Having A Ball: Interview with Make-A-Ball

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I’m a hugely competitive person by nature, but I wasn’t big into sports when I was in high school. I played football because my stepfather wanted me to play. I hated all the running in practice, and I hated every hit and tackle in the games. So it was a relief when I slipped while walking down a flight of stairs and injured my left Achilles tendon early in my football “career.” I was able to quit without looking like a quitter.

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I satisfied my competitive streak in high school by joining the Academic Decathlon team for my junior and senior years. We had a good team, but could never beat our arch-rival school. As a show of thanks for putting up with us, and for getting us ready for the competition, my fellow seniors and I pooled our money together and bought our coach an engraved pocket watch, since her classroom didn’t have a clock.

Thoughtful, personalized gifts are a fantastic way to say thank you to a coach, teacher, or loved one. If your kids are a little more sports-oriented than I was as a youth, you’re probably looking for an end-of-season gift for their coach. Our friends at Make-A-Ball create great products like customizable footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, and softballs. I spoke to Brian Donovan to learn more about Make-A-Ball, their products, and unique designs customers have ordered.

Major league products

Make-A-Ball is a spin-off of their parent company, PTC International, and was created thanks to a one-off product request.

“PTC International is affiliated with the promotional product industry,” Donovan said. “So we did a lot of sports balls for Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL. We were approached to do some gifts for season ticket holders. What they wanted to do was put individual names on all the balls to present to season ticket holders who had been buying tickets for 40, 50 years. That’s where the lightbulb went off for us.”

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If you think about the shape of most sports balls, they are either round or what’s known as a prolate spheroid in the case of a football. Working on big, promotional product orders is easy because the designs are all the same, and you can work with a client to make sure the designs fit the intended design area. Creating individual orders for customers is difficult because each design will be different. Make-A-Ball worked on the problem to be different from other companies selling custom sports balls.

“While other entities do individual sports balls, the way they do it is they inventory pre-made products and then print on those. Because of that, you can only print on certain areas, and printers aren’t built to print on rounded areas. We wanted to eliminate that problem. We custom made every ball. What that means is we are cutting the fabric and hand-stitching every product together.”

Make-A-Ball successfully made the transition from offering custom sports balls for promotion to creating them for customers. You could say that sports is imprinted in their DNA.

Work like a team

Sports is not only Make-A-Ball’s raison d’être, but the concepts most important to team play are imprinted in the way they work together.

“I find that our communication level, both with customers and internally, is top notch,” Brian told us. “I feel that, with many of us having a background playing sports, we know how to communicate and work well together. We can rely on each other, and we know that when someone says they are going to do something, it’s going to get done. And that comes from having been a part of team sports.”

Making a football - Make-A-Ball interview

Not only have sports help mold their communication skills, but they also allowed them to give back.

“We’ve had some professional athlete’s charities approach us to do designs. So we’ll do the designs, they’ll autograph the ball, and auction it off for charity. When we put some of those designs together, that was cool. It was really exciting to be working with people of that stature and being able to help them raise money for charity.”

Make-A-Ball not only helps athletes raise money, but their products also bring couples together!

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Make-A-Ball for your big day

How did you ask your date to the prom? Did you send them a note during study hall? Did you walk up to them between classes? Now, kids have a new method of getting a date for the prom.

“We get many orders for ‘promposal’ balls from high school kids. They’ll do some stuff like put a collage of photos together. Some of them are pretty funny.”

Don’t worry, grownups. You can get in on the fun, as well!

“In addition to the ‘promposals,’ we do a lot of wedding balls. I’ve seen some pretty neat designs where one partner is from the West Coast, and the other is from the East Coast, and they are fans of rival sports teams. They’ll put together fun balls illustrating that for their wedding. They’ll also do a sign-in book, where they’ll only design a certain part of the ball and leave the other part blank for people to sign. We’ve even seen centerpieces created for wedding tables. People have gotten pretty creative and done some things you might not have expected.”

Are you ready to get creative? Check out Make-A-Ball’s store and see all of the products they offer, and create a couple of fun gifts for the sports fan in your life!

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