Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

The Next Big Thing?: Training Mask at a Crossroads

Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

The Next Big Thing?: Training Mask at a Crossroads

Article excerpt

Casey Danford, CEO and founder of Training Mask Inc., paced restlessly across the production floor pondering to himself, "I'm taking a huge risk making a change. Which option should I choose?" Casey had achieved great success marketing his high-altitude simulation training mask to hard core training enthusiasts. These included cyclists, runners, firefighters, members of the armed services, and anyone with an occupation that required high levels of physical fitness. His company was dominating his current market, but he wanted to expand to the "next level." He asked himself, "Just where was that next level? If I make the wrong move, will it trash all of the hard work I've done and success I have earned? What should I do?"

Casey reviewed his choices. He asked himself, "What is the next step? If I go big and find new markets by expanding to the less serious, weekend athlete, how will my current customers react to any changes? On the other hand, should I expand into the medical device field? Or lastly, I could make the safer choice and just stay where I am."


After graduating from college, Casey struggled to find what he wanted to do with his life. As a college football player, he had developed a side business selling dietary supplements to athletes. Eventually he sold this business to pay off his college debts. Unemployed, he lived with his parents to save money. Seeking further opportunities, Casey developed a new protein-based body building supplement called "Fight Fuel." Using his profits, he paid $26,000 for a foreclosed house which he renovated into a residence and office.

While watching TV as he sat on his parents' couch, he saw a show with the Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) fighter, Sean Sherk, training while wearing a gas mask with several holes poked in the sides of the mask. Sean found this restricted breathing mask improved his breathing performance during matches. Because Casey sold Fight Fuel to a number of MMA fighters, he was able to meet Sean and discuss the athlete's restricted breathing training method.

Casey saw an opportunity. He knew someone that could get Israeli gas masks for him at a very low cost. He also knew a manufacturer who had a threading machine capable of creating the threading for attachments that would fit onto an Israeli gas mask. Taking a risk, Casey had molds made to manufacture special attachments that could be screwed onto the gas masks.

Casey created several breathing resistance levels by drilling a different number of holes in each attachment. The greater the number of holes in an attachment meant the lower the resistance there was. Using a different color of plastic for each resistance level, Casey created three levels of resistance. Turning the renovated house into a small manufacturing base, Casey and a few friends cleaned the used gas masks and packaged them with the three resistance level screw-on attachments. The Training Mask was born.

Through aggressive selling, Casey made a name for his new company. Soon, a number of MMA fighters were working out using the new training mask. Word-of-mouth quickly spread information about the new product and a number of YouTube videos were aired with athletes preparing for matches while wearing the new Training Mask. It became a popular item among the hardcore MMA community.

However, this success was to be short-lived. First there was some consumer resistance, from women especially. Many women resisted wearing the mask because they thought it was ugly. In addition, the Israeli gas masks were so well made that they were virtually indestructible, eliminating the need for replacement. Finally, world events conspired against him. A resurgence of Israeli/Palestinian violence increased the demand for gas masks which dramatically increased his supply costs, but Casey felt that he could not raise his prices.

Development of the Training Mask Version 2.0

Improvements to the training masks were always in the back of his mind, but these changes were accelerated when supply issues surfaced. …

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