current space, which was basically a warehouse, but it’s in a really cool, developing part of town. As soon as we saw this place, we were like, “This is it.”
We definitely saw a gap in the market as well for a more inclusive space to watch football. There are a ton of football bars in Portland. But as someone who loves the social side of football but didn’t grow up with a team, I would often be in these football pubs feeling quite out of place, or like I didn’t know enough. We wanted to create a space that anyone could come to whether you’ve grown up as a born-and-bred football fan or if it’s your first time watching; whether it’s men’s or women’s as well. The Thorns obviously have a huge following in Portland, but there are not many places that have given them a focus or a real-life place to shine. That’s been really important for us from the start.
So the pub, in a sense, is very traditional with the food, etc. but it does feel very modern. It is like a modern space with the soul of a pub.
That was our challenge. How do you create an English pub in a warehouse, an ex-strip club in Southeast Portland? How do you take that space and make it feel like a cozy, welcoming pub? That was definitely a design challenge when we started, and that space has evolved over time. We opened the pub with three pictures on the wall and two rugs and a few tables. It’s really grown over the last few years.
We first met you guys when the Toffee Club opened three and a half years ago. How has it evolved since then?
It’s interesting, we went back through the original concept and the deck, the original idea behind it. Now feels like, three and a half years in, we are getting to where we always wanted to be. It was definitely a struggle at first. I think it was a little bit of having the confidence to fully realize what we wanted to do, but also to convince other people who haven’t grown up with this culture to understand what you’re trying to do.
We knew that Portlanders love football. And they love beer. And a lot of them love English stuff. But the pub culture makes it a different concept to the sports bars that people are used to.
Another thing we always dreamt of is becoming the “Clubhouse”. So in England, each team has a clubhouse. And everyone goes to the clubhouse after matches. It’s the home team and the away team and both go and have a drink at the clubhouse.
And that, I feel, is something we have finally rallied around this year. We now have an over fifties team, over forties, over thirties, and first division men’s teams in our football “club”. We have an outdoor women’s team, an indoor women’s and coed outdoor teams. We also have an indoor futsal men’s team and we encourage them all to come back to the pub afterward. We give them a pitcher of beer and chips for free after their match, so we’re finally becoming that clubhouse space to our teams.
We didn’t have the football angle dialed up when we first opened the Toffee Club. It was more of an English pub that shows football. I’d say that’s the biggest evolution that has happened, is that we’ve got the football dial turned way up now. At the same time, we don’t want to alienate the people who just want to come in for some nice food and a pint, a chat, a quiz, whatever. Those people are looking for the English pub environment which is still very much at the core of what we do.
So you built a pub. You’ve started a league with it sounds like over 30 teams. And then you decide, “okay, let’s build a brewery.” How did that happen?
This was a brewery before, called Scout Beer. They actually opened around the same time as us. They were doing that build-out at the same time as we were. And they, for one reason or another, decided to close here at the end of last year. So they contacted us at the beginning of November and asked if we wanted to take over the space.
It had been something we’d always talked about very much in theory. And at first I was just like, “no, no, a pub and two kids is plenty.” To take over a brewery sounded ridiculous. Then we started talking about it as a team and actually realized the opportunity of starting a very different business over here, in the same proximity, bringing in a different kind of clientele to this area, using economies of scale with our team and our kitchen, and actually building a brand that had real growth potential was an interesting opportunity.
We started negotiating and we weren’t 100% set on the idea, by any means, but as soon as we start negotiating, we realized we could move in here and have the space set up as a turnkey operation.
So then the fun project was starting to build this brand and make it very different from what the Toffee Club is. People will know it is the same owner if they dig a little deeper, but we didn’t want and didn’t need a bigger Toffee Club. So the goal was to create something very different that will bring certain kind of guest to the brewery, who also will appreciate the Toffee Club. And the other way around.
People get it. What separates them is the idea that Toffee Club is this English football pub and then Away Days is like your European away day, your trip. You are going away to watch your game for the weekend in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Porto wherever it is in Europe, and this space represents that.
The Toffee Club is going to be kind of constrained in a way. It’s always going to be rooted as an English pub in Portland. Whereas Away Days, we can literally do anything with this brand. It’s going to be interesting.
Toffee club is much like less about the brand and more about the community, whereas here we have real potential here with the brand, you know? So it’s really fun to think about that. We’re suddenly selling a product rather than an experience. The beer has to be the first thing we’re selling.
