While attending a Texas Tech Homecoming game Tommy DeLoach, owner of WERX Design, LLC and creator of the INVISI-Ball™ wall mounting system didn’t realize that forgetting his son’s football in their hotel room would change his life. He purchased a collectible ball to toss around before the game. He intended on mounting it in his home office after its one-time use.
Upon returning home, DeLoach could not find a mount that would display his souvenir football as if it were floating in midair, and anything that came close would cause significant damage to the ball.
At a loss, and with the encouragement of his wife, DeLoach sketched out a concept for his ideal football wall mount, and the INVISI-Ball wall mount was born.
DeLoach is attacking the sports memorabilia market from his headquarters in New Hill, NC — about 20 miles south-west of Raleigh.
INVISI-Ball offers three types of patented mounting systems for sports fans that guarantees to not damage the item being mounted, whether football, basketball or helmet. All three systems come with a small number of parts that the customer assembles at home.
DeLoach works full-time as a District Sales Manager for LP Building Products in addition to running WERX Designs. So how does he handle owning a side business, marketing and selling a physical product and working a full work week?
“I don’t sleep much,” he laughs. “But I need a creative outlet, and I’m going to do it.”
Building a Brand
His 20 plus years in sales and his residential design company allowed DeLoach to self fund the initial development costs of the INVISI-Ball products and brand name. INVISI-Ball is currently a child company of WERX Design, which made it easier to get the product on its feet. According to DeLoach, developing a new product costs around $60,000, without the additional research, branding and marketing efforts, which can bring the total cost over $100,000
Since starting to build his business in 2011, DeLoach has set up a partnership with a manufacturing firm in Zebulon that produces the injection molded plastic mount and a Gastonia company that prints his boxes.
The rest DeLoach handles on his own, down to pitching INVISI-ball at events like last week’s TechBreakfast. He attributes his success to his background in engineering, architecture, and sales.
“I have a three car garage that currently only has two in it,” DeLoach says. “That is where I store my inventory and ship my orders from.”
Expanding the Current Market
Despite selling more than 4,000 units since his site’s launch in 2013, DeLoach admits that there has been a learning curve trying to market a product that fluctuates between the sports and the interior decor industry.
DeLoach took his product and auditioned for the ABC show Shark Tank twice, but was not selected to be filmed in the tank. One of the feedback points he received was that his market audience was too narrow.
“The [sports] industry doesn’t really recognize my product because it isn’t the same as what they have seen,” DeLoach says about sports memorabilia products in today’s market. “I think my product interests them, but I have gotten a lot of, ‘we don’t know that much about you,’ from them right now.”
In order to gain familiarity within the industry, DeLoach routinely pairs his wall mounts with footballs or basketballs in auctions or charity events.
Beyond his virtual storefront, DeLoach has expanded his market to three stores that carry and sell his mounts. Looking forward, DeLoach admits that getting Dick’s Sporting Goods to sell and use his mounting system in their displays would be a defining achievement.
DeLoach is quick to point out that he’s just getting started. He is designing mounts for hockey pucks and shoes, and has a skateboard mount in development. He has also completed custom orders, like what he calls the “INVISI-Bell,” a bell mounting system he made for a Mississippi State fan.
As long as there is a way to successfully mount an item without damaging it, DeLoach says he will keep on designing products.