MLB, NFL Athletes Back Emerging Acai Franchise Raining Berries | Multi-unit-deals


Raining Berries, which has 10 franchise locations open in Florida, offers a menu of acai bowls and smoothies, along with coffee beverages, toasts and sandwiches.

Edwin Jackson threw a 149-pitch no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, won a World Series the following year with the St. Louis Cardinals and holds the distinction of playing for a Major League Baseball record 14 teams over his 17 seasons. His professional baseball resume is filled with accomplishments, and Jackson is looking to succeed at the same high level as he turns his attention to franchising.

Jackson is co-CEO of LCP Concessions, an investment arm of LaPhair Capital Partners that will develop multiple locations of acai bowl and coffee shop franchise Raining Berries and help support overall expansion after acquiring an equity stake in the brand. LCP Concessions counts several current and former pro football and baseball players among its investors, including Cleveland Browns quarterback Jameis Winston, New York Giants tight end Darren Waller and four-time MLB All-Star Justin Upton.

“It’s an amazing group,” said Jackson, and one he helped put together alongside Adrian Muhammad and Dave Shah, LaPhair’s managing partner and general partner, respectively. Franchising, he continued, is an ideal investment vehicle for pro athletes, and the structure of LCP Concessions—it wants an equity option in the companies it partners with and then will back an operations team to run the stores—means the players can serve more as brand ambassadors and leverage their name recognition in their communities.

“The brands benefit from the development and we as athletes help market them and be the voice of the brand in those markets,” said Jackson, who lives in Arizona and plans to start with one or two Raining Berries locations in the Scottsdale area before developing units in Florida, Georgia and Texas.


Former MLB pitcher Edwin Jackson helped form LCP Concessions and is working with other pro athletes to develop Raining Berries.

Jackson learned about Raining Berries after meeting founder Bimal Bhojani at the Sports Wealth Summit, launched in 2021 by business management firm NKSFB to provide education and resources to athletes on a range of topics from real estate to investment strategies. Craig Brown, a partner at NKSFB, leads the firm’s sports business division and is Jackson’s financial adviser. LaPhair’s Muhammad is another event organizer and noted a key motivation is to help athletes become more knowledgeable about how to preserve their wealth.

High-profile sports legends such as Shaquille O’Neal, who in addition to being a Papa Johns franchisee has his own concept, Big Chicken, and Drew Brees are likewise big names in franchising, but most athletes don’t know the first steps to take—something Jackson wants to change.

Related story: Inside Drew Brees’ Customer-First Franchise Investment Formula

“I had thought about franchising, but I just wasn’t sure how to go about it,” said Jackson. “I would bounce ideas off my wife, Erika, but I never knew how to fully attack it. We want to give hope and inspiration to other athletes that they have a pathway after they’re done playing.”

For too many players, retirement leads to depression, continued Jackson, who retired in 2022. “They’re completely lost when they get done playing,” he said, and a business endeavor is an ideal way for athletes to remain engaged in a community—and stay competitive.

“I get the same adrenaline as when I was on the field,” said Jackson of his involvement in LCP Concessions and Raining Berries. “It’s a competition, but a different type of competition. It’s, how much can I learn.”

The 2023 Sports Wealth Summit included a franchise education component and a presentation from Steven Gardner, founder of QSR Franchise Development Group, who works with Raining Berries. Connections were made, said Gardner, and those now involved in LCP Concessions saw an opportunity to create generational wealth via franchising.

Many players, continued Gardner, don’t want to handle day-to-day operations but instead “be the ambassador, be the celebrity, so we’re able to provide them with turnkey management.”

“We can fill that gap for athletes that want to own them but don’t necessarily want to be behind the counter.”

To Jackson, Raining Berries, which is based in Florida and has 10 stores open in the state, is an ideal fit as LCP Concessions’ first franchise. With simple, efficient operations and “lifestyle brand” positioning, the concept is replicable in different markets, he said, and its founder emphasizes a “family vibe” that resonated with Jackson.


Bimal Bhojani is the founder and CEO of Raining Berries, which he launched in 2020.

“Before the brand, I was sold on the person,” he said of Bhojani. “The way he built the brand from the ground up, it resonates with us as athletes. We had to do that with our careers on the field.”

Big vision for Raining Berries

Born in Uganda, Bhojani was raised in London after he and his family were made refugees in 1972 when Ugandan President Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of the country’s entire Asian population. The family had 90 days to leave the country, he said, and the coffee farms that had been theirs for decades were “confiscated and lost.”

In London, his parents opened a sporting goods store, where Bhojani said he came to love business. He later worked in currency trading and eventually got involved with a cousin’s private preschool business. After immigrating to the United States in 2007, he built a Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy in Wesley Chapel, Florida, which he operated as franchisee for more than 10 years. Looking for a “fresh, new challenge,” coffee came to mind as he saw an opportunity to draw on his family’s history and bring single-origin coffee from East Africa to American customers in a vibrant setting.

The first Raining Berries opened in January 2020 in Lutz, north of Tampa. “It was the worst time to launch a brand,” said Bhojani, as within weeks the COVID-19 pandemic meant business basically came to a halt. “But we survived as a healthy lifestyle, energetic brand. It showed our strength across the brand. We pulled every stop out and made it work.”

The concept evolved beyond a coffee shop to include acai bowls and smoothies—“We use organic, pasteurized acai. It’s a premium product,” said Bhojani—along with specialty toasts and sandwiches. Gelato, which he said is a natural fit and pairs nicely with espresso, is coming next. Even with several menu lines, however, operations remain simple.

“The ease of operations is key. If you go into a typical restaurant, your cost of goods and labor is very high,” he said. In Raining Berries, “there’s no commercial kitchen. Everything is plug and play and either scooped or built in a very efficient way.”

While some locations were built out to 3,000 square feet and include an executive conference room for hosting off-site meetings or small gatherings, a 1,600-square-foot express model is the primary focus for franchise development. The investment range for a smaller Raining Berries is $550,000 to $650,000, said Bhojani as he noted raw material costs have stabilized and there’s less inflationary pressure affecting new development.

Of LCP Concessions and Jackson, Bhojani said the partnership will propel Raining Berries to a national brand and help attract other athletes.

Jackson and his wife visited the store in Sarasota during their due diligence, where Jackson said he was impressed with the quality of the acai bowls and smoothies, coffee and different toasts.

“Everything we tasted was legit,” he said. “I want to be able to authentically say when I promote something that I like it. I’m not trying to sell somebody on something I don’t believe in. What I believe in Raining Berries is real.”


Raining Berries sources single-origin coffee from East Africa.

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