It’s not uncommon for small manufacturers with limited staff to turn to technology to address growing pains within the business. After developing and launching The Beer Bat, a 24-ounce plastic cup shaped like a bat that features a team’s logo, with a single minor league baseball team, creator Sam McGee and his staff soon found themselves with a major league hit on their hands and in need of an ecommerce platform that could scale to meet his company’s skyrocketing orders without the need to hire additional staff.
The Beer Bat’s business model is to operate with a lean staff and put its resources behind product development and quality control. As a result, the company has about a dozen employees, which limits their ability to answer sales calls and fill orders.
“What we wanted was a platform that takes the salesmanship out of sales and enables more of an Amazon-like model of point, click, buy, and deliver, as opposed to figuring pricing and placing the order with a sales representative over the phone,” says Sam McGee, president of The Beer Bat.
The Beer Bat needed a platform that could scale up
At the time, The Beer Bat was using the WooCommerce platform, which could not scale to handle the increase in order volume and required a software developer to write code for any of the changes the company wanted to make to the platform, as it does not employ a code writer in-house.
What The Beer Bat sought was a platform that could support B2B and B2C sales and had the features to support the company’s future growth. The Beer Bat settled on BigCommerce as its new platform provider not only for the platform’s scalability and features, but for the BigCommerce support team.
The latter was important to The Beer Bat as it wanted a platform provider experienced in working with small, but rapidly growing businesses.
“We wanted a platform provider that was personal, not transactional,” McGee says. “BigCommerce does not treat us like a transaction, and we are a small business that values the human side.”
With the BigCommerce platform, The Beer Bat has implemented a customer portal for buyers to place an order, typically 10,000 to 15,000 units at a time, upload their artwork or logo to be printed on the Beer Bat, and automatically receive an invoice once the order is complete. Buyers can also see pricing specific to their account. On the B2B side, The Beer Bat sells to food and beverage retailers and distributors, and concessions operators.
“Manually processing orders of the size we typically get is a lot of work. Now, the ordering process is a lot more efficient,” McGee says.
Beer Bat’s origins
The idea for The Beer Bat grew out of McGee’s business philosophy that there is a product for every market and a market for every product. At the time, Green Egg Design LLC, a manufacturer of plastic bottles owned by McGee, was producing branded drinkware for the Hard Rock Café’s outdoor casino in Las Vegas. When the Hartford Yard Goats, a minor league baseball team, announced it would begin playing in Hartford, Connecticut, where Green Egg is headquartered, at the start of the 2017 baseball season, McGee saw an opportunity to develop a new drinkware product unique to the team.
“I did some research and I learned that the [Yard Goats] baseball park seats about 8,000 people, and everybody is drinking, 48% drink beer, and the other 42% are drinking non-alcoholic beverages,” McGee says.
The goal was to develop a product that not only fit the fan experience inside the park but enhanced it. McGee pitched several ideas to Yard Goat management, including The Beer Bat. In the end, The Beer Bat won out. The product debuted at the Yard Goats’ stadium in August 2018.
From minor leagues to major leagues
The company continued its focus on signing minor league teams for the next year until Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves franchise came calling.
“We initially focused on minor league teams as there were more than 300 of them in towns across the country at the time. That’s a good foundation when it comes to potential markets,” McGee recalls. “When the Braves saw our product in a promotional video that went viral, they called.”
The Braves debuted The Beer Bat when their new stadium opened in 2020. In 2021, MLB’s San Diego Padres signed as a client. The Beer Bat supplies its product to stadium concession operators for five MLB and 27 minor league teams. And the company has established online storefronts in several countries including Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan. The company also has licensing agreements with all 30 MLB teams, as well as the Negro League Baseball Museum to sell The Beer Bat featuring their respective logos.
“The multi-storefront functionality of BigCommerce allows us to go global locally with a single back end,” McGee says.
Business is growing fast
In 2023, The Beer Bat expects to deliver about 470,000 units, compared to 235,000 in 2022. Since installing the BigCommerce platform, The Beer Bat has increased orders by 71%, increased revenues by 115% and seen 98% increase in visitors to its B2B and B2C storefronts.
Always looking for the next great product idea, The Beer Bat plans to introduce a cup shaped like a hockey stick later this year. The cup will be based on the same business model as The Beer Bat.
“I think hockey has the potential to be bigger than our baseball business,” McGee says. “It could be our Mona Lisa.”
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