And this is something that you can potentially do to scale.
Yeah, for sure.
But we don’t need two Toffee Clubs.
But that will always be at the center of it. However big Away Days gets it just kicks off from the pub. Like if we have a massive distribution of Away Days one day, it all comes back to the Toffee Club, That’s the original foundation and spot where the culture was created.
So obviously starting a pub is quite a big undertaking. In my mind starting a brewery is even a bigger undertaking. What have been some of your biggest challenges starting this project?
Opening a second business with two kids while running a business and Pete full time at Nike has been just a whole new level. We signed the lease agreement [for the brewery] in January, we got into the space in February, and we were open the first week in June just before the Women’s World Cup, which was a month of madness, anyway. So, yeah, it’s been a crazy nine months. But we have learned so much. We’re lucky to have an incredible team. Our pivotal moment was hiring our Brewer, Marshall. He has really taken our vision of what we wanted the product to be and is honestly executing above what we ever could have hoped for.
That was our biggest fear or concern. We like beer, and Jack, my brother, is educated in beer, but we have no experience in brewing or the production industry. But this is a beer town and we’re coming in with a new point of view. All beer in Portland now is good. It is really good. So we’ve got to be at least really good. But Marshall, our brewer, is so, so good.
You mentioned point of view. So when you think about Away Days Beer, what is that point of view?
Lower ABVs, alongside the European styles, are a big thing for us. A lot of people agree that beer just went way too hoppy, too heavy, and too boozy. It was almost like you had to endure a pint rather than enjoy it. Lower ABVs is a trend back home, but it is always something that’s always interested us. Just a more sessionable drink. We love a day drink so we want to be able to have a few pints and still feel okay rather than having one that will knock your head off.
You know the lower ABV is a trend in New York and in Europe as well. Well, it’s always been in New York. People want to drink more over time and hang out with friends. And that’s like our culture so why shouldn’t we bring that up to Portland. And we combine that with the West Coast flavor.
So you guys have been opened since June, officially since August. Are you guys already starting to see where you want this business to go?
When we started Toffee Club we really had to figure it out as we went. Whereas Away Days has been a lot more strategic. We’re taking the learning from three and half years of Toffee Club into this space. The space is great. People love the beer. The branding is on point. But the most exciting part of it is getting the beer out there to the world. That is the new and exciting thing. We are all about new challenges. That is what keeps us going, keeps us interested.
We did this event for Octoberfest and we were packed from start to finish. It was a really good moment. We had only been existing online for two months and we were doing an event. I was thinking, “Is anyone actually going to turn up?”
We have the infrastructure now to get our name out there. We can use Toffee Club as a starting point but most of the people who came out were just from the beer community, the Portland community.
One thing we do know is that our growth has the potential to be a lot faster than it was at Toffee Club. We definitely have to have the confidence to be more aggressive here. At the Toffee Club we relied on word-of-mouth at first. Since then we have learned a lot about how to market, how to promote, how to connect, how to get people to know about us.
We are really impressed with all that your family has been able to accomplish to continue to take chances on creating new things that resonate with and foster community. You have really been able to build a community with the Toffee Club and even now with Aways Days, we can tell it is more than just about selling something. There is a deep connection there to family, to Portland and to the football-loving people here.
You know we talk about the Toffee Club like it’s a community. And that’s been the thing that has kept us going. That’s been the most satisfying part of this. Considering the amount of effort we put into this, we could do something else that would be a lot easier and make money (laughs). These things take years as you know. It’s about doing something you’re passionate about and other people will follow, hopefully.
So you have to be really passionate about the thing that you are doing and we have created something that we really are into.
That definitely comes across. The Toffee Club and Away Days are authentic to you guys. It seems like a place where you guys want to be, hang out, and have a pint with your friends. That authenticity shines through and I think that is part of what attracts so many people to you and your brand.
We love it. But we are still figuring it out every day. It’s not like a formula…Our operations have become more streamlined, but in terms of a brand, a business, and a community—how do we continue to elevate and to grow?
I always like to ask this question to wrap things up: if you could go back a year ago, to before you started Away Days what would be one piece of advice you would give yourselves?
