Since a junior coach reiterated the importance of balancing football with other pursuits, Brisbane Roar’s Jacob Pepper has always had ambitions to pursue work outside of football. Since establishing himself as a successful player in the A-League, Pepper has managed to channel his energies into starting a clothing business, What Is Art (W.I.A) and has opened three cafés since 2015. We caught up with Jacob to see what makes him tick on and off the pitch… 

How have you found the move to Brisbane? Do you feel settled now at the Roar into your third season?

JP: The transition from Western Sydney to Brisbane Roar has been an easy one. The club was very welcoming and for me the playing squad has one of the best cultures I have been a part of. The warm weather has also made the move more pleasant!

How have you found the start of the season, both as a team and personally?

JP: The boys have had a very good pre-season, we are fit, strong and injury free as a team which is always a big positive moving into the start of the season. We know ourselves that we could have picked up a few more points than what we currently have but looking forward we have created a heap of chances in almost every game which is definitely a positive. This next six week block over Christmas and January is vital for us. The boys are raring to pick a heap of points up along the way and push us north up the ladder.

For me personally and in this pre-season allowed me to better understand my role as a centre-back. Last year due to injuries I saw myself utilised in this position and moving into the 2018/19 season I knew that I could be used more often in this role for Brisbane Roar. So I made the most of this pre-season learning of players such as Luke, Daniel and Avraam who all have a heap of experience in this position.

What are your aims this season?

JP: We want to win everything including the minor and major premiership. We have a team roster for us to achieve exactly that. For me personally I want to play as many games as possible this season and keep learning in order to become a better defender. I always want to learn and get better at training everyday and i think the coaching staff at Brisbane can make that happen for me.

What can Brisbane achieve?

JP: Brisbane has a great playing group, great coaching staff, great facilities and off field operations. We have no reason to not be up the top holding trophies this season.

How do you spend your time outside of football in Brisbane?

JP: My time outside of football is something I really cherish. I love the beach, surfing, fishing and anything that involves the ocean. If you can’t find me along the east coast in particular the Sunshine Coast, I am usually working on my businesses. I have always had a passion for business and pursuing opportunities outside of football. I like to keep myself busy and my businesses definitely help with that.

You have a lot of extracurricular pursuits outside of football. What motivated you to explore areas outside of your ‘main’ profession?

JP: I am a very motivated individual and I like to think I can do anything and everything. I think this is the reason why I like business and pursuing opportunities outside of football. I love learning new tricks of the trade and applying these to business. I had a coach when I was growing up who was a school principal, a hard man and a big believer in achieving goals and keeping busy outside of football so it was always sort of drilled into me from a young age that you must have a back up plan as football can change in a matter moments.

What led you to set up W.I.A (What Is Art)?

JP: I suppose the seed was first planted in my head once I arrived back from Norway on an off season trip to visit my brother. He was living there at the time and I thought id go over and visit him. We were walking down the main mall in Oslo when I noticed how many small independent retail stores there were. Small brands making sick threads. When I returned home I figured I would set up my own e-commerce site and hustle some t-shirts. I didn’t rush into it as I had no clue how or where to start. Seems simple but choosing wholesalers, manufacturers and suppliers to the different screen-printed methods was definitely something I had no clue about. But me being me I researched and learnt everything and anything about the thread game.

After months of learning i finally received my first batch of T’s. I created a website. We grew our instagram @whatisartt and kick-started our E-Commerce sales.

It was about 6 months later my brother returned from overseas and we both sat down and had a chat about taking the business one step further.  This dream turned into a reality when Nathan and I had inspected a place for rent. We sat down after and both agreed to go for it. Both of us are not the type to shy away from a challenge.

So here we are, in an empty space, no interior furniture, shitty paint jobs and a whole lot of work to do. Not to mention this premises at the time was located in an empty, run down car park in which the last two businesses had folded within one year of opening. We were either crazy or just plain stupid. With a few hundred t-shirts and a hell hole to sell them out of we knew things were about to get real. At the time I also was adamant that I wanted to eventually own a café or restaurant. I have always had a passion for food and good coffee, the typical footballer stereotype. What better way to start than by throwing a coffee machine and sourcing coffee to sell in the premises along with the threads. So this was the start of WIA.

WIA definitely had more to give and it was actually when I first moved to Brisbane that we decided that we would turn WIA Store into a half retail half café premises, selling simple foods such as acai bowls. WIA Store has now been trading for four years.

I guess one wasn’t enough as we opened another Acai & Poke café located in Mooloolaba in the Sunshine Coast when I arrived at Brisbane Roar. I love the sunny coast, it reminds me of Newcastle so I figured why not. As of last week we also celebrated our third cafe’s first anniversary, which is called located in Newcastle.

How do you find the time to work on these projects outside of football, which consumes so much of your time?

JP: Football will always be number one for me. I believe I am a good professional when it comes to footy and making sure I am in the best shape and mind frame week in week out. But for me working on these projects away from football really helps me on the pitch and at training. I am not the person who can sit at home and watch TV, I always have to be doing something and the more hands on I can be with the businesses the more I learn and the better individual I can become. For me juggling these commitments comes down to time management. I am a very routine person and do what I need to do to make sure things are done for both football and business.

What is next on the horizon for Jacob Pepper?

JP: I would love to say nothing but that would be a lie. Im always looking for new business adventures and have a heap of ideas that I would love to explore but I suppose time will tell.