Source: US State of Connecticut
As a high school baseball player, Elijah Taitel ’22 (BUS, ENG) wanted to develop a more powerful, well-refined swing to deliver blistering results at bat.
Little did he know when he began creating the ProVelocity Bat, an innovative baseball and softball training tool, it would attract the interest of the Tampa Bay Rays, an MLB slugger, and numerous private coaches and parents.
By the end of September, the company had exceeded its 2020 forecasted revenue. Sales, which often top $10,000 per month, remain brisk.
“It’s an incredible feeling making money for a business that I worked so hard to start,’’ says Taitel, a junior who is pursuing a dual-degree in business and engineering through the MEM program.
“After I graduate from UConn, I don’t see myself working for someone else,’’ he says. “I’m hoping to use the money from ProVelocity Bat for future entrepreneurship.’’
Creating a Faster, More Efficient, More Powerful Swing
What makes the ProVelocity Bat unique is a sliding “power barrel” that releases to the impact position when a batter achieves the desired speed. If the swing is incorrect or insufficient, the batter hears only one click. A double click indicates the swing was in the targeted range. The immediate, audible feedback is one of the selling points of the device.
Equipped with resistance bands, the bat can accommodate everyone from Little Leaguers to professionals, with swing-speed settings from 20 to 80 miles per hour.
Major league players begin their swing as the ball is leaving the pitcher’s hand, Taitel explains. They need to develop maximum bat speed prior to impact and keen eye coordination to check if the ball is in the strike zone. A longer time between clicks indicates correct mechanics and more time in the strike zone.
“The feedback has been spectacular,’’ says Taitel, who builds the bats himself and sells them for $495. Professional players have reported a 4% increase in hitting strength in just three weeks using the ProVelocity Bat, Taitel says. Anecdotally, coaches have told Taitel that they’ve seen speed increases up to 25% in younger players.
“There’s no feeling in the world like hitting a baseball cleanly, and watching it sail,’’ says Taitel, who played baseball from ages 8 to 18. The demands of a double-major have prevented him from playing at UConn, but his love for the game hasn’t diminished.
Entrepreneurship Runs in the Family
Taitel, of Short Hills, N.J., combined his love of baseball with his family’s legacy as athletic entrepreneurs. His grandfather created the Landice treadmill company. He eventually sold the business, but 12 years later, Taitel’s father and a good friend repurchased the business. The high-end treadmill earned the top rating by Consumer Reports for 14 years.
The two men are small partners in ProVelocity Bat. Taitel credits his entrepreneurial streak to them.
“I think I’m very ambitious, but I’ve received a ton of support and mentorship from them because they’ve owned a successful business,’’ he says. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support, mentorship, and guidance they gave me.’’
His dad helped with the design for the ProVelocityBat. For two years, they had multiple iterations and revisions. In September of 2018, Taitel sent his invention to an agency that trains some of the top professional players in the world and asked them to test it; by January of 2020, Taitel launched his invention at the American Baseball Coaches Association trade show.
At UConn, he was able to develop the business even more. Taitel was among the finalists in the School of Business’ Innovation Quest (iQ) competition in 2019-20 and participated in its Summer InQubator, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Professor Rich Dino, iQ founder/adviser Keith Fox ‘80 (BUS) and mentor Andrea Stalf helped him with a marketing plan that involved contacting previous buyers, which helped shape his target audience and messaging, and increased sales.
“Rich has an incredible desire to go above and beyond. Every time I asked for help, he’d give me the most in-depth response or connect me with the perfect people. He helped me get my trademark for virtually nothing and has connected me to the top marketers in the world,’’ Taitel says. “Rich can tie in criticism with an almost nurturing tone that makes it easy to digest and implement.’’
Make No Mistake, This Man is a UConn Husky
Taitel visited UConn in 8th grade. When he didn’t get into the Ivy league college that he had his heart set on, he immediately chose UConn without a second visit. He hasn’t regretted the decision. The highly selective MEM program combines his engineering prowess with his business interests.
“I love UConn. I have a great group of friends,’’ he says. “My high school graduating class had 56 students. It was scary the first weekend on campus, to be in a dorm that had more people on my floor than I had in my high school class! UConn is so big, but it feels so small. I can walk from the Student Union to the library and see three friends. I love the diversity and the community feel.’’
“Managing school and my business is very difficult at times and can get overwhelming. Frequently I have to leave lectures to talk to people on the phone, and at times I am juggling a lot. However, the emphasis on slow growth to maintain high margins has helped for the time being.’’
Two of Taitel’s four siblings attend Northeastern University, which has the same mascot and generates some good-natured ribbing. “I’m the better Husky,’’ he jokes.
Entrepreneur Preparing for Next Best Thing
Taitel is now moving into extra innings with his company, preparing a social media advertising campaign for the ProVelocity Bat, targeting college players and professionals. And, true to his goal of becoming a serial entrepreneur, Taitel has already embarked on a new venture, devising a software system to track, predict, and visualize the flight of a baseball, much like the technology used by pro golfers. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, but Taitel is enjoying the respect he worked hard to attain.
“Everyone who knows me knows how hard I worked on it. This is a disruptive product, and, at first, I got a lot of pushback from trainers, coaches and players,’’ he says. “Until I had data from some of the most reputable sources, the ProVelocity Bat was seemingly looked at as an overpriced gimmick.
“Now I’m getting unsolicited endorsements from parents and coaches who love the product. One parent emailed me recently that his son committed to a D1 school after using it,’’ he says. “That’s the best part. My product is something people are using and benefitting from.’’