I would go back even further and go back to opening Toffee Club. This is actually a conversation I had with a friend a while ago. We’ve spoken about it a few times. She asked, “if you could back to when you were concepting Toffee Club, what would you change?” I told her, “if you could have told me how much money and how much time would go into it, how many weekends wouldn’t have had as a family, how many tears, how many sleepless nights, how many arguments,” I would have said, “definitely not. I’ll keep freelancing with my nice hourly rate and live a comfortable life.” Then she said, “you’ve only talked about the bad things, but what the community that you’ve built and the experiences that you are building for people? What about all you have learned? What about what it has done and is doing for your family?” And I was like, “you’re right. I’d do it again.”
That was a really good moment. When she asked me I went right into the stressful things, In 20 years time we will look back on this and say, “wow!” Or we’ll be like, “We were crazy, what were we doing? But it was amazing. We built something.”
I think if I was to tell myself anything. If I went back three years ago. We could have gone for it more at the start. To be more confident in ourselves and in the vision.
We spoke to General Manager of Jordan Brand Women’s and Kid’s, Andrea Perez about the PSG Jordan partnership, expanding Jordan’s presence among women, inspiring women in sports, sneakerhead culture, and a whole bunch of other critical issues like the Vogue x Jordan collab. She dropped some gems on us including the story about how she asked a leading Nike Executive at her college in Guadalajara, Mexico, “How do I work for you?” which ultimately led to her getting a job with the Swoosh. Check out some of her insights and memorable stories in the following conversation.
One of the great things I’ve learned since being involved with Jordan Brand is the whole thing around the culture of basketball, and how that culture of basketball is not only what happens on the court. How that culture has evolved into having so much influence across many other things, including soccer, and obviously sneakers. The first shoes that you desired were from a basketball player and now they are worn by other athletes that you love.
We see the sport influence each other now seeing the tunnel, and what that has done in basketball. Some soccer teams are adopting that from basketball and using the tunnel as a way to be a way to show the personality of the players.
That’s been one of the best things of being involved with Jordan Brand is just learning and being more immersed in that culture of basketball and just understanding what living that culture means. It doesn’t mean that I can’t love soccer any more or even that they are that much different. There is a massive intersection with the culture and the love of basketball and the love of soccer and the love of sneakers and streetwear and all these things that you and I are interested in and have talked about for years.
So you’ve worked in Global Football and Jordan Brand and you have seen how the culture of Jordan goes far beyond the basketball court. How do you think that same type of cultural relevance can occur in soccer in North America?
I think the culture of basketball intersects with so many things. It intersects with skateboarding, with dance and hip-hop, with new forms like gaming and other new forms of expression, and even with soccer because there has been a mutual admiration with the two sports forever. It is less about whether or not that connection exists but more how do we highlight that and grow sport culture, basketball culture, soccer culture, and streetwear culture. Some of the things I have been really proud of since working with Jordan Brand is the work with Paris Saint-Germain. That team, it’s an incredible team coming from a city that is so deeply cultured in soccer, but also in basketball. How do you bring those two worlds together, because they shouldn’t be competing with each other? They should be embracing each other to make something bigger. I think our partnership with PSG does precisely that. It embraces basketball and some of the best things that sport has to offer—the swagger, the fashion, the style, and the Jumpman—and takes it to a team that has swagger, and it’s a team that has that culture. Just marrying those two together and creating something new and telling new stories.
It is interesting to see how American culture, sneakers, fashion, and hip-hip all have a huge influence on Europe and especially the European footballers. We see it in how they dress, what they listen to, and what they buy. The collaboration between Jordan Brand and PSG is one of the first projects to really embrace that. It seems like something that more and more clubs should embrace.
I think that, in general, the culture is becoming more global. Taking that initial ignition of basketball culture from Michael in Chicago and taking it to other parts of the world and combining it with new things gives us something that is completely different. Basketball culture transcends what happens here in Beaverton, Oregon, and even beyond Chicago or Paris. You walk on the streets in Shanghai and see a person wearing a PSG Jordan jacket. It makes you smile and wonder, “did that guy learn about PSG through Jordan or learn about Jordan through PSG?” It could be either and that is fantastic. It is through that blending of culture that creates things that are interesting.
Let’s go back to how you got here. Tell us about your journey to where you are now at Jordan Brand.
