Pat Benson: Mini Helmet Madness; Business Arose From Maryville College Dorm

Monday, May 31, 2021 - by Pat Benson

Like most sports fanatics, I completely nerd out over new equipment. Especially football helmets. That’s why I became interested in the mini helmets sold by 97 Sports Promotions. Not only are they the perfect gift for fans and athletes of any age, but the business epitomizes the American dream. The company started as a one-man show in a dormitory on Maryville College’s campus back in 2005.

Doug Carter’s parents had owned a sign company for over four decades, and they whipped something up for the freshman punter.

When he wasn’t on the field or in the classroom, Carter discreetly started building his own business. “I have been the sales guy, the production guy, the logistics guy, the purchaser, the delivery man, you name it.”

Carter added, “I would be remiss if I did not include my parents as part of the team. I would never be where I am today without not only their support and business mentorship but their patience and their hard work for me.”

He continued, “So I have been at their office learning all about the printing and design process, and I see how much time and effort it takes just to make decals happen for one single mini helmet. I am so appreciative of them. Sometimes they push me to the top of their list so that I can meet deadlines for banquets, senior nights, etc., and I know I am extremely fortunate to have them in my corner.”

The business has come a long way since the Maryville College dorm. Carter has mastered the supply chain and logistics to keep the cost down for customers. “We have sold our products into 30 states and Canada. Partnerships, game sponsorships, and much more were some exciting things we experienced over the last year. Our newest excitement is being able to provide teams with full-size decals for their actual game helmets.”

When speaking with Carter, it is easy to feel the passion he has for top-notch customer service. The same goes for his newest team member, Jeff Cate. The sales executive said, “There are so many parts I like about 97 Sports Promotions. If I have to choose one thing, besides the helmets, of course, it is working with customers and making their visions become a reality and giving them a true one-of-a-kind item that you will not find anywhere else. Like Doug said, getting messages when they receive their helmets and loving the finished product puts a smile on my face as well!”

Cate explained how they’re teaming up with local football teams for fundraisers, “It’s a great way for programs to earn money without having to commit a single dollar! For every helmet sold, the programs get 20% back. The only thing the program has to do is promote our website to purchase, and we take care of the rest!”

97 Sports Promotions continues to expand. You can catch their team making sales under the Friday Night Lights, order online, and reach out to them via social media with additional questions. Thanks to the superb quality of the products, the sky is the limit for 97 Sports Promotions. Carter said, “My goals are to be a ‘household name’ in the football, baseball, and softball world in Tennessee in the next couple of years and continue throughout the country. There are not many of us out there in the mini helmet industry, so I want to continue to work hard and be consistent to become one of the big names. I truly appreciate each and every order that comes in. I am seeing a lot of returning customers and referrals, which means the world to me.”

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Pat Benson is the author of 'Kobe Bryant's Sneaker History (1996-2020)' which was named a #1 New Release on Amazon. He has covered the NBA for Forbes.com, and interviewed some of the biggest personalities in the sport. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr.




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