Bridgeworks’ Newest Tenant Scores Big In America’s Oldest Sport
One of the newest companies in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is scoring big points in one of America’s oldest sports, thanks to an innovative new process and material that makes the game easier for newcomers and veteran players.
Gonzo Pockets, founded by collegiate and international lacrosse player Lou Gonzalez and his brother, Desi Gonzalez, is now offering its unique Gonzo Mesh in sports and lacrosse specialty shops across the United States and Canada. The material, developed by the Gonzalez brothers, makes it easier to string lacrosse sticks and overcome the inconsistencies often created by the weather.
“We collected a lot of feedback from people,” says Lou. “Changes in the weather, such as what happens when the mesh is wet, what happens when the weather is really hot and dry, affect the accuracy of the player’s throws. We invented a product that takes away all of that. It gives you the consistency you want regardless of conditions.”
Gonzo Mesh has a preformed pocket that allows for easier stringing – a plus for newer, young players and their parents, and, with no break-in required, ensures the player a consistent and effective throw right from the first throw after stringing.
These advancements come at the right time for a sport that is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. The origins of lacrosse trace back to Native American culture and some accounts date it back as far as 1100. According to a 2012 CNBC story on sports participation in America, there were 1.6 million people who played lacrosse in 2011 — a 37.7 jump. Lacrosse participation is up 218.1 percent over the previous 10 years.
U.S. Lacrosse, one of the national governing organizations, reported in 2010 that the number of lacrosse players increased from 253,931 in 2001 to 624,593 in 2010, which included 324,673 youth players. In addition, the NCAA Division I Men’s lacrosse championship now regularly draws crowds comparable to college basketball and there are two professional leagues in North America with 17 franchises between them.
The Gonzalez brothers began playing as young teens in their Long Island neighborhood just as the sport was gaining its renewed popularity. Both played for Sachem High School in Long Island. Lou became a collegiate all-star and three time All American at C.W. Post University. He also represented Spain in the World Games in 2006.
Younger brother Desi was also a high school and collegiate all-star, first at Onondaga Community College in New York and later at Limestone College in South Carolina.
“It’s a fast, up-tempo game and I enjoy the workout,” Lou says.
When the Gonzalez brothers moved to the Lehigh Valley Lou continued his practice of stringing sticks for players, especially youngsters, and eventually created the Lehigh Valley Skyhawks Academy where the brothers provide coaching, training and development for youth lacrosse. His Skyhawks Elite program has produced some of the finest players in Lehigh Valley history. His entrepreneurial efforts took a new step when he decided to try developing a new mesh material that would eliminate many of the problems caused by weather and aging.
“There was a lot of trial and error,” he acknowledges. “The preformed pocket and our proprietary coating enhance both ball control and quick release.”
The brothers have since teamed up with experienced entrepreneur Tom Schmitt, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who has already started and sold several companies. Schmitt calls Lou Gonzalez “the genius behind the mesh. Everybody is always looking for an edge. He gave them one,” Schmitt says.
Formed in April 2013, Gonzo Pockets has already generated $150,000 in revenue over an eight-month period and Schmitt estimates they should reach the $400,000 to $450,000 range over the next year or so based on demand and current performance.
“We are excited to have Gonzo Pockets join our business incubation program. Their excellent first year’s performance, while basically working out of their garage, shows strong proof of concept and great promise for a young company,” said Anthony Durante, Economic Development Specialist for AEDC. “We expect to be able to help Gonzo Pockets think through the process of adding additional products to their offerings over the next few years that will help them continue along a strong growth path.”
The decision to move into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center has already paid off for the partners, he adds, noting that the connections to legal, financial and technical advisers available through Allentown Economic Development Corp. and neighboring entrepreneurs. The current business plan calls for continued expansion, both in terms of wholesale outlets and new products.
“Everyone says you have to have an exit strategy,” Schmitt says. “We have a growth strategy. My philosophy has always been to be great at what you do. They buyers will come if you do that.”