"He has a big heart for community and for people achieving their goals, and so for me I was like, 'This is a no brainer,'" Bartholomew tells CNBC. "You got a guy who can team up with you who represents everything you're trying to teach, so from a marketing standpoint it aligns, and from a partnership standpoint aligns, so just made all the sense in the world."
Bartholomew remembers being on the phone with his father, a lawyer who started his own firm. "He said, 'These are the types of partnerships that will benefit you the rest of your life.'"
Manning, "as the great entrepreneur and great man he is, he was like, 'Hey, I'd love to own them all,'" Bartholomew told the Denver Post. "I said, 'Man, that'd be really cool, but I think some other athletes would love to own some in their cities.'" So Bartholomew started to open facilities in different and found other pro athletes looking to get involved with D1, like Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and then Greenbay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk.
"Community, that's our whole business plan," says Bartholomew.
It was working. By 2006 Bartholomew was taking home "significant wealth," which enabled him to move his family into a nicer home and to donate more money to his church. But he still wanted more.
"I have this mentality, even making some significant money, I still have this mentality, like I'm always trying to survive," he says.
"My dad was super successful, I went to a private high school, I've never been without, so [I'm not] the kid who never grew up with anything and made it something awesome. That's not my story," says Bartholomew. "My story is, I didn't want to take anything; I wanted to make it on my own. I wanted to be independent at a very young age. That's just the way my mentality is."
As the rest of the country suffered through a recession in 2008 and 2009, D1 thrived.
"I had an amazing time, an amazing ride," says Bartholomew. "When the market was contracting, I was expanding and opening more locations. … I was able to get a great lease or I was able buy real estate super cheap," he explains.
A new business model
Eventually Bartholomew had so many inquiries from athletes wanting to open D1 facilities that he couldn't accommodate them all. "I didn't have the structure and the model set up to really expand," he says.
"I've always had kind of a big vision," says Bartholomew. "Maybe it's just cause of the way I'm wired, but I've always wanted something bigger."
Bartholomew spent six months trying to figure out his next move. The answer he landed on was franchising.