Building Spikeball into a Global Brand, with CEO Chris Ruder

Chris Ruder, CEO of Spikeball, discusses how he used niche audiences and personalization to grow his side hustle into a multi-million dollar global business

via https://spikeball.com/pages/about-us-spikeball

Starting a business is hard enough. Try launching and building an entirely new global sport. That’s one heck of a challenge. But when you have a good idea, a product, and an organic way to connect with people, it’s actually possible.

Chris Ruder is the CEO of Spikeball, and he initially thought his little business would be a fun side hobby. But within five years, that little business with zero employees was earning $1.5 million in revenue and attracting attention around the world.

“I couldn’t have been more ill equipped to start this,” Ruder says. “but I think my background and lack of experience did give me the comfort in asking the dumb questions or what people that know better would consider were dumb questions.”

It turns out that some of those questions were pivotal to turning Spikeball from a fun side hustle into the multi-million dollar brand it is today. And one of the most important questions was directed right at some of Ruder’s earliest customers.

“Let’s say you had ordered one for me, I’d reply to the order confirmation,” Ruder says. “I’d say, ‘Hey Stephanie, thanks for buying a spike ball set. I’m going to be dropping your set off at the post office tonight should arrive there in about two days or so. I see you live in Austin. What a beautiful city. By the way, if you don’t mind me asking how’d you hear about Spikeball?’ And that last question turned out to be just absolute gold.”

Through asking that question, Ruder identified three main customer segments he had no idea existed: PE teachers, youth Christian organizations, and ultimate frisbee teams.

“I had identified that there was a fire burning within [certain] communities, and said alright, how can I pour gas on this fire?” Ruder says. “So I started giving free sets to PE teachers saying, ‘Oh, do you know of any other PE teachers at other schools?’ ‘Hey, ultimate players, how about I sponsor your team? And I’ll give you guys a bunch of free sets and you have to give a free one to your favorite opponent at every tournament you play.’ And these are college ultimate teams and they’re playing at the tournament, so now tons of other college students at all these other colleges are seeing our product and the cool thing was they’re not seeing it from me, somebody that works for the company that’s out there that has this ulterior motive trying to sell you something. It’s from one of their peers. And that I think was pretty critical.”

What happened next is those folks Ruder reached out to became ambassadors for the company and some of the most effective sources of organic growth. People became more and more aware of Spikeball and the brand and sport grew exponentially. But there have still been issues, including some supply chain challenges Ruder and his team are currently facing.

To hear how they are working to solve that problem and plan for the future, tune into

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