From Football to Frosting
Texas Football alumni and NFL veterans, Brian Orakpo and Michael Griffin have surprisingly sweet plans for life after football. They continue to work together as a team not on the field, but making cupcakes and running their new business here in Austin.
It’s quite a novelty to see two professional football players Brian Orakpo and Michael Griffin—both whom are above six feet tall—standing behind the counter of a cupcake shop to greet you. Though, it seems to be the norm at the recently opened Gigi’s Cupcakes in Bee Cave, Texas.
“Mixing football and cupcakes; that was kind of the idea,” says Orakpo. “We get a lot of customers coming in to see two former longhorns and professional athletes. And then they get to see us actually working, so that’s extra cool.”
Orakpo, a linebacker, and Griffin, a safety, met while playing football for The University of Texas from 2004-2006. Their talent in college led them to careers in the NFL where they ended up again as teammates in 2015 playing for the Tennessee Titans. The two, along with their long-time friend, Bryan Hynson, continue to work on a team together now as owners of the cupcake shop, which opened in March.
“It’s been fun,” says Hynson. “I’ve really enjoyed watching the store grow and seeing how they’ve grown as businessmen.”
The Nashville-based franchise has 100 stores nationwide, serving cupcakes and custom cakes. The menu rotates seasonally and includes flavors like cookie, dough, wedding cake, caramel pretzel, and lemon blueberry in the summer. There are gluten-free, sugar free, and vegan options available as well. The Bee Cave location also serves local Blue Bell ice cream, NadaMoo vegan ice cream, and coffee. The store has a local touch with a mural of the 360 Bridge on the back wall, a nod to one of Austin's most notorious backdrops.
The three had always discussed doing something in business together. As retirement peaked on the horizon for Griffin and Orakpo, so did their plans to open the business. “We had known about Gigi’s from living in Nashville,” says Griffin. “We wanted to start small and it was low risk. We’re really lucky it’s been successful so far.”
Though, being a business owner isn’t always glamorous, especially in its early stages. There are things that go wrong, constant decisions to make, all while learning how to work as a team.
“It’s a learning curve. The franchise gives us some support,” says Hynson. “But it’s about finding our strengths and creating a system.”
All three owners contribute differently, with various strengths. While Orakpo is the “do-it-all” guy, Griffin strengths are baking and decorating. Hynson is the operations guy. All three are very hands-on, whether that means stepping in to work the cash register while the store manager is in the kitchen baking and decorating, or working after hours to bake and frost cupcakes for custom orders the next day.
“Just like in football, you have to be dedicated” Griffin says. “This is our business and we’re not gonna let it fail. We’re gonna weather the storm together and get through every situation.”
“It’s all about doing the little things,” says Orakpo. “You have to put in the work.”
While Orakpo still has a few more years of playing, his off-seasons will be dedicated to running the business. He’ll leave at the end of July for training camp, where Griffin and Hynson will fill the void until he returns to Austin.
For Griffin, his retirement came in May.
“At first it was hard,” he says. “But you start developing different hobbies and start finding things that keep you busy.”
As far as how many cupcakes he’ll still be eating in his new retirement?
“One a day,” Griffin says.