Sports Business In My Backyard: Lowell’s Xenith, LLC.
When my appliance repairman told me that he had a service call at a football helmet manufacturer in Lowell, I had to find out more. This company was literally in my backyard (just two miles from my home in Dracut) and I knew nothing about them. After a quick google search, I found Xenith, LLC
I then reached out to Xenith’s PR director, Hillary Rose who was nice enough to connect me with the founder and CEO, Vin Ferrara. In this interview, Vin and I discuss Xenith’s advancements in football helmet design, concussion safety, Ray Rice, Nick Buoniconti and the Lowell, Massachusetts headquarters.
BST&N: How has Xenith become a “game changer” in the football helmet industry?
Vin Ferrara: Xenith has been on the forefront of both innovation and education. We have made it our mission to not only provide athletes the most innovative products, but also do what we can to make sure they are educated. Xenith was the first helmet manufacturer to stress the importance of education and to help athletes understand that all concussive symptoms must be taken seriously.
BST&N: With concussion awareness and safety at the forefront of players minds, how do Xenith football helmets put them at ease?
VF: It’s really about giving athletes the feeling that they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves while performing at the highest level, while also ensuring that they know that no helmet can absolutely prevent all injuries. Xenith is also evidence that advances can be made in the industry.
Xenith was the first helmet manufacturer to steer away from dense padding in helmets, which were originally designed to prevent skull fractures, and instead develop a technology that is designed to adapt to all hits experienced on the field. We have put players at ease from youth levels through the NFL with our advances in technology but most importantly we put players, coaches, parents, athletic trainers and officials at ease by providing them with the most up to date information about safety.
BST&N: How do you educate your customers’ on the Xenith football helmet’s innovative design and safety features? Tell me more about the Xenith Academy and the Enlightened Warriors.
VF: Xenith is trying to create Enlightened Warriors, players that are leaders and perform well on and off the football field. We have created Xenith Academy, an online resource for players, coaches, parents, athletic trainers and officials to interact through social networking and also educate themselves on the resources Xenith Academy has to offer.
Our Xenith Academy curriculum includes interviews with players we believe are great role models, proper tackling technique instruction, concussion management, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion and the Enlightened Warrior Creed. Xenith Academy is where Enlightened Warriors go to educate themselves and interact with others.
BST&N:What is your most successful market, high school, college or professional?
VF: We have focused heavily on the high school and youth markets, which make up the vast majority of football participants. We’re building a new generation of players, and most of the more than 100,000 helmets we’ve sold are on high school and youth players.
BST&N: Which NFL players wear your helmet currently?
VF: Some big name players that wear our helmet currently are Ray Rice, Dallas Clark, Ricky Williams, and Matt Birk. Some young players who wear our helmet, after wearing it in college, are Clifton Geathers and Willie Young. This shows that we’re being accepted by veteran stars and young players alike.
BST&N: Marcellus Wiley was quoted in saying that “The Xenith helmet is far superior to the rest of the helmets I’ve seen in the league.” Why hasn’t the NFL adopted Xenith helmets as their official helmets?
VF: Unfortunately, the NFL has had a long standing relationship with Riddell, but it has been reported that the NFL will not be renewing its official helmet deal with Riddell when it expires, which we believe will be in a couple of years.
Xenith believes, and it has been discussed in recent Congressional hearings, that having an “official helmet” of the league is actually misleading to consumers and can be detrimental to innovation. We believe that more NFL players will wear our helmet in the future, especially as they start to see other players wearing it, and as the new generation of players rise up.
BST&N: How did NFL Great Nick Buoniconti get involved with Xenith?
VF: I was introduced to Nick early in the company’s history, and I then asked Nick to join the company’s Board of Directors based on Nick’s diverse experience as a player, attorney, business leader, and advocate for medical research. Nick was impressed with Xenith’s mission, and felt a strong passion for improving the safety of football players of all ages.
BST&N: Why did Xenith choose Lowell, MA as their headquarters?
VF: I was introduced to several professors at UMass Lowell early in the company’s history, and I felt that Lowell was a great place to locate Xenith. Lowell has a lot to offer growing businesses, from the space in its mill and factory buildings, to its city-like resources and community feel.
BST&N: How does Xenith give back to the local community?
VF: Xenith has been involved with Lowell High School and Lowell General Hospital. For the past three years, Lowell General Hospital and Xenith have donated helmets to Lowell High School to make sure each football player has his own helmet throughout his 4 years playing. We also work with several staffing agencies to hire local workers at our warehouse and distribution facility as well as our corporate office – at our busiest time we had as many as 80 people working at our facility at once.
It is refreshing that Xenith puts players’ safety and giving back to the community at the forefront of their business activities. This shows that it’s not all about making money. It’s caring about your clients well-being and the health of your own backyard.
I would like to thank Hillary Rose and Vin Ferrara agian for sharing their company’s story with me. I look forward to visiting their Lowell headquarters in the coming weeks.