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Meet CES’ Youngest Entrepreneur


Samantha Wolfe has turned her heated lacrosse stick from a high school project to a full-fledged invention on the CES show floor

CES may be known for hosting some of the biggest tech companies, but it is also home to hundreds of the world’s most exciting up-and-coming businesses. And in Eureka Park, CES’ marketplace dedicated to startups, more than 900 rising companies are eager to show the world their work.

Samantha Wolfe, founder of FingerFire, is one of those entrepreneurs. While playing lacrosse in high school, Samantha along with her father, developed the FingerFire lacrosse stick, a heated stick that keeps players hands warm even in freezing weather. She says the stick stops the cold weather from impacting a players’ grip and handle of the ball.

Since she was 11, Samantha and her father have worked to turn FingerFire from an idea into a reality. It took over four years to design the product, test it out, file a patent and put it in the hands of college players. At CES, their first trade show, they hoped to create moreinterest in the stick.

It Is Innovation (i3) caught up with Samantha, now 18, and her father to talk about their CES experience, FingerFire’s future, and what it’s like to develop a new technology when you’re still doing homework.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

 
Can you walk us through how FingerFire began?
 

Samantha: I first had the idea six years ago. When I played lacrosse during the winter, my friends and I always used to complain how hard it was to play to your full potential since your hands got so cold, making it harder to catch the ball or get a good grip. So I brought up the idea of a heated lacrosse stick to my parents, but I was so young so they thought I would just push the idea away. But I kept being persistent. Eventually my dad and I checked to see if something similar had already been created, and we didn’t find anything. Soon, we decided to just see if we could actually create it, and through a connection we found a company who could produce and manufacture the sticks for us.

 

Bruce: In the beginning, we went back and forth almost weekly with them. We had calls going over different designs and the pros and cons and attributes before we landed on the design we have now. I think we have been working with them for about three years now.

 

Samantha: We first filed for a patent probably about three and half years ago, but just got it approved this fall. It was a very long process and we had to have conversations with the person who was reviewing the patent to negotiate and kind of more narrow focused. It was a long, eye-opening experience, especially to go through this while still in high school. I was going from doing my homework to just jumping on to a call with a patent lawyer. I really got a chance to get into the business world before I actually begin working.

 
What have you done to help with the marketing efforts of FingerFire?

Samantha: One of my big goals – since I was a lacrosse player myself – was to make sure the stick was worth it for players at higher level. So in the beginning, I emailed the top 20 [division 1] coaches and about three of them responded.
 

Bruce: So far we’ve been got three college teams to test it out in the spring: Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, and Maryland. We already brought a few sticks to Syracuse for feedback and they recommended to make them hotter. So now we’re revising them and think we have it at a heating level that works for them.

 

Samantha: Now our end goal is to get the product on the market so people can actually buy it, while getting as much support from D1 teams as possible. We hope they love it, that way they can help with marketing and reach out to their distributors. Since many of these teams are sponsored by Nike or Under Armour, we’re hoping [these companies] see how the teams are saying, “we love this stick, we want this for our team.”

 
You began this venture in high school. How did you manage to focus on FingerFire while also being in high school?
 

Samantha: It was definitely harder since I had to learn about everything as I went. When I was younger, I thought even forming emails was hard, just because I hadn’t really done anything like that before. I took a while to figure out how to make them specific and I would have my dad check them over. Now at this point, I’m more independent and make sure they’re ready to go. But without my Dad, I would not be as far along as I am.

 
What has it been like growing up with this business?

Samantha Wolfe with the FingerFire stick

Samantha: I think I have had to mature faster, since when you are talking to these people in the business world you can’t seem like this immature person. Learning how do the work behind it to, like emails or business calls, made me grow up a bit faster, but I would say it was in the best way possible. But during high school, [FingerFire] was kind of like my little secret – my friends didn’t really know about it; It was sort of my own thing that I was still very passionate about.
 

Bruce: I think Sammy also learned a lot about what rejection is like and being able to bounce back and say, “Okay, I’m just going to go to the next person.” Sammy has gone through an extensive part of this, even from some people really high up there in the world of lacrosse.

Samantha: Definitely. You have to learn that hearing rejection is not because it’s a bad idea, it’s just that it might not be the right time. I also really want the stick to be a way of women’s empowerment and to help girls be able to play to their full potential. This stick is just for women for now. It’s something to help them up their game – which is everyone’s goal and make them feel confident about their game.

Why did you decide to come to CES?

Samantha: To kind of just signify that we are out there, and start some chatter about it. It is a little hard since we haven’t had people do that for us for a living, so just getting the name and product out there on the showcase would be very helpful.
 
And how did your booth go?

Samantha: The show can be pretty overwhelming, but I think it went really well, especially considering it was our first time doing any sort of show like this. For prep, we wanted to look very professional, so we made sure to make a banner, bring pages people could take with info. We also had little containers of Red Hots made with the logo on the top. I think our booth was great for FingerFire and got a good amount of attention from people who passed by. Everyone who stopped by – financers, businesses, other exhibitors – recognized the lacrosse element and when told how it works, seemed very positive. We had a lot of parents who were very in to it, and mention how they would get one for their daughters since they hear them complain about having cold hands. At Eureka Park, it was also great to see all the other companies in the same position we were. So many people around us had started or were in the same place we were.
 
Bruce: Eventually, we could even find a sponsorship and move to the CES Sports Zone – but for now, that’s little too big for us.
 

Jeremy Snow

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