Made in Eastern Iowa: Sportsack and the Quest for the Perfect Grip

By  | 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Keith McKeehan had the idea for better bowling back a few decades when he was a younger man and trying to pick up spares in his spare time.

Keith and Chris McKeehan work on their collective idea, Sportsack, using beads and fabric to keep competitors' hands dry when bowling, e-gaming or in disc or traditional golf.

"I was in the industrial business and discovered this stuff sucked the moisture off your hand very quickly," Keith said. "I was an avid bowler so I decided to sew some up in the middle of a sweat sock and I did it for years. I had some friends who wanted one. Then I decided to take it to market because I knew It worked but I never did."

That's where his son, Chris, a decade after graduating high school at Cedar Rapids Jefferson came in.

"I've always dreamed of owning a business and this product really has worked and was a staple growing up bowling," said Chris. "We always have people asking for it, wanting one and creating a business around it came about after everybody wanted one. Let's make a formal product, let's make a design and see if people will, ultimately, buy it."

The garage outside of their home is where Sportsack is their business. Keith and Chris work through the orders in a garage that has become a manufacturing plant, printing facility, fulfillment center -- complete with a television and enough room to handle all of the orders.

The idea comes in the beads that go inside of fabric. The beads help absorb the moisture off a hand. Keith showed the process of just kneading the Sportsack "bag", where the hand is dry and so is the bag.

The initial target market was for bowling, where ever Keith said it's a "funky market".

"The hand dryers back then weren't very good on the lanes and I didn't need a hand dryer," said Keith. "Now we're here doing this."

Other athletic markets soon emerged. Disc golf.

"I see it growing in disc golf in the sense that it works in any weather condition," said Chris. "Our marketing – we’ve been very lucky with disc golfers and word of mouth – they tell their friends and they go seek it out."

The orders come from all over the world but also here in Eastern Iowa. Local high schools and colleges reach out to the McKeehans for products that have a school logo on them.

A new market is also emerging, one that is much larger than 30 years ago.

"E-gaming, it keeps your hands dry but doesn’t make a mess or leave any residue," Chris said.