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Jeff & Marissa Allen

Trust Spotlights

Jeff & Marissa Allen

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Jeff Allen is an 8-year NFL veteran who played at guard. During the span of his career his wife, Marissa, supported their family while Jeff fulfilled his dream. Now that Jeff has retired from the NFL they’ve collectively turned their focus to supporting Marissa’s dream. Read on to see how they work together to make their marriage and their business successful and to see how they’re facing life after the NFL.

Q
Where are you in your decision to hang up your cleats?
A

Jeff: I was thinking about it for a long time. It's tough to walk away from something you've done your entire life – something you have such a passion for. I decided to prioritize my wife and my family. I had a tough time with the decision even though I knew I had something to pursue after. It was just hard for me to let go. Going back last year gave me that closure that I needed. And now I’ve transitioned into business with my wife. And it's been awesome. I'm just fortunate to be in this position.

A lot of players might think playing in the NFL is going to last forever. But I don't care how long you bet your career is going to last, you need to be thinking about what's next. From my rookie year on, I always thought about what's next. And, you can do both — you can be committed to football and be thinking of what’s next at the same time. You need to have an exit strategy when the time comes. Do your research, network, set up your life after football. It's going to be a very short ride no matter how long you play. So, make sure you get something out of your time in the league, because they got a lot out of you.

So, make sure you get something out of your time in the league, because they got a lot out of you.

Q
Marissa, during Jeff's playing career, what would you define your role as?
A

Marissa: During his football career, it was really just support and just kind of being there. We have two small kids and they consume a lot of my time. Remaining flexible – it was definitely a supportive role. I have a degree in marketing but there wasn't really a career that I wanted to take because I would have spent a lot of time away from him. It would have put a lot of strain on our family. So, I was comfortable being a support system. And so now for me to have a bakery and for him to be supporting me, it's crazy.

Q
What are some of the thoughts going through your head as you’re entering this next chapter?
A

Jeff: I think the biggest thing is just finding something that gives you the same passion you had for football. Something that makes you want to get up and go. And I think I have that right now. It gives me that new excitement. But this isn't the end for me. This is something that is kind of like a bridge. Right now, I'm supporting her because she supported me the entire time during my career, and I'm helping her live her dream.

Eventually I want to get in the financial realm, be an adviser and mentor guys from that aspect. Life and money go hand-in-hand. A lot of people’s problems come from money, so I want to try to teach guys about life and how to manage their money. That's my plan. I think that’s my way to stay around the game without being IN football.

A lot of people’s problems come from money. I want to try to teach guys about life and how to manage their money.

Marissa: There was definitely some kind of worry there. When you do something your whole entire life, to ‘hang up your cleats’ is daunting. It’s like we've never had free time to have a hobby. You know, there's nothing easy to transition in to. I definitely think us starting this business together, and we are completely in it together, it helps occupy him. I mean, we're here at 6 AM, every morning, together. It gives him some new goals to work towards.

When you do something your whole entire life, to ‘hang up your cleats’ is daunting.

Q
How do you feel the "transition" from the game is affecting your relationship and your children in any way, good or bad?
A

Jeff: It's been great for my kids. From the standpoint of me being more present. Even while I was playing, you got a ton of time off in the offseason, but I found myself, staying ‘in it’, always trying to get better. And, my intention wasn't 100% towards them, which isn't a good thing. You know, I was there, but I wasn't. But now, my focus is 100% towards my family – it's awesome. I can see the impact in my kids. Just the way we're communicating and I can see them responding.

... my focus is 100 percent towards my family – it's awesome. I can see the impact in my kids.

Marissa: I would definitely say it’s been good. It was tricky there for a minute because it's like, ‘oh, you're home now.’ And we've never had that. That definitely took some getting used to. But now I think it's great.

We've never spent this much time together. There are definitely moments where it's like, ‘OK, I need my space. I know you do, too.’ But I definitely think it’s improved our relationship. It has improved our communication, because you can't bring it into the workplace – we've got to figure this out now. Whereas before we had so many distractions that would prevent us from working things out. I definitely think there's a lot more communication going on and we're just getting to know each other again. We’ve been together for a while, so it's nice.

We've never spent this much time together ...we're just getting to know each other again.

