As a senior in high school Colton Rasmussen was tasked with creating a way to eliminate plastic pollution for a school project. When he sat down to think about how he might tackle the assignment, his vision for the project was immediate: lacrosse heads made of an environmentally sustainable plastic.
“I had only been playing lacrosse for a couple years at that point, but I just thought it was a really cool idea. You know lacrosse heads are made of plastic so I downloaded some free software and got dimensions and made a really rudimentary design. I probably still have it somewhere, but it’s terrible,” Rasmussen said. “My teacher told me that this actually could be real business and you could do something with this.”
The extra push from his teacher was what the Great Falls native needed to jump start what would eventually become Re-Lax Sports Company. Rasmussen started competing in entrepreneurship competitions, but the lack of a lacrosse scene in Big Sky Country hampered his ability to secure the funding needed to get the molds, materials and everything else to begin producing lacrosse heads.
Enter Archers LC goalie and entrepreneur Adam Ghitelman.
The Connection: The DM that Launched the Brand
As the COVID-19 Pandemic was slowing sports down across the country, Adam Ghitelman was doing the opposite. The veteran goalie was taking advantage of the time to work on projects like the Give and Go Foundation and Lacrosse Film Study, in addition to constantly exploring new avenues.
“A dream of mine has always been to make a lacrosse head,” Ghitelman said. “I’m searching how to make a lacrosse head, going through the query, and I see an article about a young man who had won a competition about environmental sustainability and lacrosse.”
That young man was Rasmussen, who just happened to already follow Ghitelman on Instagram.
“I realized there was that connection there so I reached out. Next thing you know I come to find that not only is he a brilliant young man, but he had already accomplished a lot of what I would have no idea about how to do,” Ghitelman said.
“I was ready to just hunker down and start building the brand and once I had enough, just bootstrap it,” Rasmussen said. “I saw that I had a DM from him [Ghitelman] and I had to double check it because it didn’t make sense to me.”
Ghitelman’s message contained an article from the Great Falls Tribune asking if Rasmussen was indeed THAT Colton Rasmussen mentioned in the article. After a few zoom calls and early conversations ranging from the environmental sustainability of the project to the design of the head, a partnership between the two goalies was created.
The next step was hammering out the design process for the head, something that took several different iterations, as well as hours of tweaks and adjustments to get something that everyone could be happy with.
“I would post a photo of a design [on instagram] and people would say “oh that looks like the (fill in different types of heads here). So I decided I needed to just take the rules or the specifications for a lacrosse head and go from there and not look at any other heads,” Rasmussen said.
Finally they landed on a head design that they felt could be used by all types and experience levels of lacrosse players.
Production: Finding Materials
After the design was ready to go, the focus shifted to making sure that they secured a recycled material source that was going to be able to withstand the beating that a lacrosse head takes. Re-Lax found the perfect recycled material and partner working with Columbine Plastics based out of Boulder, Colorado.
“They are 100% solar powered and they recycle their own water,” Rasmussen explained. “Their value system really just aligned with our company as well, and was made in the USA.”
“Knowing that there was going to be zero-waste used in the entire process was an absolute no-brainer for us. That has been priority number one from the get-go,” Ghitelman emphasized. “This last piece of everything, finalizing the plastics component to the head has been kind of fun.”
A major part of finalizing the plastics component was making sure that they not only have a product that was environmentally sustainable, but also durable.
“Anyone who hears ‘Hey this is recycled plastic and eco friendly materials,’ might say well is it going to stand up to the sport of lacrosse?” Ghitelman said. “That’s become a critical piece for us and we’re really excited to be at the point we’re at because we feel like we have a great solution for that and we’re able to achieve all of our sustainability goals, while having a high performance lacrosse head that will last.”
Part of the eco friendly portion of the head means that not only will it “last” in competition, but also last in the long run. The Re-Lax team hopes that the material used will allow the heads to last for years to come without becoming brittle and breaking apart like other materials.
Making the Game Affordable and the 1-4-1 Program
In addition to providing an eco-friendly option for lacrosse equipment, there was one other thing that was important for Ghitelman as he began to get more invested in Re-Lax; helping grow the game.