I always was a Nike fan; and a Jordan fan. My dad was reminding me the other day that I made him take me to the Jordan Steakhouse when we went to Chicago, just to see if he would show up. But I always was a big Nike fan. A lot of it came from growing up in Mexico and growing up a soccer player (not a very good one) and we did not have a lot of role models. Guys played soccer. Women did not play soccer. We got the bad times for the courts and got the balls the guys didn’t want to use any more. I would see one brand that was talking to athletes and talking about athletes that were women in a completely different way. I remember the 99ers, Mia Hamm and Brandy and Julie and this company was making ads about them and telling stories about them. I would look at them when I was fifteen and sixteen and would think, “I want that.” I knew that I wouldn’t be as good as them but I knew I wanted to work for a brand like that. A brand or a company that told stories about women athletes in the same way we told stories about male athletes. The only company that was doing that was Nike. So I was always Nike, through and through. When my college counselor asked me what I wanted to do I told him I wanted to work for Nike. He was like, “you kind of want to have a plan b.” I mean this was in Guadalajara, Mexico, not here in the states. I said, “maybe I’ll cook or something,” but But in my mind, I thought, “I am going to go work at Nike.” I used to make my own ads in my notebook and all that jazz.
I had the opportunity when I was in college to attend a speaking engagement that the GM of Nike Mexico hosted and I asked in the Q&A, “How can I work for you?” 300 marketing students there and I only wanted to know was how I could work at Nike. In the end, he gave me the opportunity to have some entry-level interviews which were amazing. I didn’t get any of those three jobs that he recommended me for but then they called me for a job that I thought was Assistant Marketing Director. I got the job and I was super stoked, but it was actually the Assistant to the Marketing Director, which is really different, but it was a great entry path for me. I learned a lot about the brand and I learned from a guy that was outstanding and I ended up working with him later on down the road in global football as well. I got the chance to learn and stretch doing different things while still doing my job. I ended up in Portland a few years after. I was in the marketing organization for a number of years. I lead the World Cup ’14 efforts for Nike, along with all of our innovation and athlete plans around that period of time. It was a fantastic experience spending a few months in Brazil helping with everything. It was incredible. Learning more about that country and culture because Brazil is a country that we go back to where the culture of soccer, the culture of basketball, and the culture of the street are really engrained and interwoven together.
Later I was the Head of Soccer for North America and I had the chance to lead the team during World Cup ’15 and what that meant for us. It was a chance to re-cement that love for the Women’s team and make it massive. And then seeing results later in ’19, even though I’ve only been on the sidelines cheering for the team, has been incredible.
*Andrea has worked as Global Vice President and General Manager of Jordan Brand for the last three years.
When you were the Head of Global Football, what did that role entail?
I was the Head of Global Football for North America which meant Canada and the US. Our biggest thing has been, how do we make soccer a great part of the culture in the US and Canada? How do we support growing the game? How do we support growing the culture? How do we support the players and leagues that make this a great thing? It includes pitching product that we think is important, particularly in North America. I’ll give you an example, jerseys—jerseys that were different and significant for the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team and why that’s important. The job includes everything all the way down to marketing, merchandising, and selling those products. No day was the same. There were days when I was talking to external people all day and trying to make relationships happen that will push the game forward. There were a lot of days talking to people in product, trying to develop the product that the North American market needs specifically. There were days when I was out on market travel meeting with consumers and retailers creating the future by getting insights about what’s to come. So no single day is the same and I think that is what makes it exciting. Now you know we have a woman leading North American soccer that came from a completely different background than I did and she is having amazing success and has an amazing team. It’s great to see that it’s not something that is entirely dependent on a person. The culture and the support for the culture that Nike has in North America are so big.
Can we talk a little bit more about something you touched on? How does it make you feel as a female leader in the industry at a time when there is so much focus on and positive attention for the women athletes? Also, what do you think the future looks like for female sports?
I am incredibly excited for what is to come with women’s sports. I think a big part of growing women’s sports is how do we make women’s sports part of popular culture? To see 2019 and what that meant, even for us as a business and for the athletes themselves, was just a massive step forward in making women’s sports a part of the culture. Recently someone sent me a picture of a kid in a stadium with no shirt on and with black sharpie had written “Lloyd” and “10” on his back. It was incredible to see a boy admiring a woman on the field, which shouldn’t be surprising in this day and age but in a way it feels like a step forward that we are now embracing and creating a culture that accepts and promotes that. Guys and girls can grow up admiring both guys and girls. You don’t have to be restricted by your gender with regards to who you can look up to as an athlete. All of that has been fantastic.
I am very excited about the efforts we are doing in the Jordan Brand and even in basketball with people like Maya Moore, Kia Nurse, and Asia Durr and the roster of athletes that we have. And seeing what the team is doing in terms of elevating them as athletes just gives me goosebumps. It is really exciting.
