Waco: NFL Hall of Famer helps launch support hub for entrepreneurs

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A local success story returns to his hometown so others can write their own stories of success.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

NFL Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson is returning to his roots to help budding entrepreneurs through Start Up Waco's new support hub for businesses called Hustle Co-Working.

"I love the name," said Tomlinson. "My whole life has pretty much been about hustlin' - you set a goal for yourself and envision a dream of how to get that goal accomplished."

While the legendary running back is retired from the NFL, he says he's not retired from Waco.

"I've always thought about coming back home and doing something that was special," said Tomlinson. "When this opportunity came about, I just thought it was the perfect way to get entrenched back into the community that raised me."

On March 1, Tomlinson, who is on the Start Up Waco board of directors, came to Waco for the grand opening reception and ribbon-cutting for Hustle Co-Working.

"A new invention comes out and it's so simple and you're like 'I could have thought of that,' well, people have their opportunity to come to a space," said Tomlinson. "If you're an entrepreneur you can come here and get things done."

The non-profit is designed to provide Waco-area entrepreneurs the resources to succeed.

"We talked to local entrepreneurs and what they told us is, 'I didn't have to have startup Waco to start my business, but it sure would have been a lot easier for me and I would have wasted a lot less time, and today my business could be bigger employing more people if all the resources were there together,'" said Ashley Allison, Chair, Start Up Waco.

Allison said a group of stakeholders who brainstormed Start Up Waco were inspired by a trip they took to Nashville a couple years ago.

"We saw places in other cities and we said 'Waco can do this, and we can do better than that,'" said Allison. "So it really is a partnership among a bunch of different organizations that just decided it was time to act."

Located in the historic Woolworth Suites on Austin Avenue downtown, the five-thousand square foot collaborative space has room for 72 ventures to startup, grow, and flourish in a town business leaders say is ripe to do the same.

"Austin who? Dallas who? We're Waco and we're proud, and going to be better than them," said Tate Christensen, former Start Up Waco Board Member. "We may not be as big, but we're going to do it better."

Officials said they already had between 20-30 percent of spots filled at Hustle, which start at $50/month depending on the size of space needed.

"I can't wait to hear 'I got my launch at Start Up Waco,' that will be when we know we're successful," said Allison.

Tomlinson hinted, he might be interested in investing in some of the business ideas launched there.

"We're always looking for opportunities, so you never know," he said.

Tomlinson, who in retirement has become an actor, philanthropist, and businessman, said he's excited to help boost business in his hometown by cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit.

"To be back in my community, my hometown, to help do something special, to start something special...I just couldn't pass up that opportunity," he said.

Tomlinson still has family in the area - his favorite spot when he comes back home?

"Of course George's, gotta have George's," he said.

He also used to work at Bush's Chicken growing up, so Tomlinson said he always tries to stop by one when he's in Central Texas.