Manufacturing, Small Business & Startups, and Sports Business

Entrepreneur shoots for less expensive hockey sticks

Twig Hockey is in midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a line of kids’ sticks.

October 16, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Twig Hockey Sticks
Twig found an overseas manufacturer to make 100 percent carbon composite hockey sticks at a much lower price. Courtesy Twig Hockey

As far as hobbies go, hockey can be expensive.

If a player is only skating once or twice a week in a league, having to buy expensive items such as hockey sticks can put a big dent in a bank account. Many sticks cost $150 or more, even on clearance.

Nathan Wehner eventually had enough when it came to the high cost and decided to do something about it.

In late 2014, after nearly 15 years of playing in beer league hockey, Wehner decided to find a manufacturer to provide a 100 percent carbon composite hockey stick that would perform similarly to name-brand competitors, but at a much lower price.

“Everyone wants the latest technology and the thing that will help their game the most, but no one wants to pay for it,” Wehner said. “So a few friends and I got together and said, ‘Let’s dig a little deeper.’”

They formed a company and found a manufacturer overseas that could put together an order of quality adult sticks at a cheaper price than many currently on the market. Wehner’s partners have chosen to remain anonymous during the company’s infant stages.

Many of the those who ordered the first round of sticks in early 2015 asked if similar sticks would be available for their children.

“We don’t want to go head-to-head with the big producers because we’ll lose that battle every day of the week,” Wehner said. “We know how kids are with name-brand things. But, there was room for improvement.

“We checked into it, and we can do it and actually at a better price.”

Twig Hockey Co. was started earlier this year, but still is only a side gig for Wehner and his partners — Wehner works in IT at National Heritage Academies. The capital needed to launch a new product isn’t there, so a Kickstarter campaign is seeking $2,000 for the initial run of youth sticks. It runs until Oct. 28.

The first funds were raised through an Indie Go-Go campaign, reaching 200 percent more than the goal.

“It costs a good chunk to make a big enough order to pass down the prices,” Wehner said. “This is a small goal and it’s for the first run, and will help us see if the demand is there.”

The first run of adult sticks sold approximately 100, and the first big order of sticks should arrive at the end of the month, Wehner said.

He’s not sure if there is a large market for youth sticks — one of the reasons for the Kickstarter. A main goal of Twig’s sticks is to make it easier for parents to ensure children are using the correct size stick. Youth sticks aren’t one-size-fits-all, Wehner said.

West Michigan isn’t new to hockey companies that grew out of a need for cheaper equipment. Howie’s Hockey Tape has grown into one of the world’s premier hockey tape providers.

Howie’s owner Max Sieplinga said Twig may find it hard to compete against established companies, but the entrepreneurial spirit and love of hockey in West Michigan should help.

Sieplinga said he believes a lower cost for youth hockey sticks could provide an opportunity for players who might not otherwise be able to afford hockey.

“Selling hard goods — sticks, gloves, helmets, skates — is a very competitive game,” Sieplinga said. “Companies such as Bauer, CCM, Easton and Warrior fight fiercely for market share, which they are not eager to give up.

“With that said, the cost of hockey sticks is outrageous and sometimes prohibitive.”

While the stick sales aren’t at a point of supporting multiple families, it’s been fun for Wehner and his partners, and so far the demand has been promising.

“It’s not anything we can live off of yet,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal though: It has always been a dream of ours to spin up our own company and make it work.”

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