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This Ex-Pitcher’s Product Concept Was a Million-Greenback Hit Proper Off the Bat

It is sensible that Randall Thompson feels snug evaluating his enterprise to America’s pastime, contemplating how massive a job it has performed in his life.

“I really feel as if what we’re doing, we’re enjoying a baseball recreation,” he says. “And we’re most likely someplace within the fifth inning proper now.”

Rising up in central Florida, his love of the sport started with T-ball on the age of 5 and led to school ball on the Florida Institute of Expertise. His collegiate efforts earned him a spot as an undrafted free agent for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011.

However Thompson’s skilled profession got here to an finish the next 12 months, when he was launched after prolonged spring coaching.

For many, following one path solely to see it finish earlier than anticipated is a serious setback. However Thompson took it in stride and cast a brand new path by combining two issues he liked: baseball and entrepreneurship.

And in just a few quick years, Thompson Mug Firm was born.

When Life Throws a Curveball

After the Blue Jays minimize him, Thompson headed again to his alma mater to work because the staff’s pitching coach.

It was there, within the dugout throughout follow, that Thompson had a lightbulb second.

A hitting coach minimize the barrel off a bat so the gamers might concentrate on gripping the deal with. Trying on the discarded barrel, Thompson questioned if he might bore out a gap after which drink out of it, like a beer mug.

Little did he know, he’d simply provide you with what would quickly change into a million-dollar thought and the muse for his future firm.


Two men stand next to baseball bugs in a production facility. Kris Dehnert,left, CEO and associate and Randall Thompson, president and founder, pose for a portrait contained in the Thompson Mug Co. manufacturing facility in Bartow, Florida. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Regardless of the preliminary thought, Thompson didn’t actually pursue the idea of baseball-bat mugs till about six months later, in July 2014.

He all the time knew that he had an entrepreneurial facet, so when he determined to maneuver ahead with the mission, it was a headfirst dive.

He went by way of a ton of various trials and prototypes earlier than he lastly received it proper. And so they all occurred within the transformed storage residence in his sister’s yard, the place he was residing on the time.

He began out with a chop noticed and a vice. He additionally purchased a wood-burning package from his native Michaels arts and crafts retailer. He tried to bore out the barrels by hand and tried tracing a Sharpie-drawn emblem along with his newly purchased wood-burning instrument.

“It wasn’t good by any stretch of the creativeness,” he says with amusing. “But it surely was a spot to begin.”

An early model of the mug consisted of two components, which might screw collectively like a billiards cue stick. This prototype led to days and days of frustration. Simply think about Thompson in his residence, hunched over two hand-drilled items of barrel, attempting to line them up, just for them to be offset simply just a little bit. Each. Single. Time.

Subsequent, he determined to purchase a drill press — regardless of realizing subsequent to nothing in regards to the instrument.

He set it up his kitchen and pulled his telephone out so he might file a video of the primary time he used it to bore out a barrel.

“I slowly convey down the drill press and the bit simply flippantly touches the barrel and simply BOOM!” he says. “It simply flings [the barrel] towards the wall.”

He shortly repacked and returned the drill press.

Over time, he began asking himself higher questions and developed a strong product. By June of 2016, he was able to introduce the Dugout Mug to the world.

Time to Toe the Rubber

A man and woman play with a white dog. Thompson and his girlfriend, Courtney White,left, play with their canine as they make money working from home in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Like a few of the largest and brightest corporations we all know at the moment, Thompson Mug Firm began in a storage, whereas Thompson was working a full-time job, after which some.

When he wasn’t working as a gross sales rep for Sherwin-Williams, he was taking up facet hustles to earn additional money. And he wasn’t choosy when it got here to facet jobs — he says he mainly “began seeing greenback payments in every single place.”

Thompson funneled just about every thing he made into his new firm. Aspect gigs included repainting pharmacies in a single day, flipping furnishings on OfferUp and dressing up as Spider-Man — to not battle crime, however for youths’ birthday events.

All of the whereas, Thompson was eager about the corporate’s future and the way he might actually kick it up a notch. The following factor that occurred, he calls destiny.

Whereas scrolling by way of a Fb group for ex-minor and main league gamers, Thompson noticed a shared put up; a fellow named Kris Dehnert was seeking to promote some live performance tickets. Dehnert’s profile revealed that he was an entrepreneur.

After a little bit of Googling, Thompson determined to succeed in out to Dehnert in hopes of selecting his mind for tips about e-commerce.  

The 2 met in a resort foyer, Dehnert on a break from an entrepreneur convention happening in the identical resort and Thompson with certainly one of his Dugout Mugs in tow. The 2 chatted over a beer and parted methods.

By that time, Dehnert had dabbled in his fair proportion of entrepreneurial adventures however was beginning to really feel like a variety of them have been simply noise. After pondering on it, he determined to focus his efforts on Thompson Mug Firm.

In any case, it was beer, baseball and e-commerce — what was to not like?

“I used to be so busy being so busy, I virtually missed out on loads issues in life, and one of many alternatives would’ve been this,” says Dehnert.

In February of 2017, Dehnert advised Thompson that he was all in, however on one situation: Thompson needed to be all in, too. That meant leaving the full-time job and facet hustles behind.

Able to see Thompson Mug Firm attain its full potential, it wasn’t that onerous of a call for Thompson.

Swinging for the Fences

A man makes baseball bat beer mugs. Jose Luis Vazquez works within the manufacturing facility the place Dugout Mugs are made in Bartow, Florida. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

The brand new companions spent a few months engaged on analysis, improvement and advertising for the corporate.

