Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat handles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round One Game Four of the Eastern Conference Playoffs on May 29, 2021 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Jesse D. Garrabrant | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
It started as a joke, but now National Basketball Association star Jimmy Butler has officially launched a coffee brand.
The 32-year-old Miami Heat star started his company in the 2020 NBA Covid bubble in Orlando, Florida, selling cups of coffee for $20 each. After that season, Butler filed for trademarks around Bigface and officially started plans to launch his coffee company. And on Friday he announced that he joined Shopify‘s creator program to boost his Bigface coffee brand.
In an interview with CNBC, Butler admitted he isn’t aiming to be “the best at making coffee” but added he’s taking the business seriously.
“I wake up in the morning excited to train and go work out,” Butler said. “Then I want to hurry up and get home so I can practice my bartending,” he said, referring to making coffee drinks. For now, he’ll sell branded merchandise in Shopify like coffee mugs and NFTs. He plans to sell the beans later.
Making big faces
Butler waited to launch Bigface to coincide with Friday’s International Coffee Day, two days after National Coffee Day in the U.S.
Butler said he traveled to coffee farms, including in Costa Rica, to study the coffee business. He said his discussions with farmers were “special,” and that he wants to use Bigface to “tell the story behind the beans and the farmers and their families. The time, the effort, the energy put into a cup of coffee.”
When the NBA went to Orlando to save its season last year, Butler saw a void at the secluded Disney campus because coffee options weren’t good. Butler used his espresso machine and coffee beans from El Salvador to sell coffee for $20 per cup.
Butler found coffee-lovers confined to the campus were willing to purchase a superior coffee. And it allowed him to capture a dominant share of the roughly $2,000 per diem provided to players. He sold options, including the “red eye,” which is coffee combined with a shot of espresso, and macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes.
Bigface also won bids for coffee beans in the Cup of Excellence auction last August. The purchase totaled over $65,000 for over 1,000 pounds of premium El Salvador coffee.
Butler said the bubble business experience provided a challenge away from basketball. “It’s just the competitor in me,” he added.
Shopify selects a group of athlete entrepreneurs for its program and doesn’t take any fees or equity stake. Butler will get all the profit. But partnering with an NBA athlete allows Shopify to integrate a well-known figure into their e-commerce platform and they’ll use Butler’s name, image and likeness for promotions.
The global coffee sector was valued at more than $102 billion last year with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 4.28% until 2026, according to firm Researchandmarkets.
Asked what he’ll earn from Bigface, Butler, who has made over $144 million in his NBA career, said: “It’s not about that for me. I think basketball has been a great source of income for me and my family.” He said he’s in the business just to make and talk over coffee.
The red-eye to Miami
NBA training camps opened this week, and one of the more intriguing teams in the league is Butler’s team.
The Heat had an active offseason bringing in All-Star Kyle Lowry in a three-year, $85 million sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors. The team also signed veteran PJ Tucker, who played last season for the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. And Butler agreed to an extension that includes an estimated $52 million player option in 2025.
Asked to compare the 2021-22 Heat to a Bigface coffee option, Butler selected the red eye. “You have a little bit of everything in there,” he explained. “You have some coffee, an espresso shot – you have everything. And it’s going to hit you.
“I’m the cup that it’s in – I hold it all together,” added Butler, noting Lowry is “the steam that’s coming off” the redeye. ” You’ve got to have him otherwise it doesn’t make sense. You don’t want a cold red eye. You want it hot.”
The NBA commences its 75th anniversary season on Oct. 19, so Butler is currently focusing on basketball, but he’s already planned a post-career. Butler said he’ll be in Miami or San Diego in one of his coffee shops. And this time, he’s not joking.
“After my basketball career, and people are like ‘Man, what is Jimmy doing nowadays,’ you know where to find me,” Butler said. “I will be in my cafe behind the bar making coffee.”