Rachel Zietz plays midfield on three lacrosse teams, so she is used to doing it all. The 14-year-old Boca Raton teen has excelled in running a lacrosse equipment company that in just its second year could top $1 million in sales.
“It seems to match up,” said Zietz, who will be a sophomore at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale this fall. “In lacrosse, you never know what is going to happen in a game… I knew that if I put in the work and the time anything was possible. Something like this, where I am right now, so many people thought I could do it, but didn’t expect me to go this far and be this successful.”
Zietz attended a U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting in Washington D.C. on Wednesday where she captured a $15,000 first place prize for her efforts with her company, Gladiator Lacrosse, over two other male student entrepreneurs.
“We pitched where our business is now from where we started; how we are doing and what our future plans are,” Zietz said. “Everyone in the audience got a vote.”
Zietz plays lacrosse for the varsity squad at Pine Crest in addition to a regional team (Upstate) and a national team (XTeam) for players who graduate in 2018. She started her business based on her frustrations with practice equipment.
“Being a lacrosse player myself, I would buy my competitors products,” Zietz said of rebounders and goals. “They would rust and tear and be completely destroyed.”
“I thought, there had to be a better way,” Zietz added. “I can’t have to buy another one of these things every couple of months, they are way too expensive.”
When she was in the seventh grade, Zietz enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, which is an extracurricular program for sixth- to 12th-graders offered by the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. After the eighth month program, Zietz won a $2,700 grant that she used to start her company, which reached $200,000 in sales.
“I came up with the idea for Gladiator Lacrosse to solve my problems and other lacrosse players problems and then it was born,” said Zietz, who officially started in May of 2013 and made her first sale in January 2014. She revamped the two products by designing more durable frames and thicker netting. She said both products are lightweight.
“I felt accomplished,” said Zietz. “I felt so proud that I helped a lacrosse player and solved a problem that I had an issue with. I was like, ‘this is a legitimate business. ‘I made a sale. I could make many more and sure enough I did. That just gave me a boost to continue and to keep pushing forward.”
She didn’t do much advertising, mostly word of mouth. Then Zietz loaded up a minivan with equipment and toted out rebounders and goals to the Sunshine State Games lacrosse tournament in Parkland and made $10,000 for the weekend.
“What believe is if I can get a team of people to sell at these tournaments nationwide, this could be a huge branch of distribution for me,” Zietz said. “I don’t see any other people selling goals and rebounders at tournaments. Most people sell like T-shirts, socks, goggles, and things that aren’t hard to carry. We had a minivan and stuffed it and that was it.”
She enlisted the help of a factory in China and her parents, Sam and Sheila Zietz, who lent her money and warehouse space in their Boca Raton-based merchant sales provider TouchSuite company.
When Zietz first started, she wore many hats.
“I did customer issues, labeling..,” Zietz said. “I learned how to manage them myself. I realized that I had to ship them all out. Then I found out that I could send them to Amazon and they could ship them out for me. I learned how to condense all of the work I was doing from the beginning.”
She hopes to expand into all lacrosse products. During the day, she works on the business before school, and during breaks between classes and practice.
Zietz, a straight A student, who is on the Honor Roll, and a member of the National Beta Society, believes lacrosse is the fastest growing sport and provides a growing market. Her products are now the top-rated product in their category on Amazon.com and e-Bay. They have sold 3,000 units to date.
“To earn those spots, it took a lot of work but we got there and it is something I am very proud of,” Zietz said. “I didn’t realize how huge Amazon was until we were getting 20 orders a day.”
Her brother Jordan, 13, recently enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where he will likely start a business based on gaming. Her younger sister Morgan, 9, pitches ideas to her father all of the time.
“We are projected to do $1 million in sales this year,” Zietz said. “I am so psyched. I want to exceed that. I think we can. I think I can exceed that amount. I am definitely working hard to do that.”
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