I recently spoke with Todd Grant, co-founder and president of SquadLocker. At this point, you’ve probably heard of it. If not, it’s a sort of jack-of-all trades company that ultimately streamlines youth athletic apparel design and purchase via an instantly created online store, using popular athletic brands like Nike and Under Armour; it then produces and fulfills orders from its Warwick, Rhode Island facility.
“We’re a trend-setter in this particular industry space,” he said. I’m not too far past my student athlete days, and I can recall the beleaguered coaches’ faces as my field hockey team fought over the hoodie catalogue long past when practice should have ended. We could have used something like this in 2008.
It was that kind of thinking that initially inspired SquadLocker’s creators. They had been working at Turfer Athletic, selling performance outerwear to teams. “We realized that the entire market landscape had been underserved,” Grant said. “It was — and is — an industry that’s stuck in the 1990s. We wanted to breathe some life into the industry, to bring ease of use tools, [the] convenience, and a tech-enabled solution.”
They were coaches and parents of young athletes, too, who knew that parents like themselves were busy and many coaches were volunteers — and they often didn’t have the time (or frankly) the interest in designing uniforms when they really signed up to mentor young players. “We thought we could help those millions of coaches across the United States,” Grant said, and about five or six years ago, Grant, Gary Goldberg, CEO (who also happens to be a third-generation textile manufacturer) and Frank Tillinghast, CFO, came together to build SquadLocker.
It works like this: said coach or parent logs onto the SquadLocker site, and creates a store based on sport or type of clothing he or she is looking to buy. They customize the materials with a logo of their own, and then share the store with teammates via social media or email. Players then order their clothes from the store, which the SquadLocker team in Rhode Island fulfills and ships right to the players’ home.
“There’s a real transformation that’s occurring as a result of what we’ve built.”
This straightforward scheme was enough to intrigue a bevy of investors. Grant identified early key supporters as George Overholser, investor at Capital One Bank and VistaPrint, as well as Jim Lombardi, principal at Atticus Capital, who now both serve on SquadLocker’s board. The company raised capital in three rounds: an A, A Prime, and a recent B round that garnered $7 million from Causeway Media Partners, “an investment fund focused on sports media, sports technology, and related companies,” SquadLocker said in press release. One of Causeway’s founders? Wyc Grousbeck, the CEO of the Boston Celtics. One can see how meaningful this kind of support is for a startup focused on athletics.
“The investment by Causeway Media partners [is a] phenomenal accomplishment for the business,” Grant said. “[It’s] really, truly a validation of the trajectory that the company is on.” The investment will help the company pursue increased marketing and advertising opportunities, as well as add employees to its Ocean State facility.
In the meantime, the company will continue to foster its partnerships with Sports Illustrated Play, Sports Engine, and now NBC Sports. “We’re … gaining access to tens of millions of homes through these partnerships,” he told me. “That work has been a massive accelerant for the company.”
Indeed. He said that already, “tens of thousands of stores have been built.” The company expects more than 100,000 stores by the end of year, all of which make individual purchases.
“[SquadLocker is laying the foundation to be a] multi-hundred-million-dollar company within the next few years,” he added.
And while adding customers and making money and even improving the site’s functionalities (look out for a logo-building tool) are among the company’s goals, the SquadLocker team probably has the most fun trendsetting. “There’s a real transformation that’s occurring as a result of what we’ve built,” Grant said. “[People] find it and are thrilled.”