Only 2 percent of women-owned businesses break $1 million in revenue, so 15-year-old Rachel Zietz decided to make hers one of them.
Fifteen-year-old entrepreneur Rachel Zietz spends late nights and early mornings on business video calls with her product factory in China. Sometimes she’ll squeeze in a nap on the bus ride to school in Fort Lauderdale. But more likely, the high school sophomore uses that time to do homework, since her afternoons are busy with lacrosse practice for one of the three teams she’s a part of.
The Boca Raton native owns Gladiator Lacrosse, which aims to sell higher-quality, lower-cost equipment than competitors. Rachel, who has been playing lacrosse since the fourth grade, felt the goals and rebounders she practiced with at home would too easily rust and tear. Not to mention, she was spending up to $230 every few months to replace broken equipment—way more than a teenager like herself could afford. “Whenever there’s a problem, that really means an opportunity,” she says.
So, Rachel turned her longtime passion into a lucrative business. She launched Gladiator Lacrosse as a middle school student in 2013 after developing the idea through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. She sells rebounders ($159.95)—a trampoline-like net wall used to practice throwing and catching skills—and goals ($79.95) built to last a couple of years, primarily through her online store, gladiatorlacrosse.com. She has also launched her products at select retail stores.
Last year, the company earned more than $1 million in revenue, garnering Rachel recognition from Gov. Rick Scott, who heard about the business after Rachel introduced herself at a local event; he later honored her with Florida’s Young Entrepreneur Award.
When Rachel first launched the company, she set the goal of selling 500 units total. To her surprise, she’s selling at least 500 a month. Now her ultimate goal is to make Gladiator Lacrosse the brand everyone is using.
How’d she get to this point? The teenager found out that only 2 percent of women-owned businesses reach the $1 million mark and decided to do something about it. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s got to change. … It says right here that no one can do it, so we have to do it,” she recalls.
Of course, there was more than a spur-of-the-moment decision at play. Rachel is competitive—both on the lacrosse field and in the business world—and has a keen sense of determination. Those two qualities make her a successful entrepreneur. It also doesn’t hurt that Rachel was born into an innovative, business-savvy family. Her parents are seasoned entrepreneurs themselves, and her younger brother has also caught the bug, founding GameReef, a video game console rental company.
When Rachel first started selling Gladiator Lacrosse products at local tournaments—a marketing strategy none of her competitors were using at the time—she was hesitant to leave her booth and go out and get customers.
“They’ll come if they’re interested,” she thought. But, her father would teach her that customers don’t know they’re interested until you show them the product. She’s learned that in business, just as in lacrosse, you need good “field vision” to act selflessly and assess the situation from other perspectives.
“It takes a lot of guts to go up to someone not knowing what’s going to come out of that, but I definitely got over my fear,” she says.
With that kind of mentorship and encouragement from her father, Rachel has turned into the type of young woman who’s bold enough to walk up to a professional lacrosse legend and pitch him a business partnership.
After spotting Major League Lacrosse player Casey Powell at a South Florida tournament, she approached the athlete to ask if he’d be interested in collaborating with Gladiator Lacrosse.
“When I went up to talk to him, like many other people, he was surprised that I was running the business so young,” she says.
Together, they launched a Casey Powell signature edition line of ultra-durable rebounders and goals. And it doesn’t end there. The budding businesswoman gave her elevator pitch to the cast of “Shark Tank” last summer. The episode will air on May 13.
Now when Rachel walks into business meetings with older execs, she wears heels and a power color like red, and remembers she has her own experiences to bring to the table.
“I knew I always wanted to do this. I just didn’t realize I could do it this young,” she says.
Gladiator Lacrosse was founded in 2013 by then-13-year old seventh-grade entrepreneur and lacrosse player, Rachel Zietz. Like every player wishing to improve his or her game, Rachel’s coaches advised her to play “wall ball” and practice her shot as much as possible. However, the quality of the products she purchased for use in the backyard would not hold up to the weather outdoors and were expensive.
It is through this experience in which Gladiator Lacrosse was born. Rachel saw an opportunity and founded the lacrosse equipment company in hopes to bring better lacrosse products to the market.
Now, Rachel Zietz is 15 years old and is ready to play in the big leagues. Rachel will appear on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank” on May 13, where she will pitch her business idea to the world famous Sharks in hopes to partner and take her business to the next level.
In reality, Rachel has already appeared on the show but she has just recently learned that her taped segment will be featured on the show.
“I was very scared and nervous, but I also felt prepared,” Rachel said. “I knew I had a great product.”
