Business and Pleasure: 15-Year-Old Lacrosse Player Takes on “Shark Tank”

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At the age of 12, Rachel Zietz decided she was tired of inadequate lacrosse equipment.  Expensive rebounders and goals seemed to deteriorate after just a few months.

“I knew I wasn’t the only lacrosse player out there who was let down by the available equipment, so I decided to design and manufacture my own, and thus Gladiator Lacrosse was born.”

-Rachel Zietz, Founder of Gladiator Lacrosse

Zietz began to sell rebounders and goals that would stand the test of time, built with 20 percent more steel and thicker netting than that of her competition.

She launched her business in 2012 and created a website by 2013. Zietz sold out of 500 rebounders and 1,100 goals within four months of January 2014.

Consequently, she caught the eye of an executive producer of “Shark Tank,” the reality television series where aspiring entrepreneurs present their ideas to big-wig investors.

So Zietz ended up on the floor beside a net and a rebounder, seeking $100,000 in exchange for 15 percent equity in her business, selling more affordable equipment that could “withstand the constant punishment that competitive lacrosse players deliver.”

Zietz laid all the numbers out on the table.  Essentially, Gladiator’s rebounders cost about $66 to make and are sold for $169.95.  The goals cost $38.50 to make and are sold for $99.95.  Opposing products are sold for more than $300, which has earned her company the No.1 seller spot on Amazon.  Needless to say, the Sharks were impressed.

“Rachel had her numbers down pat, which was extremely impressive to me. I’m constantly meeting entrepreneurs who are more than twice Rachel’s age and on their second, third, even fourth businesses, but they still haven’t figured out that the numbers are everything.”

-Kevin O’Leary, Co-founder and Chairman of O’Leary Funds

Despite being floored by Zietz’s knowledge and preparation, the Sharks didn’t give her an offer.  They didn’t believe she could invest all of her time into the business as she was still in high school.  They also didn’t know the niche market well enough.

Following her “Shark Tank” experience, the company has grown in a big way.  Zietz currently has three employees, more than 10 products, expects to be in big box stores within a year, and has jumped from making $300,000 to a projected $2 million in 2016.

In addition, Zietz is being approached by various retailers and investors and has partnered with Syracuse alum Casey Powell to expand her business.

“I want to make lacrosse as big as possible and I feel like I’m making my contribution by having this business.”

-Rachel Zietz, Founder of Gladiator Lacrosse

What are your favorite and least favorite lacrosse products?  What kind of changes would you like to see made in the current arsenal of equipment?  Click the title to comment.

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