Q
How has being an NFL player influenced the kind of husband, father and business partner you've become?
A

Jeff: Being an NFL player teaches you how to communicate. It teaches you discipline. You have to be a selfless person. My entire career was me doing work for others. Sure, there was a team aspect, but we block, that's a job that no one really notices until you mess up. So, we never really get the credit, which is OK – That's my personality. I think that's most often the personality of a lineman, being humble and understanding that what we do is important, but it's not just about you — it’s about the team.

My entire career was me doing work for others. Sure, there was a team aspect, but we block, that's a job that no one really notices until you mess up.

I think that has worked beautifully for me with the business. We have a team with great employees. We always try to give them the credit because they are doing a great job, and they are helping us more than enough.

Q
How did Cookie Society come to be?
A

Jeff: There’s this one bakery in New York - we stood in line for an hour for their cookies. And the entire time I'm complaining, there's no way a cookie is this good to stand in line for an hour. And we finally get the cookie. And I was like, 'oh, this was definitely worth it!' And I went back the next day and stood in line again. But after that trip, she's like, ‘well I make pretty good cookies, too.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know if your cookies are like this place.’ She's super competitive, so she's like, ‘I'll show you.’

I was like, ‘I don’t know if your cookies are like this place.’ She's super competitive, so she's like, ‘I'll show you.’

So, she starts doing research. She starts looking at different recipes, she started to develop her own recipes. And it just turned into this. And the first thing was the chocolate chip cookie. Which was amazing. Then I just start throwing stuff at her, like, ‘babe, can you make a banana pudding cookie? Can you make a red velvet cookie?’ And she's just been killing it. Three years of playing around in the kitchen and being competitive has turned into Cookie Society. I was like, 'let's turn your passion into a job.'

Marissa: First it came to be because I was food blogger first. And so we would travel around and try things. And was like, ‘I think I could do this, I think I can make a better cookie than this.’ And I went home and just could not get my mind off of cookies.

So, I'm making DOZENS of cookies, sending them up to the locker room. And they're like, ‘oh, I love this one.’ Or, ‘oh, this one needs more work.’ It became a thing like, OK, only on victory Monday can you send cookies. And, it was right around the holiday time one of his teammates wanted to buy some cookies. And I was floored, because I never, ever thought to try to sell them. I was going to publish the recipe once I got it perfect. And when he wanted to buy them I was like, ‘wow, I wonder if I could do this.’ And so I started looking at logistics. I called my dad and he was like, ‘Marissa, do you know how many cookies you’re going to have to sell to make some money?’ And I was like, ‘I think I could do it.’

And now, it's been several years – We didn't just wake up and start a bakery. But I think with all the growing pains, I think we've really found our niche – A unique cookie that can also ship. I think we needed that to position ourselves to be successful.

We didn't just wake up and start a bakery.

Q
How do you guys split up responsibilities? What do you consider both of your roles?
A

Marissa: So I'm the head baker and recipe developer. I probably manage the staff a little bit more. He's definitely doing a lot more of the administrative tasks, behind the scenes. He does all our marketing now. This is ironic. I was doing it at first, but just didn't have time. He took over and really made it his own. And we can definitely see the effects of it. I'm definitely the girl with the apron on, but he'll hop in there and pull things out of the oven too!

Jeff: I do all the marketing. I deal with all of our distribution, whether it's our manufacturers, the boxes, or even our food. I'm constantly in and out of the store, running around town, either picking up things or sending out cookies. I sit in the back and read e-mails, I take orders, answer the phone, a lot of the 'corporate' stuff. And when needed, I run orders out to the cars.

I think we've gotten in to a groove where we know what each of us does best.

Q
What has it been like starting, then running a business and working together on a daily basis?
A

Jeff: You have to communicate, because even though we're husband and wife, we are in business together. There are decisions made that you may not agree on. There are ideas that she has or that I have that we both agree on and then sometimes, it’s like, ‘no, I don’t know about that.’ We communicate and explain why we feel the way we do and then we come to terms with the decision. We can have those disagreements and be OK with it. And I think that that's the dynamic that kind of makes it easier for us, because we both know how to hash out differences. And, we understand that there's a time to take the lead, and to follow.

We both have our strengths and weaknesses. I think we've gotten in to a groove where we know what each of us does best. And I'm not going to challenge her on the things that she does, because I know, I trust her. And the same thing goes for me in certain aspects. And I think that's where we found our groove.

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