Lakeshore, Small Business & Startups, and Sports Business

Worldplay Sport: inspiring kids one donation at a time

The buy-one, donate-one model for equipment is gaining steam.

April 11, 2014
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Children will have access to more sporting equipment if a business model from Worldplay Sport proves successful. Courtesy Thinkstock

A lakeshore-based company is promoting athletics and charitable giving through its business model.

Worldplay Sport, a quality sporting goods provider in Holland, uses a giving business model to provide sports equipment to nonprofit organizations, schools and individuals who don’t have access to them, and to promote athletics as a way to inspire children.

Using a “Buy One, Give One” program, Worldplay Sport donates a second product to one of its charitable partners, a charity of the buyer’s choice, or the buyer’s own organization.

Founded by husband and wife team Chris and Susan Timmer, Worldplay Sport developed as a result of recognizing an increasing number of children who don’t participate in team sports, the large number of those without access to sports equipment, and wanting to get youths excited about athletics again.

Chris Timmer, president of Worldplay Sport, said the company takes the purchasing power of a multi-billion dollar sporting equipment industry and implements a business model where it gives back to the community.

“We are just trying to get children inspired to become active and be part of athletics and team sports where they can build on who they are as individuals,” said Timmer. “We’re fostering the giving process for those doing the buying.”

Identifying a need among organizations that have little or no funding for sporting goods, Worldplay Sport is providing the opportunity for athletes around the world to share in the benefits of sports, according to its press release. After nine months of research and developing a business plan that would fit in current market conditions and environment, Worldplay Sport officially launched in January 2014.

By providing cost-competitive products for organizations looking to purchase sports equipment, the entrepreneurial company is distinguishing itself by adding the joy of giving into the business model, with the goal of engaging youths in athletics who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Prospective buyers include academic institutions, charitable groups, churches, and parks and recreational agencies.

In comparison to other branded sporting goods, Worldplay Sport’s soccer ball is priced at $25.99, while Wilson soccer balls range from roughly $14.90 to $119.99 and Spalding soccer balls range from $14.99 to $54.99. However, when someone purchases the Worldplay Sport ball, a second one is donated to an athlete in need.

For example, Black River Public Schools in Holland was one of the first organizations to participate with Worldplay Sport. The school’s purchase of basketballs was matched by the donation of the same to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland.

Kyle Lawton, athletic director at Black River Public Schools, said at first he had reservations about the giving business model, but he decided to take a chance.

“Honestly, it almost seemed a little too good to be true. … I was going to get a quality product at a competitive price and that same product was going to be donated,” said Lawton. “I was very pleased with the product and we were able to donate six basketballs.”

The Boys and Girls Club was chosen by Lawton as the recipient of the donation. Lawton said the nonprofit organization is just down the street from the school, and there are several students who attend the club.

“As a charter school, we look to improve our athletic programs and support the community, as well,” said Lawton.

Currently, Worldplay Sport manufactures baseballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs and footballs with the plan of expanding its product offerings as the organization gains momentum. Timmer said the idea is to keep it simple at this point and focus on helping people understand the business model, allowing it to evolve in the market.

“In this early stage of the business, we are finding out how people are embracing the business model in a very traditional industry,” said Timmer. “We are building the concept, building the stories. … The giving part of this is really what it is all about.”

With higher level sports teams, such as high school or collegiate athletics, there are rules and regulations for sports equipment. Since Worldplay Sport is a manufacturer of sporting equipment rather than a distributor, the products have to be authenticated by governing bodies such as the National Federation of State High School Associations.

According to its website, the NFHS Authenticating Mark Program ensures that equipment conforms to requirements to promote a level playing field during NFHS-sanctioned interscholastic competition. Timmer said one of the reservations brought up by prospective buyers concerns the product brand since it is not well-known, despite being certified.

“You have to prove yourself,” said Timmer, in reference to the process with some of the more stringent athletic programs.

According to Timmer, parks and recreation departments are more likely to be interested in the products because they don’t have the same requirements as high schools or colleges, and are also interested in providing school systems with sports equipment.

“They align themselves with the school systems. … They want the younger children to participate,” said Timmer. “When the school systems don’t have products, they don’t have kids signing up.”

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