So your role with Jordan involves a lot on the Women’s side?
I do, yes. I lead the women’s business for the Jordan Brand which has been a fantastic journey from two years ago when I took this position. Starting with “Hey, how do we want to create this line? How do we want to build it? How do we want to grow it?” to working with a team that is just amazingly passionate about making sneaker culture for “her,” something incredibly relevant and connected to basketball, authentic, and connected to the women that have always loved the Jordan Brand, but also connected to women who are just starting to learn about the brand and embracing it.
So there are a lot of female sneakerheads, but there has to be a huge opportunity there for growth and connecting with females around the world.
When we started, one of the very first things that we did was we went a spoke to women all over the world—North America, Paris, Shanghai, wherever, we went there. Having the opportunity to connect with many women, some of them had always loved the Jordan Brand they didn’t feel left out the were saying, “Hey, we love Jordans.” Others hadn’t really heard of them but told us they were cool and told us what they needed. We are in an amazing position where we have people that are so loyal and excited about the brand that we can count on to help us be better and stay connected. But we also have a massive opportunity with women that are just becoming interested in the Jordan Brand because of the work that we have done with women that are learning more and more about sneaker culture and streetwear culture and want to be a part of it through the lens of basketball culture and Jordan. And also with women who discover our product and say, “Hey, that looks amazing, I’ve never heard of you guys but this shoe or this Vogue collaboration you did is amazing,” or “I love Aleali May. I love what she is doing. I follow her in the fashion world and this shoe that you’ve made with her is really amazing.” So having these projects and creating those bridges that bring people to the brand is one of our main objectives.
Can you talk a little bit more about the Vogue collaboration because that seems like a huge way to connect with a new population of women?
We did it about a year ago. We wanted to partner with people and brands that are amazing in their field. When it comes to fashion, who is more amazing than Anna Wintour herself? She is a fashion icon. We wanted to make something that was true to Jordan, like an AJ3 or AJ1 but also something that was true to her 100 percent. It has some amazing details. The leather is incredibly soft. It is a bright red, which is a very fashionable color. She did the video about it and was very excited. The detail I love the most about the shoe is it has a translucent base and on the sole, it says “AWOK” which comes from Anna Wintour’s signature approval for anything that goes into the magazine. For us, having Anna’s permission to include “ AWOK” on the outsole meant she gave the stamp of approval to the sneaker as well.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the PSG/Jordan partnership. The women’s side also has the Jordan kits so that is another niche to increase Jordan Brand’s connection with females.
You know, Nadia Nadim is one of my favorite female players so I am excited that she is wearing the Jordan Brand. But beyond that, I don’t think that soccer’s fandom is separated by gender. I think that soccer fans are soccer fans no matter what. I would go to games with my dad in Mexico since I was little. In Paris when you look at the stadium men and women are there. They are fans of the game. There are women who connect with the game through playing and there are some that are fans. To be a part of the soccer culture in a city like Paris that loves the sport is huge. It is going to be embraced by men and women.
We see women all the time in the PSG Jordan product. Aleali May was part of the campaign. PSG Forward Marie Kototo was a part of the launch campaign. So we’ve embraced dual-gender positioning for PSG from the beginning because that is what the fans look like. We wouldn’t be true to the game if we weren’t embracing both genders.
How have the women of PSG responded to being on the one club in the world that wears the Jumpman?
I haven’t connected with any of them personally about it but, I see them posting on social media and seem to like it. Playing for PSG is very special. So playing for PSG and now wearing the Jumpman is unique and connects you to one of the greatest athletes in the world and connects you to a different part of the culture has to be exciting.
Everyone knows who Jordan is. It must be something to not only play for PSG but to wear that Jumpman on the pitch.
I want to touch on something. I think there is a particular confidence that you get from wearing Jordan. It’s the shoe a lot of people wear to graduations, to weddings, to so many significant things. Gameday shoes are Jordans. And we (at Jordan) have such an opportunity with women to create that same emotion that a man feels or a sneakerhead feels when you wear your Jordans. To have that also embraced by women. Why should they only feel confident when they are wearing heels? You can be just as confident wearing some Concord 11s. You can be just as confident wearing an amazing pair of AJ1s. You can feel that same way. I like to say that the Jumpman in a way is like a super-power and what our team does every day is to bring that amazing feeling and culture to more people—for them to feel that same confidence and to feel that sensation. [For these footballers] to feel that sense of empowerment when they step on the pitch. Look good, play good, right? Relating it back to the athletes on PSG.
