When people think of the Gronkowski name, they usually associate it with football, family, fitness, and, of course, a whole lot of fun. You can also add entrepreneur to the mix as Chris Gronkowski, the middle child in the Gronkowski family, invented the Ice Shaker after his professional football career.
The Ice Shaker is a stainless steel insulated water bottle and shaker cup that’s vacuum-sealed, spill proof, and has a convenient pop top lid. The Ice Shaker’s 26-ounce double wall vacuum insulated bottle has the ability to hold ice for over 30 hours in a 75-degree room when filled with just ice, and the 36-ounce bottle and shaker cup will hold ice for over 40 hours. Designed with a removable twist-off agitator for more mixing power, a sturdy handle for easy carrying, and fill lines inside the bottle for measuring, the Ice Shaker is the perfect bottle for you to bring to the gym for a bodybuilding workout and protein shake, or it can also be used at the office, the beach, or anywhere else you might go.
Chris Gronkowski, CEO and inventor of the Ice Shaker, took time out of his busy schedule to chat with MuscleTech.com about how he came up with the idea for the Ice Shaker, what his experience was like on the entrepreneurial-themed reality show Shark Tank, and how he has been able to both survive and thrive as the middle of five Gronkowski brothers. Gronkowski also shares how he has been able to successfully transition from the football field to the boardroom, how fitness still plays a huge role in his life, and what strength means to him.
Q: After your pro football career, in which you played fullback for Dallas, Indianapolis, and Denver, you decided to put your entrepreneurial skills to the test and set out to create a protein shaker bottle that would alleviate many of the issues that you and other athletes were experiencing with standard protein shakers. What were the issues that you were having with standard protein shakers and why did you want to be the person to solve those problems?
A: “After I was done playing in the pros, I continued to live an active and healthy lifestyle. I was going to the gym almost every day, and by the time I got there the ice in my plastic shaker bottle was melted and there was condensation building up everywhere. I took a sip of my drink and it tasted awful and at that point I decided to make a better cup.
All the plastic cups on the market were not insulated, they smelled awful after a while, and they would leak or break all the time. My goal was to make the best bottle that I could for myself that I could use all day everyday. I didn’t just want to bring it to the gym, I wanted to bring it to work, on the airplane, or just wanted to sit on the couch and use that same bottle.”
Q: You went undrafted out of college, but were still able to make it to the pros through lots of hard work, determination, and grit. How did your journey to become a professional football player prepare you to be an entrepreneur?
A: “Being an athlete is very similar to running a business. You dedicate your life to it, you put in the long hours, and every day you try to find a way to get better. Learning time management in college as a student-athlete was a huge skill that transferred over to running a business. And teamwork was by far the most important thing that you learn as an athlete. Great teams win championships, not just one person. And that same mentality is true for business. If you want to build something great, you have to build a team to help you get there and everyone on that team plays a very important role.”
Q: The TV show Shark Tank is a place where entrepreneurs can get eaten alive if they’re not prepared. Yet, you and your brothers went on the show and had the sharks eating out of the palms of your hands. Take us through that experience from coming up with the idea to play a game of flip cup against the sharks to ultimately deciding to make a deal with Mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez.
A: “Shark Tank was an amazing experience. I knew it was a show that was all about entertainment, and I knew flip cup was one of those games that would bring excitement and entertainment. I also knew that it would loosen up the room and hopefully lead to some easier questions. My game plan seemed to work. Everyone was having a great time on set and we ended up getting offers from all five sharks. We went with Alex and Mark because they were both sports guys and our product fits well in the sports and fitness industry.”
Q: Would it be fair to say that getting on Shark Tank as an entrepreneur is the equivalent of a football player playing in the Super Bowl? And how good did it feel to create a feeding frenzy in the boardroom with all five of the sharks wanting a piece of Ice Shaker?
