- On August 17, 2020
Shout Out 2.0 Goes to TrueBounce
By Lisa Derby Oden
Pivot is a basketball term that means to keep one foot in place while moving the other. It is used when a player wants to re-position him/herself for a pass or a shot. It is an especially fitting term when you take a look at TrueBounce and how they have been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. This company makes unique perforated basketball backboards and has also developed Soft Shield products, a line of PPE products to address the pandemic.
Wayne Newton was a self-employed contractor for about 30 years until he sold the business to take on developing TrueBounce, located in New Bedford, where he is co-founder and President of the company. They began by doing playground renovations, splash pads, and municipal work. At one point they started building their own backboards to be what they used to be like in basketball. Wayne cites, “The new backboards today are just a piece of steel or aluminum and they play lousy. We wanted to get back to that ‘having fun on the playground’ attitude. We developed a clear basketball backboard with perforated holes in it to allow the energy of the ball that’s trapped in front of the ball to release through the back of the backboard. That’s why we call it TrueBounce because we believe it allows a truer bounce for the game. It keeps the game played close to the basket where it was intended to play, unlike today’s game with the 3 point shot where play has been pushed to the foul line at the top of the key. We wanted to bring back an opportunity for the players to be rewarded to play the game properly. It does make a difference to the players – we have the preferred basketball backboard for NYC, Boston, Atlanta, Sacramento, a lot of different places. It’s like if you play golf, and you have an old driver compared to a new one, you get better results from the new one. It is a unique product – we have a 20-year utility patent on the technology that allows the backboard to release the energy.”
Like so many other manufacturers, COVID-19 has had a big impact on TrueBounce’s business. Wayne shares, “Basketball backboards and rims were one of the first things they took down on playgrounds. Until this day, they are still not putting up full courts. They only want half courts so that it minimizes the number of people playing. So COVID has had a tremendous impact on our business. We are still producing backboards, but the business is down about 30%.”
“That led me to think about a couple of new products,” Wayne continues. “As we were shut down, I was saying to myself, how are we going to turn the corner and get back to business as usual, if that is such a thing. I also wanted to figure out how we could work to help make everyone safe. We knew that was where everyone needed to pivot to, especially as a manufacturer. That’s when I came up with Soft Shield products. First, we created a flexible inexpensive divider for the school reopenings. They are made in different shapes and sizes, and we use a corrugated polymer and put in vinyl soft shield windows. We started by putting out some prototypes for local schools. The schools have liked what we presented and especially the cost, which is very inexpensive. Knowing that they have tight budgets and will be needing to get so much PPE, the dividers are a perfect fit.”
“The other product we developed is the Soft Shield Flex Cap. This is a baseball cap with a flexible shield attached with 3 snaps. You can use it outside or indoors. It was mostly developed for the school setting. It can be used at recess, and the shield can be taken off 2 to 3 times a day as needed. It can be sanitized and doesn’t scratch that easily, especially in comparison to some of the poly shields that are available. Safety was a big deal when we developed this. We wanted something that would be soft so if kids are horsing around and their head goes down, that the shield doesn’t go into their chest and hurt them. We wanted to provide a product that would be safer and quicker to market. My daughter is a special needs teacher in high school. One of the biggest things she had a problem with was not being able to see facial expressions of her students and other teachers. That’s what pushed me to go to hats.”
TrueBounce is a finalist in the Lever Round 2 Intrapreneur Challenge. The winner of the Challenge will receive a $25,000 grant. Finalists develop their prototype(s), business plans, market analysis, and market strategies. Wayne is enthusiastic about how the process has been beneficial. “Jeffrey Thomas has been great! I can’t say enough about him and all his crew behind the scenes. They all have lots of knowledge and savvy that allow you to get down deep so you can express yourself and what your product does, and what the market approach should be. They bring it down to the level you need to pitch it effectively. It can be lonely at the top. You work with people all day and they have their opinion and are coming from a different angle. It’s all valid feedback, but when you hear it from an outsider’s point of view, who doesn’t have the inner workings knowledge, it really makes a big difference.”
TrueBounce products are made in the US. Despite that, supply chain issues are challenging. Wayne specifies, “We use ½” abrasive-resistant, UV polycarbonate, so it’s a specialized product. Manufacturers have pivoted to ¼” and 3/16” for dividers that are being put up in restaurants, stores, and bars. That has resulted in a 23 week lead time. I saw this coming and we had some open PO’s that would allow us to get through this. We have pretty much gone through them, so it’s getting a little hairy. Also, the aluminum that we use is becoming scarcer. But what will hurt the supply chain more than anything else is if people stay home rather than work. A lot of people may feel it is convenient to stay home. They have been supplemented the extra $600 in addition to unemployment. Some may have concerns about safety, and if they don’t’ feel safe they don’t have to go to work. However, if manufacturers ramp up and start pulling 2-3 shifts, or expand their manufacturing facilities and have the necessary personnel, then the issues could be short-lived. That is my hope.”
Wayne closes, “I discovered MassMEP when I was in a CEO group in southeastern Massachusetts that was started by the local Chamber and area SBA. I met Mike Prior who was with MassMEP at that time and got a lot of resources, knowledge, and energy from Mike. Most recently Manny Jerome, MassMEP Region Lead for the Southeast Region, also informed us about the Lever Intrapreneur Challenge. The assistance with getting grants for training is also wonderful – we were just awarded a Workforce Training Fund Express Grant for marketing. MassMEP is a great organization with lots of resources that allows you to think outside the box and also to think in ways that you haven’t.”
Our kudos to TrueBounce’s efforts for taking on game-changer strategies to address the COVID-19 challenge. Thanks for their concerns for safety for all during this time and their work to help us bounce back quickly. To learn more about TrueBounce, visit www.truebounce.com.