We follow you and have seen that you have posted where you have given speeches to young female professionals. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what that means to you as a female executive and be in a position to inspire the next generation?
A lot of what I am doing, more than just making speeches, is making one on one connections. I have blocked out on my calendar three hours every week for anyone that wants to talk to me and wants to ask for advice. And it is not specific to a gender, and it is not just Latinos. Anyone that contacts me by any means and wants to talk to me. It has been an amazing experience. It came out of being asked for informational frequently and I was feeling like well, 1. I was pushing them out a lot and not doing them, and 2. When they were in the middle of the day I was giving the people the attention they deserved. So now I have them at the end of the day at a certain time and it allows me to be completely focused on the person. It allows me to not be worried about myself and the things I need to do. Everyone that comes has a problem or an opportunity and they are trusting me as an advisor to help them with their problem or opportunity. So I have been doing that for a number of years and it has allowed me to talk to hundreds of types of different people. A lot of them are here from Nike which allows me to stay in touch with younger talent. But a lot of them are from outside from within the industry, or people that are trying to break-in, or just people that are trying to do really random things with their life that think I can give good advice. But sometimes you just need a sounding board that is invested in your success as a human but not necessarily too tied up in it emotionally that is able to give you something like their version of the truth; help you see a different perspective.
So that is all I am trying to do. Being a mentor is really important to me. A lot of people mentored me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without those mentors that I’ve had. A lot of them are still working in the Global Football side of the business.
That’s one of the things that really keeps me stay connected to the Jordan Brand. The Jordan Brand, as I learned when I joined, is a brand that really values mentorship. They really value education, things that are really important to Michael. As a brand we have a community program called “Wings.” The Wings program is about mentorship and education. To be a part of the journey of this brand and to be a part of a program like that makes me feel amazing when I come to work. It’s never been about selling shoes. It’s not even about the culture. It’s truly about changing lives and changing lives with a very hands-on approach.
So what are the things that inspire you the most when you come to work and the things that you are excited about in the near future here?
I am someone that gets a lot of inspiration from people. I am very inspired by my team. I work alongside a team that is brilliant. A team that is ready to tackle any challenge. A team that has each other’s’ backs. Every day they come and they have the Michael-mentality of greatness. They have our consumer’s mentality. We like to call our consumers the “Fearless Ones.” They are people that are focused on the path. They are not talking failures as failures but as opportunities to learn. There are things that are easily said, but not easily done. But my team is fearless every day and is not focusing on any obstacle on the road. That’s what excites me the most when I come and have a day where I can interact with them for most of the day. Those are great days.
In addition to that, it is the consumer—looking and talking to all these young women who love the brand and this journey of basketball culture, and the players themselves. They are focused on their pursuit and their dreams. How can the Jordan Brand be an avenue and a partner for them to accomplish their dreams? Whether it is wearing the Jumpman and the confidence that instills of facilitating something on their path. Those things are the most inspirational for me.
So you have been successful in your career and have had great mentors. If you could go back and give the 15 or 16 year old Andrea one piece of advice what would be?
Never focus on the next opportunity. Focus are where you are now. And I would tell her to be nice to everybody because you never know. We work in an industry, in sports and in soccer, and you continue to cross pass with people from the past. The more you can embrace them and learn from them and get to know them as humans, the better your life is going to be because you are going to feel like you are always working with friends.
This past year has seen an increase in collaborations within the soccer world. Specifically when it comes to the merging of streetwear and soccer. And if we break this down even further, the second half of 2019 saw a big influx of soccer brands and streetwear brands coming together. This is without a doubt an indicator of what is to come and we expect 2020 and beyond to be full-on collab-mode between brands in the sport and those that want to tap into this market.
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The end of 2019 not only signifies the end of a year but the closeout of a decade. This past decade with soccer in America seems like more than just ten years. We are light-years from where we were when 2010 rolled around. Some of that is for the better, and in some ways, maybe not so much. Thinking back to where things were ten years ago, where things are at now and where we are headed seems far too much to include in one recap. But before we launch into 2020 and all that the decade ahead holds for us, we thought it important to take a look back at where we have been, what has transpired and how the sport has evolved over the last ten years.
