When Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver first walked into a $1.45 million, 6,500-square-foot home in Wayzata earlier this year, he stood in the middle of the living room and said: “I can already envision it. I already know what it’s going to look like.”
Months later, the home is completely different — from a rustic relic out of the 1970s with wood paneling all over to a clandestine retreat with an all-white kitchen, a new gray paint job and a bathroom in each of the six bedrooms.
Tolliver also helped add another touch — a second washer-dryer in the home, located in the master bedroom.
“Whenever you talk about a million-plus-dollar house, you want as many amenities as possible,” Tolliver said on a tour of the property in November. “Sometimes you overdo it, but to me it’s better to have too much than not enough.”
But the home isn’t for Tolliver. It’s not for anybody in his family. Instead, he bought it, renovated it and will sell it, with the help of some friends and business partners.
“The entrepreneurial spirit has always been a part of who I am, the makeup of who I am,” Tolliver said.
However, Tolliver’s business acumen goes deeper than just flipping houses. In addition to the hours of work that go into practice, traveling and keeping himself in shape as an NBA player, Tolliver is constantly keeping tabs through e-mail, phone calls and texts on a stout business portfolio that includes a variety of ventures designed to help the 33-year-old keep growing his wealth after game checks stop coming.
In addition to real estate, Tolliver helps run Active Faith (a Christian sports apparel brand), a group fitness brand and, most intriguing, he is invested in two unique companies: Big Blanket Co., which is self-descriptive, and Kid Casters, which makes fishing gear for children.
“I don’t even fish,” Tolliver said. “That’s what’s crazy.”
Tolliver’s “entrepreneurial spirit” began in his hometown of Springfield, Mo., wanting to make a little extra money as a kid.
“We had all the needs. But not all the wants [growing up],” Tolliver said. “I found out from a young age if I wanted something I had to work for it.”
He started his own businesses mowing lawns and detailing cars for friends and family, but after he graduated as a finance major from Creighton in 2007, Tolliver ventured into the world of real estate almost as soon he began playing in the NBA. Along with childhood friend and business partner Kelly Byrne, Tolliver flipped his first house for about $80,000 in 2009, just after the housing market had cratered.
“We were able to learn in that new world and start off broke and not have too high of expectations,” Byrne said.
Now, Byrne and Tolliver help run a realty company called Say You Can that is involved in multimillion-dollar deals in and around Springfield and Omaha. Tolliver has even involved other NBA players, such as Zach Randolph and Stephen Curry, in some of his transactions.
“He’s a big believer in investing in the right people and he’s been pretty particular about the people he’s placed around him,” Byrne said.
Smart with money
The care with which he goes about his investments has been essential to Tolliver’s growing portfolio. He isn’t throwing money around to any friend or family member who may have an idea and a dream. He didn’t want to be another athlete who went broke on poor investments and extravagant spending.
“I think guys are way more cognizant of not being another statistic,” Tolliver said.
He tends to go into business with people he knows, but even if you’re a friend, you have to know what you’re doing if Tolliver is going to invest.
“It’s the combination of trustworthiness and also expertise,” Tolliver said. “I’ve had family members, people that I would say I would trust, but I’m not going to [invest with them] because they don’t know what that business entails. … It’s not just about trusting the person. It’s about if they actually are confident in doing the job.”
It’s also about investigating every opportunity that may come along, even if it’s out of Tolliver’s comfort zone.
Take Kid Casters, a company that also boasts former Timberwolves forward Brad Miller as an investor. That began as an idea Tolliver heard through some friends, although they weren’t sold on this one at first.
“We looked at the market of fishing and noticed none of the fishing companies really in the world were focusing on kids at all,” Tolliver said. “We said let’s go dominate the kids’ industry.”
Now Kid Casters products are featured in several stores, such as Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s.
“Anthony’s been an instrumental part in the growth and success of the company, early on taking a huge risk on us,” said Kid Casters CEO Ralph Duda, a friend of Tolliver’s from Springfield. “Our relationship is built on trust. It’s more of a brotherly trust and it’s not real corporate. He’s not like a helicopter investor.”
One of Tolliver’s latest investments is Big Blanket. The company is trying to sell you on size — that your average blanket is too small and to get your desired warmth you need a Big Blanket, which are 10 feet by 10 feet.
“Very ginormous, large blankets,” Tolliver said. “We’re doing it over the top, outrageously large on purpose.”
The company follows a pattern for Tolliver’s investments: Team with someone he trusts to help run it — in this case COO Dane Watts, Tolliver’s former teammate at Creighton — and meticulously research its viability.
“Every house in America has multiple blankets, and probably 80 percent of those are too small,” Tolliver said.
Big Blanket recently had an online Kickstarter with a goal of raising $10,000. It’s now over $50,000.
Handling his business
Just how does Tolliver juggle all these varied interests while still maintaining a demanding career in the NBA?
“I definitely am a huge believer in delegating,” Tolliver said. “You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Trying to be an expert at everything is really counterproductive.”
Tolliver isn’t much involved in the daily operations of any of his investments, but friends loop him in on big decisions. When Active Faith needed a new CEO, Tolliver was a part of the interview process.
“He’s as engaged as he wants to be,” Byrne said. “With him doing what he’s doing, it doesn’t make sense for him to be making day-to-day decisions.”
But Tolliver still spends a lot of time helping grow his investments. To promote Kid Casters, Tolliver will attend the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) in Orlando. He has also traveled to China on behalf of the company.
“In China … he’s a celebrity NBA player. It really lends credibility to what we’re doing,” Duda said.
And Tolliver will occasionally do what he did in late November, which was to check on the two houses in the Twin Cities. Tolliver isn’t making decisions on what color paint to use or the kind of carpeting to install.
“I’ll come through and act like I’m a buyer,” he said. “If I was in the market to buy this house, would I? I try to be brutally honest and tell them my biggest feedback.”
In St. Louis Park, Tolliver hadn’t yet seen an under-construction smaller starter home. In late November, the house looked nowhere near complete. The kitchen was bare, rugs were rolled up on the floor. However, Adam Sullivan, another business partner overseeing that house and the Wayzata house, said it was almost done. Tolliver explored the barren basement and was too tall to fit in certain areas of it without ducking. But he looked around and liked what he saw.
“This is a classic flip,” Tolliver said.
Soon, he and his wife, Jessica, were back in the car, on their way home. Tolliver may never see that home again before it’s sold. But he doesn’t need to see the finished handiwork to feel a sense of pride. He already had it.
“Taking an idea, curating it, getting the right people, getting it from an idea to executing it to a thriving business,” Tolliver said, “it’s so much more rewarding than just flipping a house.”