Hometown Highlight: Xylo Bats
In 2012, Leland Wetzel didn’t know that a simple gift would inspire him to start his dream business. Wetzel made a homemade baseball bat for his nephew’s first birthday, which inspired him to pursue his own business in wooden, hand-crafted baseball bats. Wetzel is now the Founder and CEO of Xylo Bats, an approved wood baseball bat company used for professional play.
Wetzel has always been passionate about baseball and grew up playing the sport at a young age. Among his other passions, Wetzel found a hobby for woodworking after he suffered shoulder injuries during his junior high and high school years. Due to the surgeries he underwent, baseball was no longer an option for him.
Wetzel spent his time learning about wood, best practices of woodturning, and testing bats when Xylo Bats was created. His first bats were created in his parent’s garage but then moved into a small shed next to his house, where the shed produced over 100 wooden bats for the next couple of years.
What is your mission statement?
“Our mission is to create the highest quality wood baseball bats and bat products on the market. We will do this by always pushing the boundaries of innovation of bats and new products and holding ourselves to high standards throughout the entire bat building process,” said Wetzel.
What education and experiences did you have that prepared you to run a business?
Wetzel says he didn’t have previous education or experience running a business, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his goals or his determination to start a business. Now, he oversees the marketing and sales aspects of his business and has a team of hardworking individuals who manage the production of the bats.
“I had no previous business experience before I began Xylo; however, I did have knowledge in marketing and a hard work ethic and desire to create a high-quality product,” said Wetzel. “I had to learn a lot about how to run a business but have enjoyed growing it even when it is tough.”
What are some of the best highlights since owning your business?
“Getting to be a part of ChipStarter, a contest Chip Gaines put on for people to achieve their dreams. Also, getting to be a part of the MLB from 2018-2019. It was fun sending bats to players and seeing your bat being used on television and seeing what our bats could do when used at the highest level,” said Wetzel. “We have loved being the official bat of The Miracle League. They’re a great organization that gives people with disabilities the chance to play baseball and being a part of that has been incredible.”
Would you do anything differently if you had to start all over again?
“I would. When I first started, I had thought that we needed to grow very fast and that we needed to be a part of certain things and have certain machines. I wish I would’ve moved slower in the first 5-6 years,” said Wetzel.
What are some of the challenges you have faced since becoming a business owner and how did you overcome those challenges?
“We have two main challenges. First, we truly believe we make an incredible bat, but baseball is a very superstitious sport. Trying to convince players to swing our bats over other brands has been difficult. The more players using our bats, the more we see other players wanting to use our bats, so that’s been awesome to see,” said Wetzel. “Second, we have seen a large increase in wood cost over the past eight months. Trying to manage wood inventory and costs right now has been tricky, but we have focused more on our custom bats because we get paid up front for those to where our wholesale and retail are typically a NET30.”
What is your favorite thing about being a business owner?
“I love the creativity of being a business owner. I get the opportunity to create something that I love every day. Is it always fun and games? No, it is far from it, but it has given me the chance to grow in areas that I really need to grow and keep me in the game that I’ve loved for so long,” said Wetzel.
If you had one piece of advice to give to new business owners or those considering starting their own business, what would it be?
“To know your exit strategy before you begin. By knowing the end, you can create this incredible opportunity where you can visualize and create your goals to get to your exit strategy with clarity,” said Wetzel.
The plans for Xylo Bats for the next 3-5 years are continued growth and create and innovate for the future.
“In the next 3-5 years, I hope to be producing 10,000+ bats per year. I will do this by increasing the number of retail stores that carry us, becoming an official bat for summer leagues, and becoming a certified bat to major league baseball once again,” said Wetzel.
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