- David Beckham will become the first person to win an MLS Cup as a player and an owner
- Cristiano Ronaldo will find his way to MLS (but not Messi)
- Megan Rapinoe will run and win her first political seat in Congress
- The USMNT will lose a heartbreaker in the semifinals in the 2026 World Cup
- We will see our first jersey sponsorship from a luxury fashion brand (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, etc)
- The USWNT will win the 2020 Olympics
- The next Premier League TV rights deal in the US will absolutely smash previous EPL deals
- By 2029, soccer will be bigger in the US than American football
- FootyCon will be the marquee consumer event within the sport
- European leagues will begin playing league matches here in the US
If you have followed US soccer in the last decade, you definitely have heard Maurice Edu’s name. Early on in his career he solidified himself in the defensive part of the park and remained there for some time for the red white and blue. After being drafted #1 overall by Toronto in 2007, Mo went on to play for storied Scottish club Rangers, winning 3 league titles. Later he made stops at Stoke and the Philadelphia Union. And who can forget that infamous no-goal call on a Mo’s volley in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?
We understand most people know that side of Mo, Mo on the pitch, but we wanted to dig deeper and get to know the man off the field. So we bounced over to his house in the Inland Empire of California and sat down to chat about making the transition from playing to commentating, what it is like being an example for kids like him, his love for the artist KAWS, and of course, kicks. Check out each part of our conversation below and make sure to follow Mo on Instagram @MauriceEdu.
Mo on going from playing to commentating
One thing is clear when you sit down and talk to Mo Edu. He loves soccer. That passion led to a successful professional career. It led him to the World Cup. That same love for the game as led Mo into broadcasting and analyzing the sport on TV. Part of his aim with his new position in the sport is not all that different from what meant a lot to him when he was a player: provide a unique voice and connect with audiences and demos that may not have always connected to the game. Mo wants to help grow the sport by bringing in new fans that look like him and connect with him in an authentic way.
Being an example to kids like him.
Part of Mo Edu’s ethos as a player and as a broadcaster is exposing the sport to young black kids. It is important for him that he is an outlet for this community, that they can look to him and see what is possible, and hopefully see themselves taking a path similar to his. Mo mentioned a few times that when he was growing up there were not very many people like himself that he could look up to and relate to. He has been fully aware of this throughout his career. This has given him the opportunity to be someone that young black soccer players can look up to and aspire to be.
Mo and his sneaker journey.
Like many of us Mo loves sneakers. Mo caught the sneaker bug early. But, as most of us can relate to, his parents weren’t copping sneakers for him when he was young. By high school, Mo’s love of sneakers, especially Jordans was in full swing, and in order to satiate his love for sneakers, he got his first job at a pizza joint. The money he earned from the pizza spot went directly into Mo beginning to get more involved with the sneaker game and it was then that he started building his impressive sneaker collection.
Mo takes us back to that night in South Africa, a goal that should have stood.
Hailing from Wauwatosa, WI, Cara Walls has repped her state at just about every level within the sport. From winning national championships at the U-18 level with her club team to representing the University of Madison, Wisconsin at the collegiate level Cara has done her state proud. We recently caught up with Cara to learn a bit more about her career, what it was like to play with players like Christen Press and about her new undertaking studying architecture and urban planning.
Follow Cara: @ckaydub
Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and your early days with the sport?
I’m from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and I started playing soccer at an early stage. I played for FC Milwaukee, which was the only team in the area that could compete with some of the bigger clubs in the Midwest as well as teams from around the country. My final year of youth soccer we won the U-18 national championship which was really cool.
So you win the U-18 national championship and then get to play college soccer and continue repping your state. What was your collegiate experience like?
I loved the university, the people, just the culture that they created…like competing and being competitive, being a leader. I was able to be captain my junior and senior years. I won some individual awards like the offensive player of the year. It was really a blessing that soccer offered me the opportunity to go to school at Madison and to have an unforgettable experience there.
Post-college, you end up getting drafted and playing for the Chicago Red Stars. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It was an amazing experience and one that, once again, soccer provided for me. That was beautiful for me. I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked to though. I think I started two games my first year and five games my second year (and scored two goals). My second year was an improvement but I’m playing with some of the best players in the world at this time. I’m playing behind Christen Press and with some of the greatest players in the world. So although I wasn’t starting as much as I would have liked it was a great experience for me.