“You’re really seeing the fusion of Colton and my reason for getting into the lacrosse industry,” Ghitelman commented. “When you look at the lacrosse industry as a whole, it creates a massive barrier to entry when you look at just starting to play and continuing to play. The cost of goods to play our sport is really high. A big piece of what we’re inspired to do is to grow the game.”
Both Ghitelman and Rasmussen’s inspirations for growing the game comes from not only their love for the sport, but also from having spent significant time in areas of the country where lacrosse doesn’t have a major following. Rasmussen started a high school program in Montana and Ghitelman has traveled the world with the Give and Go Foundation in addition to coaching NCAA Division I lacrosse at the University of Utah.
When it came to the economics of being able to create equipment that was affordable without sacrificing quality, Ghitelman leaned on his experiences working with StringKing.
“When you’re starting to inject the molds and pump out these heads [after all the research and development and mold purchasing is done] the cost is very low, but the selling price you’ll see across the board is very high. We realized we could sell these lacrosse heads for under market price, and we still can allocate for every head we sell a head to an organization or a program across the country or world.”
By partnering with Ghitelman’s Give and Go Foundation to ship those donated heads to their recipients, the 1-4-1 Program was created. The full idea came from his time working at String King and the philanthropic portions of the company.
“I learned a lot about that and was inspired by some of the things that StringKing did, so something like this has been in the back of my mind that I always wanted to accomplish. Kudos to Colton because it was a no-brainer for him to fuse those things together,” Ghitelman said.
For every head that Re-Lax sells, they donate a head to a program or area designated by the purchaser. People are able to nominate programs, including their own, to receive donations by using the form on the company’s website.
“We’re sort of seeing things come full circle with what I do and Re-Lax Sports being able to work together to get some heads into the hands of some people that maybe can’t afford to buy the popular brand that’s out there now,” Ghitelman said.
As Re-Lax has built and grown, they’ve continued to use #ChangeTheGame, and for Ghitelman and Rasmussen, that mission is something they hold near and dear. They hope that their presence in the market will help create discussions and change in the lacrosse world.
“We really do want to influence other companies and their philanthropy and giving back and donating lacrosse heads, but we also hope that we can make an impact on the economy of the sport,” Ghitelman said. “You can buy our head for $65 instead of $120, which is half the price. You still get an extremely high performance head, and also see that as a way of giving back to the sport and giving back to others whether internationally or domestically. We hope that we can make a statement and lower the barrier of entry in the future.”
Rasmussen’s personal experience creating and recruiting for a lacrosse program in Montana are big pieces to his personal passion for trying to change the landscape of the lacrosse industry.
“There’s so many kids that are like ‘Oh, I’d love to play but I can’t afford it, so I’ll just run track. I’d rather be running around playing lacrosse. It looks way more fun, but I can’t afford it,'” Rasmussen said. “Most blue collar cities [like Great Falls, MT] are in need of something to lower the barrier of entry through donated equipment or more affordable gear. So that was a huge thing for me.”
Now as Ghitelman and Rasmussen creep closer to the launch of Re-Lax’s GameChanger head, the excitement is growing internally and externally about the stride’s they’re taking towards achieving the company’s mission.
“I have a lot of great friends in the lacrosse world and everyone is super excited about this,” Ghitelman said. “A lot of them [teammates and friends] are excited about this next step of getting the product in hand and get it moving around and start to see the impact we’re going to be able to make with the donations. It’s going to be amazing.”
The real excitement for Ghitelman might not hit until he hits the field in Foxborough with the Premier Lacrosse League later this month.
“I think when I get to PLL training camp and see all my teammates and friends and have some of these sticks in hand and have them out there on the field, that’s going to be some really important days for us,” Ghitelman said. “The support of that community can be really important for us as we move forward and that’s sort of the next piece.”
As the company moves forward, they’ll do so with a big influence from the area that both Ghitelman and Rasmussen call home now.
“We’re going to look at this more from a mountain west, snowboarder, skier, outdoors kind of theme style as we continue to move forward,” Ghitelman said. “We’re really excited to continue to develop our brand identity and spread the message of what we’re trying to do.”
For anyone interested in purchasing a Re-Lax Sports head, or learning more about the 1-4-1 Program visit https://www.relaxsportsco.com/.