Classic Sport Companies Inc. manufactures balls for team sports, including basketball, football, soccer, volleyball and baseball. Its brands, sold by major merchants across the country, are Classic Sport, C.B.C. and Surf & Turf. These products feature exclusive cover materials and interior components.
"I think [the award] is well deserved by them," says David Gonzales, executive director of the Denver Enterprise Center (DEC). "I think they’ve really done all the things that successful entrepreneurs do in achieving their goals."
"We’re obviously pleased to be recognized," says Matt Torson, marketing manager. "It shows that all of our hard work [is paying] off. We still have a lot of work to be done and a lot of goals ahead of us."
Recognition has been almost a way of life for the company, which was NBIA Client Company of the Year in 1997, received the "Blue Chip" Enterprise Award in 1999 and made the Inc. 500 list for 1999 as the 86th fastest growing privately owned company in the United States. It had a five-year growth rate of 2,192 percent. The Denver Business Journal rated it as Colorado’s seventh fastest growing firm in 1999. In 2000, Classic Sport Companies ranked No. 9 in Inc. magazine’s Inner City 100 program to honor inner city companies.
The company, formerly known as R.A.M. Sports, became a DEC tenant in September 1994. Its two principals, Randy Jones and Mike Oister, started that year with sales of $424. By the end of the year sales exceeded $200,000. For fiscal year 1999, total revenues were $12.6 million.
"We have a product that everybody [in the company] believes in. It’s easy to sell when it’s a great product," Torson says. The company changed its name earlier this year to reflect its flagship brand name.
The firm made its DEC debut in 350 square feet of space. When it graduated four years later, it was renting 8,500 square feet. Now the firm is in a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 30,000 square feet of adjacent warehouse space. Jones and Oister are looking for a much larger facility.
The company helped its neighborhood by hiring more than half of its 90-plus employees from the surrounding area. Minorities from low-income families comprise nearly half of its work force. "It’s a good example to set," Gonzales says. It also reflects continued growth in employees, up from two when the company entered the incubator and 40 when it graduated.
How did the incubator help? "The best part was the [flexibility] to grow within the incubator. Physically, as the business grew and we required more warehouse space, we were able to acquire more space [and] maintain the same address," Torson says. The availability of office equipment and the expertise of the incubator personnel also were important.
"They were great role models" for other companies in the incubator, Gonzales says of Classic Sport Companies. "More than anything they were really an interactive, vibrant company. You couldn’t get a better emissary out there in the business world. When one of our companies is named ’Graduate of the Year,’ it says that our incubator has done its job. They have proven that our incubator works!"
"We’ve built more than a business, we’ve built a family here," Torson says. Classic Sport will still be connected with the incubation program — Jones has joined DEC’s advisory board.
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