Mesa couple’s business caters to cornhole game craze SanTan Sun News

Mesa couple’s business caters to cornhole game craze

June 24th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Mesa couple’s business caters to cornhole game craze
Business
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By Coty Dolores Miranda, Tribune Contributor

 

Cornhole, a staple of backyard games, has become an organized sport with its own national governing board and even has state tournaments like next weekend’s third annual Arizona Cornhole Championship.

And that couldn’t make Todd and Erin Kisicki happier, since their three-year-old Mesa-based business, KB Kornhole, caters to the growing sport. They debuted in  Chandler last year.

KB Kornhole dominates the sport’s presence in the East Valley. It supplied the equipment for any number of festivals and activities where cornhole is offered, such as last fall’s Rockin’ Taco Festival in Chandler.

Todd, national director for the American Cornhole League, and his wife are not only enthusiastic fans but also founders and organizers of the state cornhole championship, which will be held in downtown Phoenix at Ability 360 Sports & Fitness Center.

Four years ago, the couple never dreamed of starting a business built around their pastime when they were tossing resin-filled beanbags at the 2-by-4-foot inclined wooden boards built by Todd’s father, Ron, in his garage.

“We thought we might start a little family business making the boards and renting them out, but we quickly learned how time-consuming that was and how we had some real competition,” recalled Todd, adding they now exclusively use boards made by Original Cornhole Company.

At the time, Todd was teaching technology at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Erin was a social worker. They decided to try their hand at promoting a cornhole tournament to help benefit UMom New Day Centers in Phoenix.

They did so at Carriage Lane, a beanbag’s throw from their Mesa residence.

“We found we were good at it,” said Todd admitting his abilities with building their website, graphic design and using software to organize players and keep scores added to their success.

“I just started shooting out emails and making phone calls to see if anyone was interested in our organizing tournaments. And through word of mouth, we started doing more fundraisers and corporate team-building events, he explained, adding:

“It was also about this time that I asked around to see if there was a state tournament, and when I learned there wasn’t, I grabbed the name – Arizona State Cornhole Championships – and ran with it.”

The first state competition was in Queen Creek; the second year, the couple decided to organize a Backyard Games Day at WestWorld, complete with vendors and food booths.

“It was a successful event, as there were a lot of people – around 1,300 – but it was tough and I lost too much money,” Todd said. “I probably made a lot of mistakes – all those things any first-time festival organizer has done. I decided my value is enough. I don’t need to pay for a venue. I can bring in enough people and money to help other organizations.”

This year’s Arizona State Cornhole Competition is benefiting their wheelchair basketball team.

Erin, who unlike her husband, did not leave her day job, is active in KB Kornhole events that are mainly on weekends

But her passion for the company and the sport is strong.

“This community we’ve built means so much to me,” said Kisicki, assistant director of training at Child Family Support Services in Ahwatukee.

“Owning our own company is the ultimate American dream, one where everyone is welcome, valued and connected to something bigger and greater. We definitely have fun at our events, and I truly believe our mission is to bring people together, one cornhole game at a time. Regardless of where you come from or where you’re going, it’s a universal sport for everyone,” she added.

One of KB Kornhole and cornhole’s staunchest fans is Jack Edlund, who started playing cornhole about four years ago in his Augusta Ranch community in Mesa.  

“Several individuals were throwing bags under an awning at the Augusta Ranch Golf Course and I asked to play. I became hooked and played there every week,” he said, adding:

“I became fascinated with the complexity of a seemingly easy game. I learned there was a more competitive tournament every Wednesday at The Hub, and I’ve been going to that tourney every since, and am now running it.”

Edlund, 52, credits KB Kornhole with the growing popularity of the sport and quality of the tournaments.

“Most of the Arizona players go to Todd’s events because they’re well run and are a very consistent format. I met Todd a few years ago and was impressed with his organization and social skills running these events. He and his wife, Erin, do an amazing job and that is why ESPN and other states across the country have used KB Kornhole to run their big tournaments,” Edlund said.

“KB Kornhole will became a national leader very soon with their exposure and all the new players they have introduced to a simple, but extremely fun sport.”

Ahwatukee resident Scott Salzetti admits to being “a newbie,” having started a year ago playing on the patio at Native Grill & Wings after watching from the sidelines for a while.

“It did take some time for me to get the nerve to throw a bag for the first time in front of others who’d been playing socially for quite a while,” said Salzetti, chief human resources officer for Abrazo Community Health Network.

Soon, Salzetti’s wife, Wendy, and son, Brannon, were part of the cornhole action, entering as a team at local KB Kornhole tournaments. Salzetti said they now own a set of boards and bags to practice in their own backyard so they can continue to advance in tournaments. He, too, laud’s KB Kornhole’s finesse in organizing and running tournaments.

“Todd and Erin run seamless tournaments aligning players with competition that will match their skill level. The tournaments don’t have age restrictions so you can bring your entire family out for fun,” said Salzetti.

Chandler couple Beth Hanson and Angie Hallmark were familiar with cornhole as a tailgating activity, and they never took it seriously until they came across a tournament run by KB Kornhole.

“We absolutely love the cornhole community, and KB Kornhole has been instrumental in getting us where we are now,” said Hanson. “Todd and Erin are always so supportive and do a great job at welcoming new people. I would love to see the sport continue to grow and would especially love to see more women get involved. This is something anyone can take part in, even if you don’t have experience.”

Fundraisers for schools, organizations and even individuals in need are a big part of KB Kornhole’s events. Mountain Pointe High School Football Boosters held their first cornhole tournament in  May at Desert Foothills Park.

“KB Kornhole came recommended by booster members who have attended other events run by Todd at KB,” said Shari Vogel, co-vice president whose son Alex, a junior, plays offensive line for the Pride. “We chose them because they provide everything needed to run the tournament including the boards, sound system, registration system, and personnel to run the tournament, and all for a very reasonable fee.”

These benefits and the tournaments that return a portion to charity are close to Todd and Erin Kisicki’s hearts.

“I love that we’re able to give back to the community and have our company strive to provide cornhole for a cause,” said Erin. “Running a business means long hours and a lot of hard work, but I can’t think of a more fun adventure to be part of.”

The championships, on June 15-16, are open to the public and offer various entry divisions. Preregistration is required at KBGamesllc.com.

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