Starting a business was not something Mike Wolf, a retired college administrator, and his wife, Jean, a nurse, had planned to do. They never even thought about it.
But one day, as Mike was shopping at the local grocery store to purchase food for a party the couple was hosting, he saw a beer display that included a goal post, and the idea for First-N-Ten was born.
Excited, Mike rushed home and began drawing pictures and coming up with the concept for the game, a hybrid of football, Frisbee, and horseshoes. Players toss discs toward one of two goal posts, earning points for hitting it, going through it, or landing on one. The first team to 21 wins.
“I sent him out to the grocery store,” Jean Wolf said. “He came home with no food; he came home with an idea.”
Over the next two and a half years, Mike and Jean developed several prototypes for their game, perfecting it through trial and error. The started using a five-gallon bucket for the base, but found that it was too heavy to transport easily. A platform they tried was too bulky. Then, with the help of a friend, the Wolfs invented their patent-pending five-pin base design that supports the goal posts, which are made of furniture-grade PVC pipe and fittings. Jean Wolf noted that the game “is Buffalo tested”—it has literally been put in the freezer to ensure that it would be durable, even through a Buffalo winter.
To finance the manufacturing of their game, the Wolfs cashed in retirement savings and received help from their children, who invested in the business and are now part owners. With the intent of launching the game right before the 2016 football season, the couple ordered 1,500 units. However, they did not receive their order until just before Christmas, and a rainy 2017 spring postponed the launch until late in the season. Working with a marketing representative, the couple was able to sell the game in 10 local Wegmans grocery stores, and it is also available for purchase online and at local events. They have had sales in 30 states and Canada. Despite a slow start, the Wolfs are optimistic about their business.
“We did not make that much money last year,” Mike Wolf said, “but this year is looking very promising.”