By mid-March, Dugout Mugs have been being bought on-line — and at a quickly rising charge.

“March we did 26Okay, April we did 56Okay, Might we did 95Okay… after which we simply fully fell aside.” says Dehnert of the amount of cash being made.

The producer they have been utilizing fell by way of, and the corporate was left with a serious dilemma: an entire lot of demand for Dugout Mugs and no option to provide them.

Whereas some corporations may energy by way of and hope to return out on the opposite facet, Thompson Mug Co. took a extra cautious route. They quickly shut down manufacturing with the intention to correctly regroup.

Inside a few months, they have been arrange with a brand new producer and facility. And by August, the corporate had secured official licensing with the Main League Baseball Gamers Affiliation, permitting them to supply the “Signature Collection” mug assortment.

From there, gross sales shortly ramped up once more, resulting in a really busy finish of the 12 months. So busy, in reality, that they’d to herald just a little additional assist to get orders out the door.

“We had girlfriends, wives, mothers, everyone in right here packing for Christmas final 12 months,” says Dehnert. “Oh my god, my mother was in right here taping bins… it was simply loopy, all arms on deck.”

Along with a Christmas rush, Thompson’s former staff determined to deal with its season ticket holders and ordered a whopping four,600 mugs.

The large Blue Jays order was a full-circle second for Thompson. When he signed with the staff again in 2011, he received a $zero signing bonus — which is fairly uncommon in skilled baseball.

“The joke is that, you realize, they finally did pay me a signing bonus as a result of they ordered four,600 mugs,” he says with amusing.

Regardless of the mid-year shut down, Thompson Mug Co. bought over $1 million value of merchandise in 2017.

Not strictly promoting Dugout Mugs, they’ve rolled out Knob Shot shot glasses, Wined Up wine glasses and the Season Opener bottle opener.

The corporate has branched out from e-commerce, promoting mugs in a number of MLB stadiums throughout the nation — like SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and Yankee Stadium.

The corporate additionally just lately launched its formally licensed MLB line. Followers of all 30 MLB groups can now get a Dugout Mug with their staff emblem, and the corporate plans to have the product in stadiums in 2019.

As of June 2018, year-to-date gross sales have been virtually matching the general 2017 gross sales, and Dehnert predicts they’ll attain no less than $three million by the tip of this 12 months.

A Staff Effort

A man works from home as his dog stares in the camera. Kris Dehnert, CEO and associate of Thompson Mug Firm, works from house in Lakeland, Fla. Dehnert’s nickname is Promo, as a result of he is always selling the product. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

The success of Thompson Mug Co. could be very a lot a staff effort. In a variety of methods, they function like, properly, a baseball staff. Every staffer even has a nickname — for example, Dehnert is “Promo” as a result of he’s all the time out selling the product.

Each Thompson and Dehnert follow and preach the tradition instilled of their staff, which is presently at 9 workers. After they’re not working from house — or Thompson’s most popular spot, Panera Bread — they’re down on the warehouse serving to with orders or touring to advertise the product.

Like two sides of the identical coin, the companions stability one another out and convey totally different ability units to the sector. They feed off one another’s power, bouncing forwards and backwards when telling a narrative.

With years of entrepreneurship underneath his belt, Dehnert has self-proclaimed “quick reminiscence and thick pores and skin.” His charisma is infectious and networking is in his blood — he’s instrumental in securing new licensing offers.

In the meantime, Dehnert’s fast-talking and boisterous angle often has Thompson smiling to himself within the background, nodding alongside, fully in settlement however prepared to let his associate take the lead.

Dehnert thinks that if Thompson might solely do one factor endlessly, it could be dreaming up new stuff. In the meantime, his one factor can be promoting “shoulder to shoulder,” high-fiving athletes. Collectively, their totally different mindsets create a “third eye,” and it makes the partnership work.

Thompson doesn’t assume the corporate can be on the stage it’s at the moment if it weren’t for Dehnert.

“He sped up my studying curve,” Thompson says. “He pressured me to get uncomfortable and that’s… that’s the place development is available in.”

Subsequent Season

A man watches as his daughter rides her tricycle around their block. Dehnert takes a break from working to spend time along with his daughter, Juliana Dehnert, three, at house in Lakeland, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Dehnert and Thompson have a reasonably clear imaginative and prescient for Thompson Mug Firm’s future.

They’d wish to proceed to broaden the product providing, however stress the “measure twice, minimize as soon as” methodology. And never actually, though that is wooden we’re speaking about, so possibly a bit actually.

“Too many instances individuals are ‘prepared, fireplace goal,’ and that’s if you get your self in bother,” says Dehnert.

On high of increasing the product line, Thompson says they’d wish to concentrate on rising their presence on platforms resembling Etsy and Amazon. They wish to construct consistency and be sure that their product isn’t only a seasonal buy, like when Christmas or Father’s Day rolls round.

And so they’ve each talked in regards to the chance and logistics of promoting the corporate sometime. They’ve mentioned what level they’d wish to be at and what value they’d let go of it for — Thompson admits that he’d promote, however he’d cry about it.

Then once more, Thompson appears like they’re solely within the fifth inning, which implies they’ve received much more ball left to play.

“I don’t wish to essentially replicate on a win till we get by way of the complete 9. I simply wish to be totally engaged within the second,” he says. “In the intervening time… I type of simply wish to be pitch to pitch.”

Kaitlyn Blount is a employees author at The Penny Hoarder.

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