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Zakary Cavanagh, a fifth-grader at Big Thompson Elementary School, took home a prize of $1,000 in Larimer County’s Young Entrepreneur Contest for his invention, the Pickleball Pouch.
Cavanaugh, 10, said that he’s played pickleball and tennis for years, and the idea for the pouch, made of a light mesh and able to be buckled around the waist, came to him while playing pickleball and running out of balls, or needing to chase down ones that escaped.
Pickleball, similar to tennis but played on a smaller court with paddles instead of rackets, is growing in popularity nationwide, Cavanagh discovered.
The contest was not relegated to thinking of an invention and then producing the actual product — participants also had to research the viability of their inventions on the market, advertise to potential buyers and complete other elements of entrepreneurship and business. It culminated in a presentation, similar to the TV show “Shark Tank,” of the business’ merits to a panel of judges.
“Pickleball is a worldwide sport, 4.8 million players, which is double the amount of players from just five years ago, and it’s America’s fastest growing sport,” Cavanagh said off the top of his head while demonstrating his invention Monday afternoon.
Speaking of advertising, part of Cavanagh’s presentation was a commercial featuring family friend Karen Kleber, using the product on a pickleball court.
“Do you have another ball?’ a voice off screen said in the commercial.
“Well, yeah!” Kleber replied, pulling a fresh ball from her belt. “I’ve got my Pickleball Pouch!”
The commercial also points out that a special pocket inside the pouch can be used to keep a phone, keys, wallet or other valuables that players might want to avoid leaving out in the open or in a vehicle.
While he is of course interested in pickleball, the Pickleball Pouch came out of a broader sense of creativity that Cavanagh’s mother, Marlene Cavanagh, said her son has exhibited his entire life.
He’s interested in business and is even now exploring some other possible ventures like his own hot sauce brand made using his own home grown peppers.
“Well I love hot sauce, why don’t I make some, maybe sell a bit to some of the neighbors, eat a bit myself,” Cavanagh explained.
As for his winnings, Cavanagh said that he’s already donated 10% to a charity, Denver Rescue Mission.
“My grandpa was homeless for a little bit, and he needed help, and the Denver Rescue Mission helped him out a lot,” Cavanagh said. He shot a quick glance over at his mother. “I’m probably going to put the rest in the bank.”
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