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Inventions

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RampShot starts taking over as a new summer favorite

Josh Bonventre shows off a RampShot prototype. Photo by Alex Petroski

Lots of people have ideas. Some say they do their best thinking in the shower. Josh Bonventre’s big idea came while driving home from his day job as a physical education teacher in the Shoreham-Wading River school district.

A few years ago, Bonventre was a typical Long Island husband and dad of three. Now he is the co-founder of RampShot, an outdoor game designed for four players which involves four racquetball-like spheres and two ramps with built-in nets. Two players make up a team and score points by either tossing the ball into the net or catching the ball after it bounces off the top of the ramp.

The idea may sound simple, but taking it from a fleeting daydream in traffic to an award-winning, booming business venture is anything but.

Bonventre, along with help from his friend and co-founder Kevin Texeira, set up shop in Bonventre’s detached garage at his Center Moriches home about two years ago. Today, the garage is bursting at the seams with office furniture and packaged RampShots waiting to be shipped.

Texeira has since moved from Mount Sinai to the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York. He is a national sales manager for a cookie company in addition to his responsibilities with RampShot.

“Right now our biggest obstacle is getting them made fast enough,” Bonventre said. Bonventre and Texeira launched the company Shore Creations in November, though RampShot is their only game so far. Their trajectory as a company is hardly the norm.

The net in which players must try to toss a ball in order to score points in RampShot. Photo by Alex Petroski
The net in which players must try to toss a ball in order to score points in RampShot. Photo by Alex Petroski

Within the first two months of the company’s launch, the duo applied to be recognized by the National Sporting Goods Association as one of its top 10 new products. By April, they were on a plane to Austin, Texas, to attend an NSGA conference and be recognized as one of the top products.  In addition, the game was featured on A&E Network’s “Project StartUp.”

“They’re a great partner for the sports industry,” Katie Nemec, director of marketing for the NSGA, said in an email about Bonventre and Texeira.

“Everyday I wake up I just can’t believe what’s happening,” Bonventre said about the success his company has experienced despite being in its infancy. “We’re still at the beginning so for us this is really exciting now. But to think about the potential for the future is sometimes overwhelming.”

Bonventre estimates that he and Texeira have invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000. Both said they dedicate between 30 and 40 hours a week to RampShot, on top of their normal work schedules and family duties.

Texeira remembers the moment when he decided it was time to fully commit to producing and selling RampShot. The partners received a phone call one evening from their attorney who informed them that their idea was 100 percent original and would not infringe on any existing patents. Texeira said that for him there was no looking back after that.

“It’s been fun for me personally,” Tim Goddeau, operations manager of Micelli Chocolate Mold Co., said in an email. His Long Island-based company manufactures the games.

“Anytime you have people who never been in the manufacturing business you get to show them how difficult it can be to make a product.”

Bonventre and Texeira are not alone.  Rather than cut short this interview, Bonventre’s wife Jackie and son Tyler rose to the occasion when a UPS truck pulled up to their house to pick up an order of 16 games.

“It’s my exercise,” Jackie Bonventre said laughing.

Tyler was somehow able to hoist three of the boxes up at a time and haul them out to the truck, despite the fact that one box seemed to be about half of his size.

“Once I saw the product I knew that he had something so I was supportive of it,” Josh Bonventre said.  “Whatever he had to do, I was in.”

Texeira fondly remembered when he decided to go to his parents and tell them about the idea.

“My dad was a Rocky Point music teacher for 35 years,” Texeira said. “He wasn’t someone who took a lot of risks.  They loved the idea that it was a game and they trusted my business background.”

Bonventre estimates more than a thousand games have been sold in the past few months.

“The other day I come home and there’s a bunch of new orders that came in while I was at work,” he said. “They were from basically every corner of the country.”

The game is currently sold in sporting goods stores in the tri-state area, the Midwest, New England and online.  Soon a few Bed Bath & Beyond locations on Long Island will carry RampShot.

“We just had somebody the other day on Facebook, somebody we don’t know posted to our wall and they have a picture of our game at the beach,” Bonventre said. “She writes ‘probably the best game to play in the sand. Probably the best game ever.’”

Bonventre stopped short of declaring RampShot and Shore Creations as his sole source of income in the future. Standing in his garage — turned small business headquarters — Bonventre daydreamed about the future again for a moment.

“Two years from now, three years from now, four years from now are we going to be selling 10,000 at a shot?” he pondered.  “We obviously won’t be able to do it here.”

Discovering the science of wind at the Maritime Explorium. Photo by Jacqueline Grennon-Brooks

By Erin Dueñas

Calling all artisans, DIYers, amateur scientists, inventors, innovators and everyone in between: The first large-scale Makers Festival is set to debut on Long Island this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center and Harborfront Park.

Presented and co-sponsored by the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, the Long Island Makers Festival 2015 will feature a broad range of interactive exhibits including 3D printing, robotics, green screen technology, performance art, African drummers, roller skating, organic gardening and even geologists setting off volcanoes. The Explorium will also be open; there will be a “meet the scientist” booth and a horseshoe crab walk is scheduled. According to festival event coordinator Cindy Morris, the aim of the festival is to encourage the people who are already actively “making” as well as to show the community that innovation can happen anywhere.

“The common thread of the Maker Movement is accessible innovation,” Morris said. “The reality is that people have great ideas. We want to empower the ones who are creating. We found some amazing people.”

Morris said that financial backers and high-tech equipment is no longer necessary for anyone looking to invent and create. “This is something anyone can do. You don’t need a $5,000 piece of equipment. People are doing these things in their living rooms and garages.”

Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto
Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto

The Maker Movement is a mash up of lovers of art, science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation who quite literally make things based on that love. “These are people who are inventors, artists and scientists who are doing incredible things. We believe it was time to showcase what is going on here on Long Island.” Morris said the festival will include a group of men who make holograms and students who created their own 3D printer. “We are taking concepts that feel big and powerful and making them accessible.”

Morris said that the festival motto is “Try it.” “The event is going to be very hands-on. No one could run an exhibit without it being interactive,” Morris said. “We are not just showing what was made, but we are focusing on what you can be doing.”

According to Lauren Hubbard, executive director of the Explorium, the festival will be an extension of what the Explorium does every day. A hands-on museum that features what Hubbard calls “open-ended exhibits,” the Explorium encourages visitors to build and create whatever they want. “You can do the same activity and get a different outcome every time,” Hubbard said. “There are just a million things that can be built.”

She said that the Makers Festival will offer visitors the same experience. “It’s all going to be hands-on and open ended,” Hubbard said. “We wanted to provide a venue for all Maker people to come together for a family friendly day. There’s going to be something for everyone.”

Melora Loffreto is the founder of the festival co-sponsor KidOYO, a program geared toward children ages 7 to 17 that teaches computer programming and coding. She said that Makers festivals and fairs have been popping up in small-scale locations such as schools and libraries across Long Island, but the Port Jefferson festival is the largest so far. “They take place in larger cities and there is a big one in Queens, but this is really the first to come out this way,” Loffreto said.

She described the Makers Movement as particularly important to Long Island. “Our youth is funneling off the Island. The festival is going to say that we have lots of Makers here, we have the skill set and we want to inspire people to keep the talent local.” She said the Makers Movement and the upcoming festival will help to keep skills in the United States. “We want to spur on inventors and to inspire local youth to go down a path of inventing and engineering.”