Lacrosse Player Takes her Pitch to Shark Tank
By Ramishah Maruf / July 1, 2016

15-year-old Rachel Zietz's school day consists of three simple things: homework, lacrosse and pitching her million-dollar company, Gladiator Lacrosse, on the hit ABC show Shark Tank.

Zietz started Gladiator Lacrosse when she was 12 with one simple goal: to provide lacrosse players with high quality equipment that wouldn't have to be replaced every few months. As captain of Pine Crest School's varsity lacrosse and a starter on numerous travel teams, Zietz was all too familiar with faulty rebounders, a popular bounce back practice tool among players. According to Zietz, metal would rust, rubber would tear and bars would snap after just a few sessions with it.

"The company formed out of my discontent as a lacrosse player and being disappointed with the equipment out there on the market," Zietz said. "I decided there had to be a better way, and I can't just keep on buying these expensive rebounders that are going to break after a couple of months. As a teenager, I couldn't afford to pay $250 every time it broke. So I decided to go out and start my own business."
Lacrosse Player

Last year, while out for a jog, Zietz received an email from the executive producer of Shark Tank. She was invited to apply to appear on the show.

"I just remember sprinting back and screaming my mom's name. My parents are both entrepreneurs, so we've watched Shark Tank since I was little," Zietz said.

Zietz spent the next few months training to be on the show by watching old episodes, and having her dad's friends pose as sharks while asking her hard-hitting questions in the living room.

The training paid off. A year later, on May 13, thousands of households across the nation watched as Zietz confidently strode on stage donning a lacrosse stick and rebounder.

"Hi Sharks," she said. "My name is Rachel Zietz, and my company is Gladiator Lacrosse."

Zietz immediately struck the sharks as she pitched her business to gain a $100,000 investment with a 15 percent stake. Although they ultimately didn't give her a deal, they were impressed with her professionalism, with Shark Daymond John saying he would be doing Zietz a "disservice by taking part ownership of the company she built."

"They basically told me I was going to be just fine without their help. The Sharks had faith in me that I could do this on my own, and that I was doing everything just fine. Hearing those words come from people of that caliber is just amazing. It was so satisfying to be told all the work you're doing is paying off," Zietz said.

Despite the rejection, the Zietz says the exposure her company has received from appearing on the show has been worth it.

"If anything, the show taught me to never be afraid of anything. [Going on the show was] very scary but it was so satisfying with the reward I've gotten from it," Zietz said. "The amount of exposure I got was crazy, whether it was from Twitter, Facebook, or just the amount of orders I've gotten. It was probably one of the best things I've ever done."

Zietz learned these savvy entrepreneurial skills through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, and since then has won numerous statewide awards for her work as a CEO, including recognition from Governor Rick Scott and the Boca Chamber. Her company is projected to top $1 million in revenue this year, and Casey Powell, a famous American lacrosse player, has recently become her brand ambassador.

"The hardest part [about running Gladiator Lacrosse] is finding the time to do it all. People ask me what else do I do and I tell them my company is it. It takes up a lot of time in my day, and it requires time management skills that I've built up over time," Zietz said. "Customers can't wait, teachers can't wait and coaches can't wait, so it's a lot to handle."

With plans to pursue both lacrosse and business in college, Zietz leaves one piece of advice for students wanting to start up a business like hers.

"Be passionate about what you're doing. If you love what you're doing it doesn't become work to you."

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