In the middle of my third season there I got released and ended up signing with Saarbrucken in Germany. I loved it there. It was another example of soccer providing me with an amazing opportunity. This time to travel to a new country, meet new people and to just really grow as a person. I played a season there, traveled around Europe quite a lot and had a great time. After that season I wanted to see myself doing different things. I didn’t see myself on the road and traveling for the next five years. So I decided to go to grad school and invest in another career. That’s where I found myself now.
When I started to play there was hardly any women’s football on television. It was not broadcasted and the Dutch Women’s team at that time was not participating at the big tournaments. So I had to watch Eurosport in order to see a little bit of international women’s football and that started during the Women’s World Cup in 99. Especially the USA women’s team stood out for me. They were playing for big crowds, winning the tournament in the end. Really special to see that on tv and to see all these great players from the different countries at that stage.
Soccer has taken you on a number of journeys and now you are on a new one. What’s this career path you are undertaking?
I’m studying architecture and urban planning and I have an emphasis on landscape architecture, sustainable building with an interest in futuristic design and creating community spaces. So that’s the program I’m currently in. And I’m still involved with soccer – I’m an assistant coach for the women’s team.
Architecture is giving me an opportunity to try and find solutions for problems that we have created and to really try and find solutions through sustainability.
Let’s transition for a minute here. We’ve talked about your soccer career. Your love of design and sustainability. What about any interest you have from a cultural standpoint? Is music, or sneakers or fashion anything you have particular interests in?
I love music. It’s like the heartbeat of everything for me so I’m always keeping an eye for new music. I’m definitely a hip hop and R&B person. I like fashion and sneakers although I’m not a hardcore sneakerhead. I do like cleats though. I like collecting cleats. I have a thing for old Predators. I probably have five or six pairs of adidas Copas that I’m always wearing. I like the classic adidas three stripe sweatpants.
I’m a fan of Diadora and some of the old school stuff from the ’90s as well.
You mentioned your love of music, give us three artists you are into right now.
I would go with Lil Baby. I also like Drake, 2 Chainz, Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill. I’m a 2Pac fans as well. We have the same birthday.
You and 2Pac having the same birthday is a fun fact. What’s your favorite Pac song?
God bless the dead. I really like that one.
So back to soccer, did you watch the Women’s World Cup?
Of course. I went to school with Rose Lavelle. She’s a bit younger than me but we played in college. We played together in my junior and senior years. My senior year we just kind of took over and ended up winning the Big 10. She’s awesome. And it’s been so fun to see her putting on for Wisconsin. She just looks majestic on the ball. She’s insane.
We’ve seen the women’s side of the sport really grow and the attention around it heightened in recent years. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it’s definitely changed for us for the better. I think social media and the kind of visibility around the sport is important. Seeing an Instagram account for the NWSL, seeing posters and campaigns from Nike. The visibility is important because I don’t think it was there in the previous years and I think it is having an impact. Like the Nike campaigns, the Nike commercials are really powerful and something that had just been missing. It really hasn’t been there like the last 10 years. So I think the advertising and branding itself is really important. Getting the message across that we have a really powerful team.
We have a certain privilege of actually training these women. And getting them the resources they need to have a really competitive team and that’s, that’s a beautiful thing that not all countries have. So I think being able to support that and kind of showing the progression of women through soccer is really powerful. And I think that’s what’s happening right now. And I think it’s because of the growth of the NWSL.
There’s really talented women all over the world, but a lot of times they don’t have the resources or the support from the country. So I think it’s really good for the United States and the developed world that were supporting the women’s team. And we have a really powerful women’s team. I think it’s a really good image for younger women that this is an option for them. You know, you can now grow up dreaming of being a professional women’s soccer player because that’s something, even as a really talented young player, I didn’t have that vision because I didn’t really know what existed. I think that’s great. And I think it’s all part of the US moving forward and us progressing as a country of supporting what we have going on with the women’s side of things.
Last question—now that you have been away from the sport as a player for a bit and are back in school for architecture—how do you see soccer having a role in your life going forward?
I had played soccer for 24 years and it was the dominant thing in my life. So I was really excited to try and do other things in other fields. But I already miss playing soccer and I’ve had a couple of opportunities to play again at a high level. One of which was in a summer league in Iceland. So I want to continue to try and play at some level.
I’m currently an assistant coach at the college I am attending and I do private sessions as well. I feel like I have a lot to offer and things to pass on to young players and I really enjoy that. So through coaching and being able to spread the knowledge, I’ve learned through the game and then, maybe, getting back and playing in a summer league in Iceland or somewhere closer to home would be great.