"Laura Gump, Inventor - Swax Lax"Meet Laura Gump, Inventor & Founder – Swax Lax Lacrosse Training Balls in Summit, NJ, USA

What was the inspiration for your invention?

“As a lacrosse coach for young players, I noticed that the hard rubber balls often intimidated new players, causing them to be less confident while learning their stick skills, such as throwing and catching. The other options for training balls were either too light or too heavy, so I’d always taught with bean bags or hacky sacks. This was a bit better, but they were never the same weight or size as a regulation ball. By modeling the Swax Lax ball after a juggle ball, I was able to develop a training ball that is the exact dimensions of a regulation ball, yet it is soft and doesn’t bounce or roll away.

At what stage in the invention process are you?

“We designed and tested the ball this past summer. Over the fall and winter we filed a US trademark and provisional patent. Soon afterwards, we introduced the product to market and have been selling them ever since. As the ball became more popular globally, we have begun the process of filing a PCT application to protect the product worldwide.”

What is the number one goal you have with regards to your invention?

“My number one goal is that my invention, the Swax Lax lacrosse training ball, will become the most popular training ball in the US and elsewhere. I would like it to be recognized as a game-changer in the way the sport is practiced and taught. A secondary, yet important goal, is that we eventually determine that Swax Lax balls are more shock absorbent than a hard rubber ball, and therefore, less likely to cause injuries to players who are accidentally hit with a ball. Though we feel this is likely true, we need to confirm this with scientific testing.”

Who is your product for? (target market)?

“My target market is young lacrosse players for both indoor and outdoor use; and for more experienced players for use indoors since the balls are gentler on hardwood gym floors and do not roll away or bounce.”

How long did your invention take to get to this point (from the time you conceived of the idea to now)?

“A year and a half.”

When you had your idea, what was the first thing you did?

“I had some prototypes made and then tested them out at my own lacrosse camps and clinics. (In addition to coaching a middle school lacrosse team, my primary job is as a director for Sum It Up Lacrosse, a non-profit company that I founded, which encourages K-8th grade boys and girls to become more confident through the sport of lacrosse.) I was thrilled to see some of the more shy players step to the ball and begin throwing and catching with more confidence!

What has been the greatest challenge getting your idea from your head to something tangible?

“I think the greatest challenge was finding the right materials to make the ball sufficiently strong and durable to withstand the demands of a very physical sport like lacrosse. At the high school and college level, lacrosse balls are routinely shot at speeds approaching 70 to 80 miles per hour. Complicating my efforts was the fact that the manufacturer lived in Pakistan, and he was completely unfamiliar with the sport and was unable to speak English (and I was unable to speak Urdu!).

How did you or are you funding the development of your invention?

“I borrowed money from myself.”

How do you currently market your invention?

“We have an online store, and in addition, we are selling the balls at various events such as lacrosse tournaments and conventions in an effort to reach our key potential customers, including: lacrosse coaches, athletic directors, camp directors, department of recreation directors, online and speciality retail stores, lacrosse club owners, etc. We also have spread the word through social media applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Social media has allowed us to get in touch with small companies that will hopefully help us grow the name and brand.  The hype on social media has been so great in encouraging our success and reaching out to a few customers who have been so helpful sharing our product.

Tell us about your background?

I am married and have three children, including two boys who played lacrosse throughout their childhoods and one went on to play in college. (My daughter was never a fan of any sport.)  Despite have a masters degree in US health policy, I only worked in the field of for about seven years.  After I had my kids, I went back to coaching lacrosse and have been happily doing it for 15 years.  In addition to coaching the middle school team at Kent Place School in Summit,  I own a lacrosse company called Sum It Up Lacrosse that offers camps and clinics to K-8 grade girls and boys.

Who are your favorite inventors and why?

My favorite inventions are the iPhone and the iPad.  I am continually impressed by how many activities of daily life are improved by these two devices.

What’s been the most surprising part of your inventor’s journey so far?

“I didn’t anticipate how excited friends, family members, and even total strangers would be about the invention. Some of it probably derives from people’s fascination with “Shark Tank,” but I think there’s definitely a certain “cool factor” attached to entrepreneurs — and especially, inventors — and I find that I am energized and inspired by their enthusiasm and support.”

What is a typical day like for you?

“After getting my husband and daughter off to the train and school, I usually take an exercise class to get ready for the day. When I get back I check my email. I occasionally have emails from different parts of the world inquiring about the product, plus a lot of emails from US clients who are looking to buy balls. I communicate daily with our supplier in Pakistan. When the emails are answered I take a break to have a planning meeting with various members of my staff around 10 or 11 each day. At these meetings we discuss marketing, sales, finances, potential donation sources, and the status of our product. At the moment, the quality of the product is a huge focus for us as well as marketing the product so everyone in the lacrosse community can learn about it. Following these meetings, I usually follow the tasks that were delegated at the meeting, and for the rest of the afternoon, I continue to connect with suppliers and buyers via email. Around 2:00 pm, I coach my middle school lacrosse team, where we are having a great season (actually, we’re undefeated!) and frequently use the Swax Lax balls at practice. Working with middle school lacrosse players helped inspire the Swax Lax balls because early in the season during the winter months, we are cooped up in small section of the gym where using hard lacrosse balls would be dangerous. The girls are often the first to try out any new prototypes or test the quality of new samples. In the evening, I spend time with my family while occasionally communicating with staff or various international clients who run on a different time schedule.”

Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?

“I am most inspired by people or organizations who are committed to making sports more fun and accessible for children. I have a special place in my heart for coaches who spice up the game and come up with creative ways to get kids excited about sports. Some examples of role models are Christa Samaris, a former US Lacrosse team member and coach whom I’ve heard speak at the US Lacrosse Convention years, and my friend, Sydney Davis, who directs Girls on the Run here in NJ, which is a program devoted to encouraging self-confidence and healthy living habits by getting young girls interested in running.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

“I love playing a small part in helping to grow the sport of lacrosse, which is the fastest growing sport in the country. My hope is that Swax Lax Lacrosse Training Balls will be able to help younger players feel less intimidated and more self-confident as they learn lacrosse, and that it will help lacrosse programs in new areas of the country to attract new players.

What’s the best way for the readers/audience of inventing women to connect with you (feel free to include the links to your social networks and websites)?

“Our website is www.swaxlax.com and you can always connect with us on social media:

Facebook: Facebook.com/SwaxLaxBall

Twitter: Twitter.com/SwaxLaxBall

Instagram: Instagram.com/SwaxLaxBall

What is the cost and how can we earn more, purchase your invention?

“The balls retail for $10 each, but bulk discount pricing is available, including special pricing for teams, schools, and retailers. Balls can always be purchased on our website at: www.SwaxLax.com.