About the Company
While running an alteration business in her garage, Beulah Hester designed an umpire ball bag for the National Softball Association (NSA) and applied for a patent on her idea.
After extensive research, the patent agent informed Beulah that the ball bag was patentable. Her design had never been done before and due to its unique design, qualified for a patent. The agent told her that in the history of baseball no one had ever patented an umpire ball bag.
At the request of the NSA, Beulah designed an umpire pullover jacket for their umpires.
A cottage type industry was started to fulfill all of the orders that came in and Beulah moved from her garage to a larger facility.
The patent agent requested a brand name for the new ball bag design. Since Beulah was now making two products for the NSA, she branded her product line Ump Attire and trademarked the name. Ump Attire Inc. was legally formed.
In order to meet the request of the NSA for customized products, Beulah purchased embroidery equipment and attended embroidery school.
The NSA orders were large, but seasonal, and in order to have a more consistent cash flow, Ump Attire Inc. started doing embroidery for the public. She continued to study the market for umpires and learned that the only way officials were able to purchase their required uniform was through catalogs. She concluded that the future would be selling through this new world wide web and that the internet would take the place of catalog orders.
The very first online retail store for sports officials, umpattire.com was launched. After only 6 days of marketing through the internet, their very first online international sale was made. It happened to be from Brent McLaren who managed the website for the Amateur Baseball Association in Canada. He put it on their website and linked it to other websites and from there other orders came.
The Director of the Eastern Kentucky Small Business Development Center heard this story and asked Beulah to speak at the annual Women in Business conference in Lexington, Ky. The conference was sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Carol Martin Gatton College of Business and Economics. The connections at the conference led to extensive media coverage and many speaking engagements for Beulah.
The patent on the ball bag was officially issued and featured in Referee Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The Lane Report, etc. Beulah was also featured in the book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes, by Steve Flairty.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) offered Ump Attire, Inc. a 5-year contract to design and manufacture a customized umpire jacket for their association, as well as customizing all of their officials’ uniforms.
In order to serve her customers well, Beulah started working with Cliff Keen Athletic in order to provide high end officials pants and shirts and began selling them online as well.
Beulah received a phone call from major league baseball umpire Gerry Davis asking her to make ball bags for his new business, Gerry Davis Sports.
With the company growing so rapidly in all areas and with Beulah being so overwhelmed by the number and diversity of the opportunities coming her way, she contacted her local Small Business Development Center, and its new Director, Kathy Moats. The biggest asset was learning her strengths and focusing on them and outsourcing her weaknesses in addition to learning the importance of writing a business plan. Beulah and Kathy continue to work closely together to date.
Ump Attire, Inc. move to a larger facility. Beulah outsourced her accounting, her website management and had in-house department managers.
Beulah was contacted by Jeannette Davis to become a partner in a new startup company that focused on embroidery and screen printing.
Ump Attire, Inc. partnered into a joint venture with The 10th Planet in Danville, Ky. Due to unforeseen differences in business practices, she requested to be released from that joint venture, but that would take some time.
Beulah had an idea for a new product that had never been on the market before and set up another company, Custom Officials Wear, LLC, that focused on product development.
Custom Officials Wear, LLC began doing business as Ump Attire again.
Kirk Interactive, owned by Jim Kirk, was hired to manager Beulah’s umpattire.com website. The website grows rapidly.
Beulah was awarded a grant for developing new product through the Kentucky Science and Technology Center in Lexington, Ky.
Beulah’s new product, the first ever sublimated basketball referee shirt, designed for both outer wear and moisture wicking, went on the market.
Beulah and website manager Jim Kirk agreed that separating the on-line sales function from Ump Attire, Inc. would allow them each to focus on their own strengths…..Jim’s being web-site development; Beulah’s being product development.
Beulah sells Jim Kirk the web domain umpattire.com while keeping the rights to the Ump Attire brand products and trademarked name.
Jim Kirk has exclusive rights to sell the Ump Attire brand until May, 2016.
Beulah begins working with an Amish family training them to manufacture some of her Ump Attire brand products.
Umpire Empire voted 2 products produced by the Amish for Ump Attire as best in their field.
Ump Attire was awarded Kentucky Small Business Success Story of the Year.
The Amish refuse to make products being sold to Jim Kirk for his umpattire.com website when they become aware that inferior, imported products were being sent to the customers instead of the official Ump Attire brand.
While searching for additional manufactures in the US to make her products, Beulah recognizes many are struggling to stay open as many manufacturing jobs were moved overseas. She commits to focusing on products made in the USA and creates the UA-USAmade brand to represent those products.
Beulah begins to offer her services as a Textile Sourcing Agent, helping clients find just the right custom look and walking them thru the entire process from dyeing the yarn to matching them with a manufacturer.
Contract with Jim Kirk, umpattire.com ends. Ump Attire brand products are no longer available thru that website.
Beulah begins selling the Ump Attire brand and the UA-USAmade brand on Amazon.com.