A duo from Orange County, California, wants to take celebrating your wins to the next level. From left, Dax Holt and Matt Walsh. (ABC/Christopher Willard)
Written by Frank Lopez
For any entrepreneur, getting in front of potential investors is always welcomed.
For an entrepreneur to be able to deliver a pitch to some of the most famous and successful investors in the world is a dream come true.
Fresno State alumnus Matt Walsh got such an opportunity when he appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Walsh is the co-founder and CEO of TrophySmack, an online store for custom fantasy football, basketball and baseball trophies, as well fantasy sports rings and championship belts.
Walsh and his business partner and co-founder Dax Holt appeared on Season 12 of Shark Tank back in January.
The entrepreneurial duo sought an investment of $600,000 in exchange for eight percent equity. They left the show with a deal with NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for $600,000 for 17% equity.
“This was a bucket list thing for me personally,” Walsh said. “I’ve always been used to knocking on a door and following up, but after going on Shark Tank, the doors are opening and people are contacting me and asking if I could do business with them.”
After graduating from Fresno State in 2006 and heeding advice from one of his professors, he got into the supply and logistics industry so he could understand all gears of a business.
Though he had job offers from Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, he took a job with a local freight brokerage firm as a junior sales executive even though it was offering the least salary.
Around this time Walsh was running a vending route for Red Bull and opened Young Chefs Academy in Fresno for a few years with his wife. They sold the children’s cooking school business before moving to Orange County.
Walsh got the idea for TrophySmack in 2017 after he noticed that so many of his friends from high school and college were in fantasy football, baseball and basketball leagues. Walsh himself had never been in a fantasy sports league.
Walsh eventually joined a fantasy football league with a group of friends. He took it very seriously and got very competitive. With his excitement, he wanted to buy a big, extravagant trophy for the winner.
With his credit card in hand, Walsh went online but couldn’t find anything besides old generic grade-school trophies.
He was surprised there weren’t a lot of options for fantasy sports paraphernalia and realized that any sort of unique trophies were custom handmade products.
With his knowledge of supply-chain logistics, and with 30 million Americans that play fantasy football in the U.S. alone and 50 million that play fantasy sports, Walsh said he noticed an untapped market.
Walsh said that trophies aren’t designed to be shipped, which is why most towns have their own trophy shops. Creating a product that is fully customizable that can be shipped was job one.
“We had to rebuild everything from the ground up because with e-commerce you have to be able to effectively ship everywhere in the country,” Walsh said.
Even though TrophySmack was offering a unique product, heavy marketing and advertising was still required to get enough attention to get through the first year.
Since the episode aired, TrophySmack is still receiving positive reviews on Amazon and interest from sports teams for its products.
In its first year, the company made $900,000 in revenue, then dumped all the money back into inventory and in 2019 they made $1.9 million.
In 2020, TrophySmack launched basketball and baseball trophies, but then the pandemic hit and sporting events were limited. Despite that, the company was still able to grow to $2.1 million in revenue at end of 2020.
“We are looking at where we go from here,” Walsh said. “We are looking at corporate awards, youth sports, e-sports and how do we innovate all of these categories that haven’t been innovated in 100 years,” he said. “The trophies I got as a kid are the same ones my kids are getting now. We are bringing trophies to the 21st century.”