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An Inventor's Quest for the NHL Pt. 3
Winging It as a Business Plan
In an alternate, pandemic-less timeline, I’d be close to getting an MBA and, at the very least, I’d have the jargon to make a polished business plan. It is questionable, though, if I would’ve had a good business idea to go with the plan.
Here in this timeline, I don’t have the polished plan but I do have the idea. Let’s see how that works out for me.
My initial goal on the business side of things was a simple sanity check. Could making cages for goalies be profitable enough to cover my living expenses? And if so, how could I get there?
I looked up how many hockey players there are in the US (~650,000) and Canada (~600,000) for a combined 1.25 million. There are usually 16 forwards, 6 defensemen, and two goalies on a hockey team. So 1 in 12 hockey players are crazy enough to be goalies. Anecdotally, at the recreational level, there seem to be fewer goalies, so let’s say 1 in 15. That gives me 1/15 x 1.25 million ≈ 80,000 goalies in North America.
Cages can go for $100, so even assuming I can only convince 2% of goalies to try out something new, that’s $160,000 of hypothetical revenue. Doesn’t seem impossible.
If this seems very arbitrary to you, you are correct. It is arbitrary.
I realized later that this whole exercise of sanity checking the business plan was identical to my sanity checking of the engineering design. In both cases, I’d already made up my mind and was just fishing around for rational proof. Because for some reason, it’s bad if an irrational being makes an irrational decision.
I’ll come back to that realization. But first, you need some background.
When you’re a kid goalie, you need to wear a cage that’s been certified by the HECC (Hockey Equipment Certification Council). This shows that the cage can’t be penetrated be a stray stick and is strong enough to withstand a shot.
Once you’re an adult, the leagues are happy to let you risk your face. Most goalies opt for a cat eye cage, which is an uncertified cage that has bigger holes in front of the eyes for better visibility. Sticks can, rarely, get through the hole.
Point is - there are two categories of cages. Certified and uncertified. The 80,000 North American goalies wear a mix of both, depending on their age and risk tolerance.
I was under the impression that I could get my cages certified without a problem. It was just a standard spec after all. So I got in touch with a very friendly lady through the HECC to find out cost and turnaround time to make sure I could afford the certification.
She told me that the spec was written in a way that the cages could only be certified for a specific manufacturer’s helmet. And other hockey manufacturers would almost definitely not allow me to use their helmets for testing. I’d have to design an entire helmet myself or I wouldn’t be able to certify my cage.
Well, this was a problem.
So what did I do? Did I sit around and mope for a day? No! I sat around and moped for two days, ate a deep dish pizza, and said that I wanted to abandon the idea completely.
My brother talked me off the ledge and helped me realize that this was always an irrational decision with a thin veneer of rationality.
I want to do this. It’s an absurdly small niche, but I think I can make the best uncertified goalie cages in the world. I can narrow my focus to top tier goalies and make sure I’m building exactly what they want. I’m betting that I can get attention and interest from elite players. And with that interest, I’ll probably have options.
Worst case, if it doesn’t work out as a business, it’ll still be a great story.
Thanks as always for reading.