JBL: Business, as usual
NEW YORK -- John Bradshaw Layfield is no stranger to excess. On a brisk Wednesday evening in downtown Manhattan, the Texas businessman stepped from the warm confines of a limousine and was quickly escorted beyond the velvet rope of GoldBar, an exclusive nightclub in the epicenter of chic. He's there to celebrate his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: The launch of Mamajuana Energy, a drink created by his company, Layfield Energy, and designed to enhance male virility.
The towering tycoon in the snakeskin boots quickly becomes engulfed by admirers who ebb and flow from his orbit, including ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and fashion designer Andy Hilfiger. But as the wave of well-wishers subsides, JBL-- as he's better known to our fans -- takes time to reflect on what motivates him, and just how far he's come from his sleepy little hometown of Sweetwater, Texas.
"I was the gangly kid with pigeon-toed feet," recalls Layfield. "I've always had this massive chip on my shoulder, and the only way I know how to get it off is to try and excel."
So far, so good. The gilded hotspot adorned with golden skulls and garish chandeliers in which Layfield now finds himself seems a far cry from his humbler roots. But even as a boy growing up in Sweetwater, JBL tapped his entrepreneurial roots early.
He was just 10 years old when he began earning money washing golf carts and picking up range balls at a local course. ("Guys would be drinking beers, hitting balls at me," he recalls.) At 12, he started his own lawn care business and later he began catching rattlesnakes and selling them at $13 a pound for his town's annual Rattlesnake Roundup.
"I've always had this desire to make a lot of money, to work for myself, ever since I was a kid," says Layfield.
Despite his ever-present yearning for wealth, Layfield came up miserably short after a stint playing in the now-defunct World Football League in the early '90s. When the league folded in 1992, Layfield and the $27 to his name settled back in with his parents -- a step that had a profound impact upon him.
"I was poor, and I hated it so badly," says Layfield, his unmistakable intensity aglow. "That's the reason I work so much, because I'm really scared of going back there."
After taking time to regroup, the Abilene Christian University grad pursued a career in finance, finding success in the stock market and as an investment banker. When pressed on how he thrived in an industry notorious for cut-throat competition, Layfield harkens back to his most deeply-held maxim.
"I'm not a bumper sticker slogan-type guy," he states, "but failure, for me, is not an option."
That win-at-all-cost attitude helped to propel Layfield into the WWE after just three years on the regional circuit. It's also what drove him to become a commentator on the FOX Business Channel and led him to create Mamajuana Energy.
"I've always wanted to do something on a big scale, and Mamajuana Energy is the first chance I've had to do that," says Layfield. "You have to take calculated risks. A lot of people are scared of striking out on their own; that's human nature. It's easier to work for somebody else, to be taken care of."
Not every decision Layfield has made earns kudos, however. The Texas businessman admits to dropping the ball on a few occasions, both in the stock market and with his personal life. Nestled on a plush couch in the dimly lit back room at GoldBar, Layfield surveys the gilded surroundings before he speaks.
"I've got some things that I wish I hadn't done," he says, without delving into specifics. "But if I changed what I've done, then I wouldn't be who I am now. And right now, I'm OK with who I am."