Michael Griffin and Brian Orakpo know what it means to be part of a team.
The former Tennessee Titans teammates apply those lessons to this day, long after their NFL careers have ended.
And it is not just in the way they work together as co-owners of a Gigi’s Cupcakes franchise in Austin, Texas. It is also the way they approach their relationships with other business in the area, particularly as black business owners at a time when issues of race and diversity are prominent in public discourse.
“We got a lot of neighbors when it comes to business and it kind of opened people’s eyes, and people started checking on [us] and we started having more dialogue,” Griffin said in an SI.com profile of their business acumen published this week. “We’re all doing well if everybody around us is doing well – you know, no man left behind.”
The story of the pair’s transition from NFL careers to specialty cupcake bakers has been told often in recent years. Orakpo had a 10-year career that ended after the 2018 season, his fourth with the Titans. Griffin, a first-round pick by Tennessee in 2007, also spent 10 seasons in the NFL (nine with the Titans) before he retired in 2017.
They went into business together in 2016, while Orakpo was still playing, along with a friend from their college days at the University of Texas. Since, they gained notoriety in a commercial that earned them the moniker, The Cupcake Guys, have been featured on a Food Network Program, Cupcake Guys Training Camp, and negotiated the challenges faced by all businesses in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authenticity, they maintain, has been central to this pursuit.
“The Microsoft commercial was not scripted. The Cupcake Guys Training Camp was not scripted. Like, that’s us,” Griffin said. “We joke around all day. We just have fun. When you’re not having fun, then that's when you need to stop. And that’s the same way we took football.”
And they took some of what they learned from football into their business.