We chatted to Rio Ferdinand about ballet, side businesses and staying focussed

Who better to get career advice from than one of the most successful sports stars of, well, ever? We wanted to know how Rio Ferdinand has gone from badass football superstar to entrepreneur extraordinaire, so we asked him. 

Prepare to get some major #inspo and find out some things about Rio that you didn’t know about.

1. Did you always want to play football?

When I was a kid I was into ballet and gymnastics and people may have laughed at me but I was always interested in exploring other things. I never wanted to be boxed or pigeon-holed into one area. When I was younger I was also into clothes, my dad was a tailor, and I always wanted to dress up in my best clothes. I thought I’d do something in fashion. Then when I went into football I had to fully commit so I didn’t think about entrepreneurialism.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand (Image Credit: Rex Features)

2. Did you ever want a side business when you were still playing football?

If I had been doing a fashion business on the side Sir Alex Ferguson would have said to me: “What’s all this fashion malarkey?” You need incredible concentration levels to get out there and play a game of football, you can’t have any distractions. It frustrates me when I see some of the younger football players who are doing X, Y and Z off the pitch because you need to be focussed and play consistently.

3. So Rio, tell us about your brand #5?

I always talked to people about what I would do when I retired and someone suggested I do a physical magazine. I thought who the hell is going to buy a magazine from me? Then I thought let’s do a magazine that’s free. We went that way and we made it a lifestyle magazine – covering sport, fashion, film, gaming and various other things.

I got carried away and wanted to sell some fashion products too – jeans, jackets, shirts etc. We thought about doing caps because you don’t need to try them on, there’s no sizing, they fit everyone and they are easy to push. So we did that and got good responses. The magazine is doing really well now too and we get 20, 30 million views on some of our videos.

4. How do you use social media to aid your business ventures and how did you start using it? You’ve got over 6 million Twitter followers which is pretty impressive!

I saw people using Twitter first over in America where numerous big sports stars were using it. I got injured when I was meant to be in The World Cup as captain for England so I went to Morocco with my family and I thought that as captain I still needed to have some sort of involvement in the game. So I had a play on social media and told people on Twitter that I was still watching the game. It was a great tool and I had loads of good feedback.

As a sportsman you have a guy in an office with an opinion of you, a kid at school with an opinion, the list goes on. Social media is great because it lets you have your say and tell people that certain portrayals and perceptions of your personality aren’t true.

5. What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs about making money?

My first question was ‘how are we going to make money?’ To get advertising money at the beginning was quite difficult but we believed in it. We believed that the digital world would grow very, very quickly. We studied who our audience was and the dwell times and then told that to all the advertisers. You’ve got to do your research in terms of talking to your consumer. You need to see what’s sticky, what are people coming back for? You can’t get too emotionally invested in your product, that can make things very difficult.

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