CHATSWORTH — Faheem Ali is using the lessons he learned from football in business, especially how to "get up and play the next play no matter how hard you got knocked on your butt" the previous snap.
"Football taught me how to make it through life," he said. "If you fall off, the team falls off, because there are 10 other guys in the huddle who need you."
"Consistency is key — if you keep chopping wood, the tree will fall — (as is) shining your light in the darkness, because there will be dark times" in sports and business, he said. "If you're consistent in what you do, there is light on the other side."
"You can't stop and mope, because if you keep going, it opens up everything," he said. "Faith is everything — you've got to have faith — (because) without it, you've already lost."
Ali has been "in the hydration space for four years," and he founded Keen Water with Melvin Bratton, who was a running back for the University of Miami — and the star of the Hurricanes' 1988 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, which delivered the 1987 national title to South Florida — and the Denver Broncos, he said. Born and bred in Miami, Ali grew up playing football and was a wide receiver at Eastern Michigan University and Louisiana Tech University, so he knows the value of hydration to optimal athletic performance.
"Hydration is very important," he said. "It's like an oil change for your car."
"When you're dehydrated, your body starts grabbing what it needs from other places" in the body, which leads to substandard performance and possible injuries, he said. In the same manner, "if you don't have oil in your car, your alternator goes (out), or your engine."
Keen Water purchased the water bottling plant in Chatsworth a couple of months ago, a facility with an on-site natural spring that "pumps out at least 1 million gallons a day," he said. Owning a spring and bottling plant will be a boost for Keen Water, but the fact that Ali is "all-in" on the local facility is beneficial to Chatsworth and Murray County, too.
"Anytime Murray County becomes home to a business we celebrate here at the (chamber, and) taking that leap from a conversation to reality is not for the weak," said Barry Gentry, senior vice president of the Murray County Chamber of Commerce. Ali is "full of passion and could have taken that passion anywhere (in the) U.S., but he chose Murray County; we are excited to see what is in store for Keen Water and look forward to helping champion its success."
Ali views his employees in Chatsworth not as mere workers, but as members of a family, and "I'm a big community guy," he said. He created the Complete Athlete Awards to honor athletes who make as much impact "off the field" as on the field.
"If the community gets behind this (business), we'll be here for years and years," he said. "I want to provide for my kids" — Josh, a fifth-year senior wide receiver at the University of Kentucky; Blaine, 17; and Faheem, 12 — "my employees, and their kids."
Faheem Ali's name means "wise, intelligent and keen," hence the Keen Water moniker, he said. "'Keen' is 'sharp' and 'precise,' and that is just what our water is."