Blake Martinez didn’t anticipate quitting the NFL to sell Pokémon cards when he was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2016 NFL Draught.
Martinez, a productive NFL linebacker for more than six seasons, decided to retire in November 2022 so he could concentrate on his side business, Blake’s Breaks. He buys and sells Pokémon cards there, a habit he picked up in 2020 after noticing that some cards were going for hundreds of dollars on resale sites like Whatnot and Mercari.
Martinez, who was already a Whatnot investor, made the decision to give it a try by purchasing boxes of cards on eBay, some of which cost upwards of $30,000. He then held live stream auctions to sell the individual cards. Some were offered for just $5. One sold for $672,000.
Blake’s Breaks was formally established by Martinez in July 2022. He claims that within a few months, he predicted that the company’s annual profit would surpass his salary from the NFL. As a result, he quit the NFL and began working up to 80 hours per week on the company.
According to documents analysed by CNBC Make It, Blake’s Breaks has made over $8.3 million in income since its debut. 29-year-old Martinez refused to disclose revenue figures but claims that 25% of it is reinvested in the business.
Blake’s Breaks currently employs roughly 60 people. Most of them are streamers who sell anything from Pokémon cards to vintage purses while opening and bidding on products live on camera. According to Martinez, he wants to teach them how to market, so they can establish profitable streaming businesses of their own.
Here, he explains why he wants to train his potential rivals and how, without any prior expertise, he turned his side gig into a successful company.
What was the most challenging aspect of expanding Blake’s Breaks from a one-person side business to an 80-hour-per-week, full-time operation with staff members?
Martinez: When I was [reselling cards] on my own, a friend of mine who owns three restaurants in New York taught me a lot about business, including how to scale, how to hire, and how to fire. Obviously, selling food is different from selling Pokémon cards, yet both are influenced by culture.
I discovered that you need to have faith in the culture you’ve created. Avoid succumbing to greed. People will catch on if you try to cut corners or prioritise profitability over product or service quality; this will hurt your business.
Both social interaction and entertainment are priorities. Additionally, [we’re] realising that, despite mistakes, you can still take disadvantages and turn them into advantages for yourself or others. The proper people started turning up as a result of my continued adherence to that framework.
“I don’t care if you make me $1 million or $1,” I frequently tell my colleagues. Our idea of culture must be followed by you.
When interviewing people, how can you tell who the “right people” are?
A record of your performance is available in football. You must graduate from high school in order to be drafted and have your college tapes assessed.
While hiring streamers, trial and error is necessary. You can feel the vibe of certain people who have never done it when you speak with them.
Three rounds of interviews are conducted with candidates. They receive my final words. When I see someone who can create a community, like on YouTube, or who can just command a room and engage others, I start to pay attention.
Then I will say, “Let’s give this person $5,000 worth of product and see what they can do.”
You’ve stated that you want to train staff members sufficiently so they may leave Blake’s Breaks and start their own successful enterprises, even ones that compete with yours. Why?
I never felt truly in control of the game while growing up. Hey, go tackle that guy,” my coaches would tell me. Strike that person. Make me appear good. The coaches who gave me a sense of belonging were more appealing to me.