When Sandlot Goods took to Kickstarter to crowdfund what it called “the perfect ball for the game of catch,” the world listened. More than 2,200 backers from across the globe pledged funds to secure their own Yardball — lighter than a baseball and sewn by hand with soft, premium leather.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome of our Kickstarter,” said Chad Hickman, the founder and co-owner of Sandlot Goods — a Kansas City-based manufacturer known for its hats, wallets and now, the Yardball. “We were told by numerous marketing agencies that specialize in crowdfunding that this could be a low six-figure project. We really had no idea if that was true. It was tough to find a balance between the sales pitch and reality at first.”
Campaign sales closed Monday with $131,635 raised — significantly higher than the initial goal of $15,000. Sandlot Goods and Made in KC (which owns a minority stake in Sandlot Goods) closed its $15,000 goal in less than six hours after launching the crowdfunding campaign.
Click here to read about how the Yardball started as a ball of tape.
Once the funds hit $50,000, Hickman and his team thought more seriously about launching “stretch goals” — in this case, new thread and leather colors in addition to the original offering: the brown-leather Yardball, he shared.
“The comments of the backers definitely pushed us to get them rolling out sooner than later,” Hickman said, noting the high demand to see more colorways.
The Yardball team dropped a natural tan-leather Yardball with blue threads when the Kickstarter hit $75,000. At $95,000, they released a Midnight Yardball — an all-black ball with charcoal stitching; and at $105,000, they offered a royal blue Yardball with a white thread.
“With the nature of the materials used, we were really limited in the colors available. But, with the available colors of leather, we think we chose some pretty cool options,” Hickman said. “The last stretch goal was a big one. We decided if it got above $105,000, we would commision an all new color; [so we] put out a survey and landed on a blue leather for the ball. The minimums on new colors with our tannery are high so it was a big commitment on our part.”
Early backers are expected to get their Yardball rewards in September; the rest will be shipped by December — except for the royal blue balls. The $105,000 stretch goal Yardballs will be shipped in March 2023.
As the funds continued to grow throughout the campaign, so did the comments and discussion page on Yardball’s campaign. Backers provoked ideas for branding and new colorways, as well as asked questions for special customizations.
“[The experience] has been great. People who are active on Kickstarter really seem to have a grasp on what buying on Kickstarter really is,” Hickman noted. “… There are a lot of ideas and suggestions thrown at us in the comments section. Some of them seem to be people’s wish lists, but there were some really good ones in there that we put a pin in and will be discussing when we start on Phase 2.”
A major part of prepping for Phase 2: rapid hiring.
“We are trying to carve out more space in our small facility and training, training, training,” Hickman emphasized. “We had a bit of a head start on production, which is nice, but the success of the Kickstarter means we need to make a lot of Yardballs in a short amount of time!”
Hickman’s long-term vision and hope is to maintain a team of Yardball makers in-house as the demand for Yardballs grows on both an individual and retailer level, he shared.
“We have big dreams of new materials, customization options as well as making a run at some big box stores,” Hickman said. “We hope to rapidly expand into licensed Yardballs — licensing is a big focus for us in the coming years.”
Early backers will get it by September; the rest will be shipped by December, except for those who ordered the Blue Royal 105K stretch goal — those balls will be shipped out March of 2023 to ensure the rest of production is sent out