Thomas Fields, founder of GRIND basketball.
The term has become popular in professional basketball, but Thomas Fields really “trusted the process” as he attracted money from investors, including Mark Cuban, to expand his company.
Fields is the founder of GRIND, a sports equipment company, and convinced the owner of the Dallas Mavericks to buy the business. The 26-year-old Houston native received $ 250,000 from his appearance on “Shark Tank” for his portable shooting machine.
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, days after his May 7 appearance on “Shark Tank,” Fields recalled the GRIND launch process at Mach 2020, days before sports closed 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 that non-Covid world is like.”
Throwing the sharks
On the trade front, 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 1,000 shots per hour.
Fields said the company generated approximately $ 217,000 in sales during the first five months as closures were established and large gatherings were 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 duffel bag in 90 seconds, weighs about 100 pounds, and called the product “affordable and accessible to any athlete who wants it.”
When asked about current sales, Fields declined to release figures, citing privacy concerns from his new partners. “Shark Tank” invited Fields to the show after six rounds of interviews, with the final release taking place last September in Las Vegas.
Mark Cuban on ABC’s “Shark Tank”
His fiancee applied for the show prior to the launch of the company. Fields said he watched previously recorded episodes, which air on CNBC, and took notes. And while he was quarantined in Las Vegas before meeting the sharks, he continued to study the process of his once-in-a-lifetime speech.
“All I could do was practice,” Fields said, adding that he was in “run mode” when he arrived. It featured a cast that included the Cuban, new Minnesota Timberwolves owner Alex Rodriguez, CNBC contributor Kevin O’Leary and businesswoman Barbara Corcoran. After the launch, he secured two investors, Cuban and Corcoran, who kept 25% of the company.
“I love the product,” Cuban told CNBC in an email. “I asked for one while the show was being filmed.”
Added Fields, “It was great to go through this, and after learning that those two believed in me as an entrepreneur and loved the product, that was more than enough validation to say that the company is going to be something special.”
Batteries not included
Shortly after recapping the show, Fields recalled more about the GRIND process. He pointed to 2017 while recovering from four ACL surgeries, one of the most extreme injuries in sports, especially basketball. It was then that Fields knew that making it to the National Basketball Association was not possible.
Fields said he learned how to weld from a friend and started working on the concept for the GRIND machine. He introduced the first investors, but no one provided money. So he started working for Raising Cane’s, a popular fast food chain and a local car wash, saving almost $ 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.
“Just perfecting the machine and making it great,” Fields recalled.
Even Rodriguez praised Fields’ persistence on social media. “I got a lot of love, but it ended up staying,” Fields said of Rodriguez.
Today, the shooting machines are manufactured 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 are targeting the Spurs because they have the biggest and best youth organization in the NBA,” Fields said. “It was strategic and we didn’t partner with them because they were close.”
GRIND is working with a battery that can be added to the machine. It was one of Cuban’s concerns before investing. The machine uses an extension cord for power, which Fields noted that Cuban told him made the product non-portable as it still needs an outlet.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want customers to walk with 100-foot extension cords,” Fields said. “We want them to be ready and concerned to improve.”
Nike and Peloton ambitions
Fields is entering a competitive sports equipment market. According to the firm Grand View Research, the sector is expected to reach $ 89.2 billion in 2025. And GRIND is also competing with the technology sector, as companies like Apple are selling subscriptions to sports and physical training.
“The way I see it, there is a lot that software can bring to an individual,” Fields said. “There are also many things that hardware can bring to the consumer. I’ve always had the mindset to offer the best of both worlds.
“I think our hardware solves a real problem that no software will be able to solve: get shots right and wrong and pass the ball automatically and allow you to shoot more than a thousand shots per hour. No software can do that. “
Fields says he wants to build GRIND as a combination of Nike and Peloton.
“It’s a perfect time for us to step in and change the world of basketball through interactive sports teams,” Fields said. “I think the future is bright for us. We are much more than a shooting machine company ”.
And now the process continues.