Epoch Lacrosse is expanding, moving from Eden Prairie to Roseville to accommodate an operation that has in the past year doubled revenue and added new employees in sales, engineering and finance.
The maker of premium lacrosse equipment also is trying to appeal to the trends of the sport, for example keeping its one-year warranty intact even if the players trick out their sticks' heads — the frame at the end where the ball is carried — with a custom dye job. That's different from most competitors.
"We understand and fully support the head-dying community and marvel at the creativity and the craftsmanship that goes into these one-off works of art," said James Miceli, principal of Epoch Lacrosse. "At the end of the day, our engineers and material suppliers confirmed there really was no evidence that lacrosse heads were weakened by the color dying process."
Employees, Miceli said, have a passion for the sport and regularly huddle at the same desk to watch new lacrosse videos on YouTube.
The videos are more than entertainment. Miceli said sometimes they get more genuine feedback from the videos than from focus groups.
"It's brutal, brutal honesty sometimes," he said.
The company listened to feedback, knowing that Epoch's Otter Mesh at $40 was a "barrier to entry" for some, finding a way to lower the retail price to $29.99.
The company last week also announced a new generation stick made with advanced manufacturing techniques that allow Epoch to vary the amount of material along the shaft. The result is a lighter and more responsive stick called the Gen.6 Dragonfly.
"It's the most significant jump in technology from one generation to the next," Miceli said.
Lacrosse is both the oldest and fastest-growing team sport in North America.
The young players, Miceli likes to point out, are technologically adept and the most willing generation to adopt new technologies in their personal and sporting lives.
Epoch targets those players with advanced designs, materials and construction techniques.
Epoch made its mark in the industry with its durable, high-performance, carbon-fiber shaft. Thanks to a proprietary carbon-fiber manufacturing technique, the company produces sticks that are lighter, more responsive and more durable than metal alloy sticks.
As Miceli's staff has grown from seven to 12 employees, Miceli said he has had to change his role. He has stepped away from some of the day-to-day activities to focus more on strategic long-term plans.
"My role has changed because I've put the right people in place," Miceli said. "I've got 12 people coming in every day. I've got to give them direction."
The change in day-to-day duties gave Miceli the time to find and negotiate a lease for the 10,000 square feet of new space in Roseville. Miceli got keys to the new space on Sept. 18, and the company will move in fully in the coming weeks.
The new space will accommodate the staff's growth and allow for more product design, research and development, he said.
Paul Bilotta, the community development director for the city of Roseville, helped attract Epoch to the city.
"We are excited because Epoch is a technology leader in sporting goods and, for whatever reason, we've sort of moved into that niche." Bilotta said.
In the past six months, Bilotta said, Hed Cycling Products, maker of carbon-fiber rims and other bike components, also moved to Roseville.
Bilotta said Roseville is attractive to small, fast-growing companies because the city has many facilities owned by a single property ownership. That allows companies to more easily move from building to building if they outgrow their existing space.
Whether it's a new shaft, making the price of their mesh more attainable or letting players indulge their creative sides Epoch wants to give kids more reasons to give their products a try.
"We are all lacrosse players," Miceli said. "If we can get the products into the hands of more players we are thrilled."