After retiring from the National Football League in 1996, Shawn Bouwens took a divergent path. He went from offensive lineman to owning and operating Scooter's Coffee shops in the Kansas City area.
By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
After retiring from the National Football League in 1996, Shawn Bouwens took a divergent path. He went from offensive lineman to owning and operating Scooter’s Coffee shops in the Kansas City area.
Shawn’s time in the NFL playing for the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars had been a childhood dream comes true. He had always loved the game of football and it was his favorite sport when he was growing up. “As a child, I had a dream of one day playing in the NFL,” says Shawn. “Fortunately for me this dream came true and I was able to play for six years from 1990–1995.”
The last Super Bowl was exciting for Shawn as the Philadelphia Eagles became champions. “I was very pleased with the outcome of the game and glad the Eagles won. I wanted them to win but knew the Patriots and Tom Brady would be a tough one to beat.”
Although he misses the locker room camaraderie with fellow teammates, Shawn knew before he retired that it was time to move on to a new chapter in his life. “There was not a career-ending injury, but I knew my football career was coming to an end and it was time to close that book and start something new. I always had a head for business and knew this would be my next path and chapter to pursue.”
After he took the big step forward and retired, he says he spent a lot of time mowing his lawn to keep busy. He then remodeled his home a couple of times. “ The reason I did these things was to have time to reflect and ponder what the next steps in life were going to be,” says Shawn. “My whole identity was as a professional football player and I didn't have any other businesses or hobbies to fall back on. I wouldn't say that I was depressed, but I was searching for what the next opportunity was going to emerge.”
He and his wife, Tracy had dreamed of owning a business for years. As the coffee industry continued to boom, the couple began to do research and explore the opportunities that the industry offered. After returning to his native state of Nebraska after his retirement, Shawn noticed there weren’t many coffee houses in the Omaha area.
He and Tracy began sitting in different coffee shops and observing operations. They watched employees and customers and took copious notes.
“Our first dream was to open our own coffee house (not a franchise), but as we researched it more and got into it more, the franchise coffee opportunity, and more importantly Scooter's Coffee, was the best and correct opportunity for us,” says Shawn.
When the couple met with Scooter’s Coffee co-founder, Don Eckels in 2003 to discuss the opportunities the company offered in the Omaha area, they immediately realized that a franchise with the company was exactly what they were looking for. Almost immediately they signed a franchise agreement and opened their first store in Omaha. Shortly after the opening in 2004, they had the opportunity to purchase the rights to develop stores in the Kansas City metro area.
“Currently my wife and I, along with a couple of other business partners, own and operate 38 stores in a four-state region: Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska,” says Shawn. “We have aggressive plans to build more Scooter's Coffee shops around the Metro. Currently, we have eight stores in some stage of construction in the Kansas City metro area for the calendar year 2018.”
They were so enthusiastic about the potential of opening franchises in the northeast Kansas area they ended up moving to Olathe.
In the early days the challenge for Shawn and Tracy was bringing a new and not very well-known brand to the Kansas City Metro area. The company was very popular in the Omaha area because it was founded there. Moving to Kansas City in 2005 and developing the Scooter's brand presented many challenges and learning curves for the couple. “Scooter's Coffee was a young company and it did not have the support that it has in place now,” says Shawn. “We had to develop many of these items on our own.”
The challenges may have been daunting for Tracy and Shawn in the beginning but the rewards have accumulated at a breakneck pace over the last 13 years in the business and they now supervise more than 350 employees.
They like the fact that the local area is a wide-open market with lots of opportunities to build new stores.
“There are many coffee shops in the local area and the good news is that it has not been saturated to date, which leaves many opportunities for Scooter's Coffee and our company to grow,” says Shawn.
Shawn is also a commercial contractor and he currently builds all the coffee shops that he and his wife own and also for some other franchise owners. “ My Son Sheldon and I run the contracting company and its daily operations,” says Shawn. “We build ground-up buildings as well as tenant finishes.”
While Shawn misses many things about his professional life in the NFL, he still treasures his most memorable moments from his football career. “I remember blocking and playing with one of the greatest running backs of all time, Barry Sanders. I was blessed to play with him from 1991-1994 with the Detroit Lions.”
While he loved playing football, he finds it very satisfying to be providing many jobs to the local area, contributing to the area’s economic growth while employing and preparing future generations of business owners.
“This is a great opportunity to sew into the lives of many young adults,” says Shawn. “My wife Tracy does most of this as she is the one who works closely with these young adults, many of whom rose up through the ranks of being a barista to working in a larger capacity for our company as managers, regional managers, operation support, etc.”
Shawn is always looking for opportunities to grow his businesses and he is proud to be involved with Scooter’s Coffee because he believes the company strives to live up to its core commitment: “Amazing People, Amazing Drinks… Amazingly Fast,” says Shawn. “We want you to know that you can get a great cup of coffee on your way to whatever the day brings you that day, and you won’t, or shouldn't have to wait in line long to get this great service and drink.”
And Shawn doesn’t just talk the talk. He makes sure to have one of his favorite cups of java, an Americano or Scooter’s Shooter to start his day, with an accompanying delight — a southwestern burrito.