Spokane Journal of Business

A passing revolution

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-—Staff photo by Katie Ross
PassBack Sports Inc. co-owners Corey Brock and Tim Penna say their company now offers more than 100 products.

Spokane company PassBack Sports Inc. is trying to change the game when it comes to football training with its flagship product, the PassBack Football.

The football is designed to help players increase their overall athleticism and upper body strength, says company co-owner and President Tim Penna. The ball is shaped like a traditional football, except it has a flat end on one side. It is made to be thrown flat-end first against a wall or other surface. The ball then bounces back for the player to catch.

"It allows players to throw and catch conveniently for practice," Penna says. "It's designed to get kids more reps with the football and increase their overall upper body athleticism."

Co-owner and CEO Corey Brock says the footballs, which the company currently offers in youth and standard sizes, are designed to encourage improvement as a player ages.

"It's an evolution from the youth football on to the adult model," he says. "We want to get kids involved early on, but still let them have fun."

In addition to the PassBack football, the company sells an array of sports and training equipment, including kinesiology tape, sports gloves, sunglasses, baseball and basketball products, and training gear. In total, Brock says, the company offers more than 100 products.

PassBack, Brock says, expects its annual revenue to grow from $150,000 in 2012 to a projected $750,000 this year.

"We're up huge," Brock says. "We have a lot of opportunities for more exponential growth next year."

PassBack sells its products through its website, www.passbacksports.com, and also through sales reps throughout the U.S. It sells the PassBack footballs nationally to high schools, colleges, and the NFL, in addition to private sales, Penna says.

"We sell to 70 percent of the Division I colleges in the country, 20 percent of the NFL, and just about every high school in Texas," Penna says. "Most of our business is in Texas or east of that. However, we would like to get more deeply rooted here in the Northwest and open up to our local area."

The company, Brock says, is also developing a curriculum for schools to use in physical education classes, developed around the football.

"It's better than the Xbox workout," Penna says. "We're always looking for ways to expand and get kids moving and having fun."

The company advertises through its website and through a YouTube commercial featuring an endorsement by former Detroit Lions wide receiver and USC standout Johnnie Morton. Brock says the company previously ran a commercial on the Disney Channel, but decided to pull it and will start it again on another network. The company also has a presence at between 15 and 20 industry trade shows a year, he says.

PassBack Sports is located at the penthouse level of the Davenport Tower, at 111 S. Post, which also is the office of the Brock Law Firm, where Brock is an attorney. Penna had a career in real estate before committing to PassBack full time, he says, while Brock continues to practice law in addition to running PassBack. The two men have been friends for about 25 years, Penna says, and used to do commercial real estate business together when Penna was an agent. When Brock started the company, he asked Penna to come on as president.

PassBack Sports began as RM Sports Inc. in 2012. At that time, Brock says, the company only had the adult and youth PassBack football products. Brock and Penna re-named the company PassBack Sports in June 2013, which is also when they began to venture into more products.

"Once we had the chance to go to large events, we realized real quickly that most companies have more than one product line," Penna says. "When you can capture a customer with the original product, they'll come back because they're happy. Then they would look to us for other things."

Currently, almost all of the PassBack products are made overseas, but Brock and Penna say another of its future goals is to move more manufacturing to the U.S.

PassBack Sports currently has Brock and Penna as full-time employees and four part-time employees, as well as a small number of sales representatives throughout the country who work on commission.

In the next year, Brock says, the company would like to expand to five to seven full-time employees and add more sales representatives, including some in-house sales employees.

For the future, Penna and Brock are looking to move the business into a larger, warehouse-type facility here where the business can not only operate but also have an area where customers can test and train with the PassBack products.

"We want to give people a hands-on experience," Penna says.

Also soon, Brock says, PassBack is launching a peewee model of its football for children under six.

The plan, Penna says, is to take the ball to elementary schools for kids to try out and also to get it into the toy store market.

In addition to the peewee PassBack football, the company is launching a line of battery-operated heated softshell jackets, which will be available in November.

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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