Rachel’s father helped her prepare for the moment. Sam Zietz, who is a Boca Raton entrepreneur himself and the founder of TouchSuite, said that he helped his daughter prepare by gathering friends and simulating the Sharks tough rounds of questioning. “I told them, ‘You can’t take it easy on her.’”
Of course, Rachel is not allowed to say whether any Sharks (or possibly more than one shark) gave her an offer for her business partnership, but she was relieved that she “was pretty much able to answer” their questions about her business. She has seen the Sharks humiliate entrepreneurs who are not able to answer basic questions about their businesses.
All of the Sharks “have their own way of looking at things,” she said. “I learned from them as much as the people going on the show.”
Lacrosse is still a new and emerging sport, so it is no wonder that there was an opening in the market. Rachel said that as a lacrosse player, she was unhappy with the quality of lacrosse products and felt that the price was too high for most of the equipment and gear.
Things are only looking up for Rachel. Recently, she partnered with Casey Powell and his signature equipment brand. Casey is a professional player.
Gladiator lacrosse has annual revenues of more than $1 million. The company now has three employees. A photo of the Sharks is already on the homepage of the Gladiator Lacrosse website, and Rachel expects to see a spike in sales once the show aires.
Sam Zietz and his wife Sheila couldn’t be prouder of Rachel. We give her the Boca News stamp of approval. Good luck to you Rachel. Go teach them sharks a lesson!
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Stefun Darts is probably not on your kid’s list of idols alongside Justin Bieber or Kylie Jenner, but he should be. 24-year old Darts, who is a college student and Founder of the non-profit Caring Heart Youth, recently presented his grandparents with a check for $15,000 to pay off their mortgage and fund a Bahamas vacation. He wanted to repay them for the sacrifices they made to raise him.
For the last 6 years, instead of hanging out with friends, Darts worked multiple jobs and saved every penny to fulfil a promise he made to himself in second grade to take care of his grandparents when he became an adult.
What inspires a young adult to forsake the fun of adolescence in exchange for the opportunity to express gratitude? Where does someone like Stefun find the motivation, discipline, compassion, and drive to set and carry out this goal?
While Stefun’s devotion and generosity is profoundly moving, my research has taught me that the underlying traits he exhibits are not unique. On the contrary, the emerging generations of leaders possess specific traits that will equip them well in the 21st century, and provide great promise for us all.
If you are wondering if your child has what it takes to embark on a path of exemplary leadership, here are some clues to help you.
1: They are Socially Conscious/Committed to a Cause.
2: They Take Risks.
3. They Follow Their Passion.
4: They Develop Creative Solutions to Universal Problems.
Vision has always been a hallmark trait of a good leader, and the emerging generation is no exception. They look at the challenges that have impacted their lives, and they want to make a difference. They know how to leverage technology to promote their ideas, connect with customers, and even crowd-fund This generation is incredibly optimistic about their ability to make the world a better place.
Who to watch: 15-year old Rachel Zietz, founder of the million-dollar lacrosse equipment company, Gladiator Lacrosse. Rachel didn’t like the quality, cost, or selection of lacrosse equipment so she started her own company to make better equipment.
These are just a few young adults setting the world on fire.
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On April 6, 2016, the Boca Chamber’s Golden Bell Education Foundation’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) students will present their business plans before local investors at FAU Tech Runway. This event is from 4:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Eighteen middle and high school students representing 14 businesses and social movements will have five minutes to pitch their plans to prominent business leaders in Palm Beach County. This “Shark Tank” style event will result in student’s receiving capital from Saint Andrew’s School, Florida Blue, the Office Depot Foundation, TouchSuite, Comerica Bank, Bluegreen Vacations, IBM, Flower Power & Light, Publix Super Market Charities and the Research Park at FAU.
The investor panel will include prominent executives from Palm Beach County including: Beth Johnston, Florida Blue; Angela Mastrofrancesco, Comerica Bank; Sam Zietz, TouchSuite; Diane Heard, Bluegreen Vacations; Allen Baum, Boca Bearings; Cathy Meehan, IBM and Andrew Duffell, the Research Park at FAU. Anthony Barber, FAU Board of Trustees, will be the moderator for the event.
“These students represent future innovators and job creators in Florida,” said Jenna Reed, Development Director, Golden Bell and YEA! “For the past six months they have been working on an original product or service, developed a fully functional business model and are now ready to present their ideas to the public. Local business leaders will award them funds to help launch their business which is really exciting.”
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