Thomas Fields, founder of GRIND basketball.
The term became popular in professional basketball, but Thomas Fields really “got to trust the process” by attracting money from investors, including Mark Cuban, to grow his business.
Fields is the founder of GRIND, a sports equipment company, and convinced the owner of the Dallas Mavericks to buy the company. The 26-year-old Houston native received $ 250,000 from his appearance on “Shark Tank” for his portable shooting machine.
In an interview with TBEN on Wednesday, days after its May 7 appearance on “Shark Tank,” Fields recalled the process of launching GRIND at Mach 2020, days before sports were shut down due to Covid-19.
“It was literally two weeks before the pandemic hit,” Fields said. “After that, we were operating in a Covid world, so we don’t even know what this non-Covid world looks like.”
Commercially, Fields said GRIND has performed well during the pandemic. The basketball machine is set up for a single user and automatically returns the ball to the player, allowing 1000 shots per hour.
Fields said the company generated around $ 217,000 in sales in the first five months as lockouts were in place and large gatherings banned. The product currently sells for $ 1,595, according to its website. On Amazon, similar shooting machines are listed for over $ 5,000.
And Fields notes that GRIND folds into a gym bag in 90 seconds, weighs around 100 pounds, and calls the product “affordable and accessible to any athlete who wants it.”
When asked about current sales, Fields declined to reveal figures, citing privacy concerns for his new partners. “Shark Tank” invited Fields to the series after six rounds of interviews, with the final launch last September in Las Vegas.
Mark Cuban on TBEN’s “Shark Tank”
His fiancee applied to the show ahead of the company’s launch. Fields said he watched episodes previously recorded, aired on TBEN, and taken notes. And while he was in quarantine in Las Vegas before encountering the sharks, he continued his study of his unique pitch process.
“All I could do was practice,” Fields said, adding he was in “run mode” when he arrived. It featured a cast that included Cuban, Minnesota Timberwolves new owner Alex Rodriguez, TBEN contributor Kevin O’Leary and businesswoman Barbara Corcoran. After the pitch, he got two investors – Cuban and Corcoran – who took 25% of the company.
“I love the product,” Cuban told TBEN in an email. “I ordered one while filming the show.”
Adding from Fields: “It was great to go through it, and after learning that these two believed in me as an entrepreneur and loved the product, it was more than enough to say the company was going to be something. something special. “
Batteries not included
Shortly after recapping the show, Fields recalled more of the GRIND process. He highlighted 2017 as he recovered from four ACL surgeries, one of the most extreme injuries in sports, especially basketball. It was then that Fields knew going to the National Basketball Association was not achievable.
Fields said he learned to weld from a friend and started working on the concept for the GRIND machine. He started the first investors, but no one came up with the money. So he started working for Raising Cane’s, a popular fast food chain and local car wash, saving nearly $ 25,000.
Fields said he became a “self-taught mechanical engineer,” paid himself $ 300 a month, and worked on prototypes and proofs of concept in his garage.
“You just have to perfect the machine and make it great,” Fields recalls.
Even Rodriguez praised Fields’ persistence on social media. “I had a lot of love, but he ended up being knocked out,” Fields said of Rodriguez.
Today, the shooting machines are made in Idaho, and Fields has eight employees, including four engineers. GRIND also landed an NBA team contract with the San Antonio Spurs, who use the machine for their youth camps.
“We targeted the Spurs because they have the best and biggest youth organization in the NBA,” Fields said. “It was strategic and we didn’t partner with them because they were nearby.”
GRIND works on a battery which can be added to the machine. This was one of Cuban’s concerns before investing. The machine uses an extension cord for power, which Fields noted that Cuban told him the product was not portable because it still needed a power outlet.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want customers to walk around with 100-foot extension cords,” Fields said. “We want them to be ready to go and worried about getting better.”
Nike and Peloton ambitions
Fields enters a competitive sports equipment market. According to Grand View Research, the industry is expected to reach $ 89.2 billion in 2025. And GRIND also competes with the tech industry, as companies like Apple sell subscriptions to sports and fitness training.
“The way I see it, there is only so much that software can do for an individual,” Fields said. “There is also so much that hardware can do for a consumer. I have always been in the spirit of bringing the best of both worlds.
“I think our hardware solves a real problem that no software can ever solve: getting your shots hit and miss, automatically passing the ball, and letting you fire over a thousand shots per hour. No software can do it. “
Fields says he wants to build GRIND as a combination of Nike and Peloton.
“This is the perfect time for us to step in and change the world of basketball through interactive sports equipment,” said Fields. “I think the future is bright for us. We are much more than a shooting machine company.”
And now the process continues.