Mixing friendship with business is often discouraged, but when three childhood best friends — brother Chris and Gregory Meade, and their friend Michael Delpapa — came together to give shape to a common idea, their integrity, and love for the time they spend together trumped over any business thumb rule. These three not only mixed business with their friendship, but they also did a fantastic job of it while they were at it. Together, their endeavors gave the world the sweet sport of ‘CROSSNET’, a four-way game of volleyball that is equal parts challenging and fun.
The seed of the business was planted soon after the three graduated college. Chris was working a 9-5 job in New York City, and Michael was back in their hometown trying to decide on the next step forward. Despite all kinds of uncertainties, the one thing that was clear to all three of them was that they aspired to be their own bosses. What better way is there to pursue that entrepreneurial streak than to nurture an idea with your best friends? The idea came to them one night when they were brainstorming in their hometown of Connecticut. It was like any other night but when the idea of CROSSNET struck them, the night would be the first of many nights infused with high excitement and energy. They drew inspiration from a game they used to play in their childhood. With CROSSNET being born, their lives were about to change forever.
But what are the rules of this game? The basics rules of CROSSNET may be familiar to anybody who has played a game called four-square in their childhood. Essentially, the ground is divided into four quadrants and everybody engages with each other. Now, add a volleyball to this arrangement, and you have CROSSNET! As and when players get eliminated, the game shifts to a clockwise circle. The agenda of the game is for players to get to the fourth quadrant by the end of the game. The fourth square is the only quadrant from where one can serve and score.
Taking Tips from the Trio
When it comes to starting any business, it is important to be mindful of certain necessities and of course, it always helps to have advice from people who have done it before you. With Chirs, Gregory and Michael too the learning curve was steep but very enriching.
Test Your Product: One of the first things the three stress on is getting real-time feedback from people about their product. In the initial stages of the business, they created several prototypes of their product and took it out for a spin on the beach. Each time, they asked people on the beach to test the net out and give their honest feedback and criticism. Some feedback they got was positive but often they came back with several things to work on until they arrived at the product as it is in the market now. So the biggest learning that they impart from the initial phases of their business is to take it slow and steady with the production process. You will make a sale only when you have a product to sell, is the solid advice the trio has to offer.
Diversify Channels of Sale: Another crucial advice that the entrepreneurial trio offers is that you should not confine yourself to a single sales channel. Often, new businesses find it is lucrative for them to sell their products online, but the more platforms you have tie-ups with for selling your product, the greater sales you are likely to have. In the case of CROSSNET, the Meade brothers approached a company called Scheels that specializes in sporting goods and is a well-known chain in the Midwest. The quality of their product meant that the first batch of products displayed at a Scheel store sold out overnight!
Working with Social Media: Social media is a crucial but tricky place to navigate. When you are starting out with a business, social media platforms cannot be neglected. They can become one of the primary places to advertise your product. Chris, Greg and Michael were aware of the potential of social media from the outset and were determined to use it well. Their advice to people who are starting out with their business is to take it slow with social media. The ad space you buy on social media is precious and there is no point in making that investment if it is not targeted towards the right audience. CROSSNET has found that geotagging is especially useful with social media advertisements as that way, they could direct their product to potential customers who would have a use for it immediately given their climate and could place an immediate order. In the case of CROSSNET, the ads would be directed at people heading to the beach in cities like Miami, San Diego, etc.
Outsource, Delegate: One of the most important lessons to learn from any businessman is to not take on all the burden of the work. When you are starting a new venture, there are going to be several aspects and departments that need to be taken care of. The trio at CROSSNET has practiced outsourcing work to freelancers from fairly early on in their journey. What is interesting about CROSSNET is that the only employees of the company are its three co-founders. But it is important to know one’s threshold and once all three are close to saturation, the work is outsourced. This left them free to handle other responsibilities and oversee the general workings of their beloved company.