A: “Shark Tank is definitely the “Big Game” for an entrepreneur, especially early on in their endeavor. Ice Shaker was only six months old at the time and receiving offers from all five sharks was the ultimate proof of concept for every person watching the show that night. It took over 25 minutes of pitching the product before the first offer came, but once it did it felt amazing.”
Q: Speaking of the “Big Game”, your brother Rob just won his fourth championship ring with Tampa Bay. We know Rob, and all of your brothers, are very supportive of you. What did it mean for you to see him come out of retirement and then dominate in that game with six catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns?
A: “It showed me that hard work and believing in the process really pays off. When you set a goal, and put a plan in place and follow it, amazing things happen. I had Rob on my podcast before the season and we asked him what we should expect out of him this year and he said he didn’t want to make any promises. He said he just wants to put his head down and work hard and good things will happen.
It was amazing to see it all come together. They were 7-5 at the bye week and a lot of people counted them out. But they stuck to the game plan and believed in each other and it all came together at the right time.
To me, it was a huge inspiration. It reaffirmed that all the hard work will pay off, and it made me realize that you have to enjoy the journey along the way.”
Q: After you came up with your idea for the Ice Shaker, how long did you wait until you told your brothers about it? And did you always plan on bringing them into the business with you?
A: “I started to tell my brothers about the product after it started to sell. I was really excited about it, but I wanted to make sure it had some traction before I started to let my family know about it. After about three months, we had about $25,000 in sales and at that point I wanted to get the family more involved and asked if they would come on Shark Tank with me.”
Q: You’ve said that since you were the smallest Gronkowski brother that meant you also needed to be the strongest. What was it like growing up as one of five brothers and how did it help you become the person you are today?
A: “It was always a competition in our household growing up. You had to be the best at something, and for me I found that I could be the strongest if I worked the hardest at it.
Our childhood shaped us to be super competitive and our parents did an amazing job of teaching us the value of a dollar and making us earn everything that we had. If we wanted something, we had to find a way to get it ourselves. Our mom did an amazing job of making sure we had all of our homework done before we were allowed to play, and our dad showed us how to play hard on and off the field.”
Q: As someone who has found success as a professional athlete and now as an entrepreneur, what does strength mean to you?
A: “Strength is more a mental game than a physical game. The easy part is lifting weights, the hard part is having the mental toughness and strength to come back and do it day in and day out. Your real strength is shown on the tough days. Will you have the strength to get through it or will you mentally fold and quit?
Tough times don’t last, tough people do. This applies to business, as well.”
Q: The Ice Shaker brand has evolved to become more than just a water bottle and a shaker cup. It’s really a lifestyle and fitness brand, as well. On social media, you’ve been sharing actual pro athlete workouts and fitness tips. Why is it so important for you to pass on the health and fitness knowledge that you’ve learned during your career with the Ice Shaker community?
A: “Ice Shaker is all about living an active and healthy lifestyle. I didn’t start the company to sell bottles; I started it so I could live my passion of health and fitness every day. If I can go to the gym and classify it as work then count me in.
I have learned so much over the years, through high school, college, and the NFL, that I feel I would be doing a disservice to others if I didn’t share this knowledge. It took me over 30 years, and dozens of strength coaches, football coaches, trainers, and nutritionists to acquire all the knowledge that I have. And everything I learned, I wish I knew sooner.”
Q: Ice Shaker is also an honored member of OSD’s Veteran Support Ecosystem. How do you choose the organizations and the companies that you partner with?
A: “I am passionate about helping anyone who is willing to give their life to protect my freedoms. Football is very similar to the military. You are part of this amazing team with one goal and one mission in mind. You will do anything for your team. And when it’s all over and you no longer are a part of your team, you lose your identity and things change quickly. I always want to be a part of the team and because of that we try to help out our military members as much as possible and have donated thousands of bottles to our active military.”
Q: For anyone who wants an Ice Shaker, what’s the best way for them to get their hands on one?
A: “The best way to get one is at IceShaker.com. This is where we will have the most selection, limited editions, and the option to customize your bottle with laser engraving.”