So let’s say you’re at the beach looking for some entertainment. Volleyball is cool but entirely too demanding of talent and can’t be done with a drink in your hand. Cornhole is ideal but limited trunk space allowed only enough room for regulation boards or a cooler and we all know the cooler didn’t stay behind. What’s a social but sort of lazy beach goer to do?
Described as a “blend between cornhole, bocce ball, & horseshoes,” TidalBall takes components of your favorite lawn games and turns them into one lightweight, portable beach activity. Each kit ($19.95) comes with a plastic scoop, 6 wooden balls (in two custom colors) and, of course, koozies. Because honestly, what’s a beach game without one hand free for an ice cold beverage?
The 4-player game is reminiscent of cornhole, but with TidalBall you use wooden balls instead of bean bags and holes dug into the beach instead of boards. The rules are pretty simple: 3 points for a ball in the hole, 1 point for a ball in the trench, play to 21 total “or something.” Above all, they say, have fun.
The game was created by a group of college buddies who have been playing it for over a decade. They decided to brand and package it as a product back in 2012, and today TidalBall is sold in 27 retail stores from South Carolina down to Florida and even across the country in California.
Interestingly enough, three of the four founders of this coastal game live here in landlocked Charlotte.
I learned about TidalBall after receiving a rave review from a satisfied customer and Agenda reader:
“We were recently introduced to a terrific new beach game called TidalBall. We bought the game just prior to our beach vacation a couple of weeks ago on the recommendation of friends. It turned out that our kids literally played for hours every day and my wife and I got hooked as well. I would describe it as a blend of bocce ball, horse shoes and golf. And it’s incredibly easy to transport to and from the beach. And people literally walked up on the beach and watched us play and were eager to know what we were playing.
Furthermore, we ordered 3 more TidalBall games yesterday to give away as gifts and, because we are on a tight schedule, one of the owners (Greg Merritt) delivered the games to our house. That is extraordinary customer service!!!”
To Greg, who is co-founder and CFO of TidalBall and a project manager at one of the big banks here in Charlotte, the special delivery just made sense. “I wasn’t going to charge him overnight shipping when I could just drive it over there,” he said. “Plus, it was a chance to meet a new person.”
That kind of customer service will be critical for building a loyal fan base that supports the TidalBall brand beyond the just physical game itself. “You can’t copyright a game like this,” said Greg. “So there’s nothing stopping one of the big guys from coming in a mass producing a cheaper competitor.”
To maintain their edge, TidalBall will have to become the authority on the “sport.” One way to do that, says Greg, is to create official TidalBall leagues where teams compete in regulation games and tournaments. That, he says, is a goal as they continue to grow.
TidalBall sales have doubled year over year, but none of the guys are planning to quit their jobs any time soon. “Right now all of the money is going straight back into the business,” said Greg. “We don’t have any investors so we’re just taking it slow and doing it right.”
I asked him if they had considered doing the opposite of taking it slow and instead throwing their idea out in front of a national TV audience on Shark Tank, ABC’s entrepreneurial pitch competition for real cash investments.
“That’s the number one question we get,” he said. “But we’re just not there yet.”
Another outdoor ball game, Spikeball, landed a $500,000 investment on season three of the show and today has revenue of $3.1 million. Greg says that game is doing incredibly well but is considerably more physically extreme and competitive than TidalBall, which was born in a slow, hot summer on the Carolina coast.
“That’s just not us,” said Greg. “We’re chill. We’re for grandparents, college kids, anybody.”
You’ll find TidalBall for sale on their website, Amazon and at dozens of retailers. And there’s just enough summer left to head to the beach and test it out. Beware: If you lose, you could be subjected to embarrassing shenanigans. Greg and his friends encourage TidalBallers to wager games on public humiliation instead of cash. (See videos of lost bets.) I can get behind that.
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