Humble beginnings have led to big things for the small company.
Sometimes, a broken bone can have a positive outcome… Just ask Jeremy S. Yarsin, owner and founder of Raven Performance.
A few summers ago, during a pickup basketball game, Yarsin took an awkward fall and broke his wrist. This kept him out of his summer recreation baseball league and was still sore when he returned to the diamond a year later. Because of this, Yarsin bought some reusable wrist support sleeves to help with the rehab process, but realized they had some flaws. Being an entrepreneur at heart, he started thinking about ways to improve the wrist supports.
Founded in the summer of 2016, Raven Performance is a baseball apparel company that is looking to disrupt the industry. Its signature product is a compression wrist sleeve, made of perforated neoprene and performance polyester that is optimal for performance and comfort. Yarsin’s passion for baseball is what led him to start his third company (he sold the other two).
While using the sleeves from other brands during his rehab, Yarsin said the biggest flaw for him was that they were made of nylon, which has no performance qualities, and neoprene, which doesn’t breathe. He figured there had to be a better way to make the sleeves more comfortable and better for performance.
“I knew nothing about fashion or design so I did a lot of research. I bought a sewing machine, talked to tailors to learn everything I could about the fabrics, and got some swatches from companies. I knew I couldn’t change neoprene, but thought ‘what if I perforated it?’ which is something competitors don’t have,” Yarsin said.
The next problem Yarsin had to solve was what fabric to use with the perforated neoprene. Since nylon is bad for skin, he opted for a high quality performance polyester. He found a company in Korea willing to try the performance polyester on perforated neoprene, but because nobody had ever done that before, it took eight months for the company to figure out how to make it work. That was no issue for Yarsin because they were able to figure out how to do it and “can do it again.” That was the spark of the business.
“I really like the feel of the sleeve. It’s a great material that doesn’t feel too bulky and has a great formed-feel when you put it on.”— Ryan McMahon, Professional Baseball Player for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
While waiting for the sleeve to be produced, Yarsin started to have players reach out and ask if he made other products or was planning to make other gear. Those inquiries became the business model for Yarsin and helped him start a catalog of other gear that has continued to grow.
“It’s a bit of a different business model because, reverse of what the big companies do, I wait for the players to ask me about something and put more money towards the product instead of making something and putting more money towards marketing. All requests for other products came before my signature product, the wrist sleeve, had come out, so I knew that would be the turning point,” said Yarsin.
For the compression apparel, Yarsin went through a process similar to the compression wrist sleeve by looking at fabric samples and figuring out which fabric goes where. For his base layer compression shirts, he opts for a super tech fabric and mesh underarms for additional cooling. His compression tights are lighter than competitor’s because “who wants to wear heavy tights under baseball pants in mid-July?”
Yarsin’s fabric supplier, a company in Honduras, is also moving towards converting their fabrics into a 100 percent recycled polyester. It’s one reason he was attracted to the company and thinks it will be a great selling point. Currently, his men’s hoodie sweatshirt and men’s RavenX line of general performance t-shirts are made of fully recycled polyester. He hopes that in the next six to twelve months, all of his gear will be made of 100 percent recycled polyester.
Innovation has been the biggest piece to the formation of Raven Performance, according to Yarsin, because he is innovating solutions to the flaws he found in the wrist sleeves he used.
“I believe that flaws lead to innovation. So it is my goal, and our goal as a business, to innovate the solutions to those flaws. That is why we are disrupting the baseball and fitness apparel industry with my wrist sleeve. Fixing the current flaws, innovating solutions, and creating an end-result that has been unbelievably well received,” Yarsin stated.
“Apparel shouldn’t hold you back. If we’re going to cover our skin, why use fabrics and materials that do nothing to enhance or compliment how amazing our skin really is? It makes no sense which is why we only use performance oriented fabrics with tons of functional features and a nice form fit to act as a secondary skin.”
The wrist sleeve has only been around baseball for a few weeks, but Yarsin said the feedback from players has been tremendous. He plans to use the next six months on a huge marketing push via internet and social media for the wrist sleeve, working to get it on as many players as possible. His one pitfall is dealing with athletes endorsed by bigger companies. Some of his competitors don’t have wrist sleeves, meaning their athletes can wear his, but athletes endorsed by companies with wrist sleeves are unable to.
He’s also applying for MLB approval on the wrist sleeve, which requires getting at least one player to endorse him and Raven Performance and convincing MLB that the product adds value to players. It would be a big deal for a smaller company like his to be MLB approved.
In addition to increasing sales and players who use his products, Yarsin said he’s also working to expand Raven Performance’s catalog as much as possible. He’s had requests for a three-quarter sleeved shirt from pitchers and a pink arm sleeve players can wear on Mother’s Day in 2018. He also wants to expand the women’s line and is currently working on women’s tights.
With several years of entrepreneurship under his belt, Yarsin was able to share some insight as to what it’s like when you run your own business.
“There are pros and cons, just like everything in life. I get to make my own schedule and don’t have to answer to anyone, but I’m also the salesman, secretary, janitor, and wearing every hat. It can be stressful, but for me, it’s incredibly rewarding when you know that this is something you started and came up with. You see your finished product, make a sale, get feedback and the person loves it. You feel good knowing you did something right and made something happen, and that feeling doesn’t change.”
Yarsin’s long-term goals for Raven Performance include owning a manufacturing plant in the United States (products are currently manufactured in China) and being able to hire people, so that he’s not running around making sales on a daily basis. With the success Raven Performance has had so far, it’s not hard to imagine that happening.
Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.
Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.