Michael Howard had been working in corporate America for more than a decade when he decided to start his own business selling miniature replica football helmets. However, it wasn’t until he hooked up with BallStars in early 2005 that Howard was able to turn his business, Volunteer Collectibles, into a full-time job. “I needed more products and more sports to go full time,” he says. “BallStar’s 2200 manual system allowed me to do that by covering more sports, like basketball, golf, soccer, and volleyball.”
Howard’s home-based business provides balls and helmets to Georgia’s youth sports market, up to high- school age—mostly basketball, soccer, and football so far, although he’s pushing to increase sales in softball and volleyball. His clients include the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), for whom Volunteer Collectibles is the official licensee for commemorative logo balls.
“I do balls for the champions of each of their sports, and the organization gets a royalty for each ball sold with their logo on it,” Howard explains. “They help get the word out about my business via their Web site and monthly newsletters.”
Instead of giving trophies or plaques, many of Howard’s clients prefer commemorative championship balls that are decorated to the school’s specifications. Howard also does balls to be given as a Player of the Week award by team coaches. These tend to be generic without a photo or a name allowing Howard to deliver a full season of balls at one time. End-of-season commemorative balls tend to have a player’s name, individual photo, and position.
“I’ve done thousands of balls this year,” he says. “I went through 20 cases of mini soccer balls in two weeks. And I’ll sell more cases soon, as well. Things are going so well that I’m having growing pains. In the near future, I’ll be hiring a few sales reps.”
The BallStars’ system is easy to use, Howard says, and no training was required. “It’s simple,” he says. “I’ve only had a few questions, and when I call BallStars they were very helpful, no matter what I needed.”
A great niche Michael Howard developed is player of the week balls. He visited football coaches during the summer who would order enough balls for the season, which Howard then produced and delivered before school started.
Not all the balls Michael Howard sells have photographs. This speeds production while boosting profits.
Several nights a week, Michael Howard attends between one and three soccer games where he brings samples and talks to coaches about what he can offer.
Ballstars’ Ball Raises $2,500 For Foundation
Teams, schools, and other organizations are always looking for ways to raise funds to support their causes. What many Ballstars’ licensees have learned is a photo transfer ball makes a great fund-raiser because it is so unique and the ability to personalize each ball makes it much more appealing to people who are sick of buying popcorn, gift wrap, and candy to support their kid’s activities.
This is just one example of the many ways that Ballstars products can be used to promote worthy causes and raise revenue. Be aware of opportunities in your area where you can help organizations meet their fund-raising goals.
This football was used in a fund-raising auction held in Esterville, Iowa to benefit a foundation created in memory of a boy who drowned. It raised $1,200 at the auction and the Ballstars’ licensee later sold two more of the same ball.
The owners charged their normal price for the football, but included this beautiful oak display case at no extra charge. The oak display cases are also available from BallStars.
Entrepreneur Scores Big In Youth Sports Photography Market
For the past 22 years, Ray Bishop, president, Team Imaging, has been supplying youth sports photographers with a wide range of merchandise that displays individual and team photos. His business has grown to the point that in addition to his own sports photography company, Bishop Photo, he also supplies about 15 other large companies, who typically have more than 100 photographers working for each of them.
One of the reasons for Bishop’s success has been staying one step ahead of the competition with unique offerings. So when he learned about Ballstars’ personalized photo sports balls, he knew he had found another winner. “A lot of photography companies offer the same thing,” he says. “One of the greatest advantages that BallStars has provided is giving us a product that the competition didn’t have.”
Team Imaging offers photo merchandise for the most popular sports, but the majority of sales are in baseball, soccer, and football simply because, “we do more pictures for (these sports),” Bishop notes. All products are produced in the company’s 25,000-square-foot facility located in Bethlehem, Pa.
In addition to Ballstars’ photo sports balls, the company also offers photo baseball bats, mouse pads, mugs, T-shirts, caps, calendars, photo sculptures, matted photos, and trophy plaques. With nine offices spanning the East Coast from Boston to Orlando, Bishop estimates that the company sells thousands of photo balls each sports season. Since adding the sports balls three years ago, “Sales have been grown every year,” says Bishop.
The process Bishop has established for collection of orders is quick and hassle free. A league will call to set up a time to do photos. Up to 30 teams might be photographed in one day. Teams are scheduled 15 minutes apart. As parents arrive, they are handed an envelope with a list of photo packages and merchandise they can order. They fill out the order form, write a check, and orders are collected. Orders are delivered to Team Imaging, produced, and products are delivered within three weeks.
According to Bishop, getting set up with the Ballstars’ photo transfer ball system was easy. “We never attended any training. We did it over the phone,” he says. “It’s a pretty straight-forward operation.”
In addition to being happy with the success of Ballstars’ products, Bishop also notes that the company’s technical and customer service has been top notch. “The people I have worked with at Ballstars are extremely professional and courteous. They have been great. I would say out of the 100 suppliers we use, Ballstars has been the best to deal with,” says Bishop.
The Kearney High School Football Team won the Kansas Class 4A championship in 2002. One of our Licensees showed the Booster Club our full sized football with a picture of a football team on it. Everyone at the school loved it and decided to get one for every coach and have it autographed by each player.
The footballs were such a hit that the booster club decided to sell them as a fundraiser. By the time the booster club was finished, they had sold 110 footballs and had raised hundreds of dollars for the athletic program.
This has now been repeated in dozens of high schools around the country. Until now, no one believed that a high school could get their team photo on an autograph football. There are 15,000 high schools in the United States alone and only a few have yet to see our product. Think of the potential.
The Oregon Trail Junior High School Band is like most school bands in the country. They work hard all year with the hope that they can get selected for a parade in a major event such as a College Bowl Game.
Raising the funds for these trips is the responsibility of the parents and the booster club. No school district funds can be used. Candy, pizzas and car washes have all been used at one time or another with most schools trying to sell the same things.
It's now December 5th and their fundraising efforts were coming to and end and it looked like they were going to come up short of the total cost. One of the parents had seen the BallStars photo ornaments and suggested the band members show them to their neighbors and see if there was any interest. BallStars quickly put together a fundraising package for the band members along with a sample ornament for each member to carry and after just one week, the band had raised the rest of the money. The fundraising effort included an incentive for each band member: for every 10 ornaments they sold, the band member would get one free. Therefore there was a double incentive for each band member to get out and sell this new project.
There is no risk to the school or the band and the buyers actually get something they can keep and use for years to come.
BallStars has now developed a complete fundraising program for its Licensees that can replicate the success of the Oregon Trails Junior High School Band.
Contact BallStars: 800.237.0653
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