Teamwork and the Road Ahead
What makes the three co-founders of CROSSNET ideal business partners for each other is also the distinct talents each of them brings to the table. While Gregory has launched and nurtured several e-commerce businesses even before CROSSNET, Chris has an immense knack for retail and sales. To this already rollicking combination, Michael ads technical expertise as a ‘mechanical draftsman’. The initial sketches of the prototype that were provided to the manufacturers were drafted by Michael. The three have managed to set up a seamless system where each one of them lends support to the other and creates a work environment where all the essentials are covered. For the parts where the expertise of all three combined falls short, they have never hesitated to ask for external support. After all, the brand comes first and whatever is good for CROSSNET will be the executive decisions the three are going to take.
As of September 2019, the company has already been breaking a million a year and is well on its way to breaking $2 million per year! Let’s not forget this is a non-employer business and most of the heavy lifting is done by the three co-workers who probably only love the sport itself more than their company that sells the sport. There are no external investments in the company and the three co-own 100 percent of the company.
In the next few years, the three see CROSSNET making its presence felt across the world. As of now, the game is mostly regarded as a beach sport but the company has also launched an indoor version of the game which needs to catch up with its beach counterpart. The goal of these young guns is to make CROSSNET mainstream and a sport that is not only played on beaches around the world but is also included in school curriculums as a legitimate physical sport. The company dreams to have CROSSNET tournaments organized around the world. To begin with, the three want the game to enter the curriculum in schools in America and then take the next step of introducing it to other countries. There can never be too many games and sports one can play in school and how cool would it be if a new game altogether gets added to the mix — especially when the game is as dynamic and versatile as this one!
Since 2017, when the idea for CROSSNET first took seed, the company has come an incredibly long way. Thanks to the success the company has seen, the three co-founders have been able to lead lives they always envisioned for themselves. For starters, Chris no longer has to waste his talents at a corporate job he hates in New York. He now lives his best life in Miami, skateboarding around town when he is not working. Gregory goes where life takes him and does not feel the need to be tethered to any one place. Last year, he embarked on a three-month trip to Vietnam and who knows what adventures are in store for him in 2020. He works from whichever part of the world he is living in at the moment. Michael has moved back to Connecticut and works out of the comfort of his home and childhood town.
Moving on from Success and Failure, Both
What makes the success of CROSSNET all the more special is that the three youngsters have their head on their shoulders and do not take failures or success too seriously. The successes, of course, are to be celebrated. But the next day, it is back to work on the next milestone! All three of them have come from humble backgrounds and made hard decisions to quit their day jobs and commit to their company full time. To make the transition easier, they started work on their own company only part time. Chris, for instance, would squeeze in work on the subway from his commute home from work in New York. The rest of the night would be dedicated to getting this show on the road. This is by no means an easy choice to make, so it is important to find the drive to go to work every day and never become complacent after a success or demotivated after a failure. For Chris and Gregory, the drive to make something of their lives came from a deeply personal reason. The two brothers had lost their father nearly a decade ago and have since been determined to make life fuller, happier and make the most of every opportunity. The brothers understand too well when things may get snatched away without a warning.
There have also been several successes the company has seen. Some of the highlights of their three-year-long journey have been selling their products at large stores like Target, Academy, Walmart, FlagHouse and others. These stores are all household names in the United States and having their own baby in the aisles of these stores means a lot to them. There have also been days that the trio rather not have repeats of. For example, being overbooked during the holidays and not having enough stock going around is one of their bigger regrets. Since that moment, the three have learned to always be over-prepared for a large batch of orders. Of course, these are all lessons one can learn only after making certain mistakes.
But most importantly, the vivacious energy that the company boasts of can perhaps be attributed to the childlike wonder and amazement with which all three co-founders have set about working on this company. There is a constant desire to reinvent and make the game more fun. The three have admitted to having the best time of their lives while testing one of the earlier prototypes out during a snowstorm! For some, this could just be an anecdote, but this is a larger indication of how much love there is for the sport itself. Every moment spent on working on the prototype was a chance to play another great match of CROSSNET and making work fun. It is this energy and desire to play that has made it possible for this set of friends to transform a game they played in their childhood into a successful business story today. The big bad world of grownups requires everyone to sober up, but it is always important to keep the child within alive so you can make each day a game of beach CROSSNET!