MANSFIELD — They say it’s never too late–or early–to follow your dreams.
Just ask Shandon Kiah, who at 16 years old has launched his own business, Albatross Athletics, which specializes in soccer training equipment.
“I realized there was a lack of training equipment for goalkeepers in soccer, so I thought that resistance training would be the best route to go,” said Kiah, who plays keeper at Mansfield Senior and for the Ohio Strikers United club team.
Kiah had this realization in late November while he was involved in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. YEA is a 30-week program that teaches students in grades six through 12 how to start and run their own business.
Kiah said he’s glad to have been able to participate in the YEA program.
“It was probably one of the best opportunities, if not the best opportunity, I’ve had in creating a potentially successful business,” he said. “It definitely taught me the path that one should take to be a successful entrepreneur.”
A total of six students participated in the program’s inaugural year and each was assigned a mentor.
They also met local professionals, including Sam VanCura, owner of Total Performance, Inc.
Kiah said he was able to share his idea of creating a goalkeeper resistance training band with VanCura, whose company has manufactured resistance training equipment for swimmers for close to 30 years.
“A lot of his products use resistance training and he knows about the kind of materials that could go into the manufacturing of my product,” Kiah said. “So he gave me a few contacts to reach out to, to help me reach a production company.”
VanCura said he was excited to meet Kiah and hear his pitch.
“He’s an entrepreneurial type and he seems pretty gung-ho,” VanCura said. “I think he’ll do pretty well.”
Jay Miller, of DRM Productions, was also able to come alongside Kiah and provide some assistance as his mentor for the YEA program.
The duo worked together on building a viable business plan, discussing everything from pricing, to marketing and manufacturing the product.
“Working through that business plan really helped him realize what his costs were going to be,” Miller said.
Kiah did all the legwork when it came to putting the plan in motion, Miller said.
“I was really impressed with how passionate he was about making it real,” he said.
Now Kiah gets to see the fruit of his labor, having teamed with ET Training Systems, which is manufacturing his product — the Clause 18 Training Band. Kiah said he hopes to have at least 20 ready to sell soon.
His prototype was manufactured in December and he’s been testing it out ever since.
The Clause 18 Training Band is a six-foot soccer training resistance tube equipped with a padded ankle strap on one end and a goalpost strap on the other end. When the user dives, 40 pounds of resistance will pull in the opposite direction.
“Multiple coaches have told me that they’re interested in purchasing the product once I’m able to get more manufactured,” he said. “It’s fairly inexpensive, and it does help almost as much as weight training does, if not more.”
After about three or four uses, Kiah said he could notice a difference in his own abilities.
“You can feel a difference in your leg strength, and with leg strength comes farther and more explosive diving and that leads to better reaction time,” he said. “My coaches have told me — this is after a few uses of the product — that my diving has gotten better.”
He intends to sell his product via his website www.soccertrainingequipment.net.
Kiah said he has an idea for two other products, both of which are soccer training equipment.
“I think the business has potential,” he said. “It’s just up to me whether I’m planning to market to an adequate level or better.”
Explaining the rationale behind the name, “Albatross Athletics,” Shandon Kiah said, “Some of the best goalkeepers in the world have the longest wingspans in their league, and the bird with the largest wingspan in the world is the albatross.”