Gloves are rapidly becoming as widespread as cleats in ultimate. Leading the new class of gloves is Toronto-based Mint Ultimate, founded by Andrew Oh. Skyd sat down with Andrew to learn more about the rise of Mint and the future of gloves and his company.
Skyd: Who are you and what’s your background in the sport of ultimate?
Andrew: My name is Andrew Oh. My educational background lies in Psychology and Entrepreneurship. I’ve been playing ultimate for over eight years, which includes one year with York University’s frisbee team.
Outside of Mint and the sport of ultimate, I usually spend most of my free time reflecting, ambitiously dreaming and planning. Some call me crazy, but I’ve come to embrace it. I believe crazy is a term people use to describe normal people who they don’t quite understand, and you have to be a little crazy to do the things that normal people wouldn’t normally do.
Why did you create Mint Gloves? What’s the story of how it got started?
I created the Mint gloves for obvious reasons; I felt there had to be something better for ultimate- giving quality and utility to players. I wanted to create a glove that is more than what is out there. Everyone is being very one-dimensional with how they think gloves benefit their performance, focusing only on grip. It’s like what Steve Jobs said, “people don’t know what they want until they see it”. Things like a toweled thumb, padding, and better control over the flick are additions to a glove that provide additional utility, but it’s not something that a customer/player would normally think of, so we do it for them.
How I got started is another story.
Two years ago, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I love frisbee and business, so I wanted to start my own company. As a player, I’d experienced first hand the lack of proper equipment. I remember using inadequate football gloves in my high school games, so this further motivated my personal reasons to start a company for ultimate. The problem was, I didn’t even know how to build a company up to launch. I was still at university at the time, and so I decided to sneak into an MBA entrepreneurship class the week the winter semester started at Schulich School of Business in 2014. Well, I got caught by the professor, but I think she saw I was determined to become something more, so she gave me permission to enroll in her undergraduate class.
In 2014, after observing over 30 games, my friends and I found that gloves with added tack did not improve catch rates significantly. We actually found more often that the disc would bounce off hands, there would be minor hand injuries, and people were always wiping sweat with the back of their palm. The conclusion we made was that improving your catch rate may depend more upon training and skill.
From there, I did research into making a glove while learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. Once I had what we call a ‘golden sample’ (a market-ready product), I took a loan, placed the stock order, and launched Mint in February of 2015.
What were some of the challenges in creating Mint Gloves?
Grip was probably the biggest challenge. Originally, I had made some glove samples that were way too tacky to throw with, and this took months to get right. Communicating this was tricky to my glove makers.
Design was another issue. I tried many different designs and sampled with a horde of manufacturers, but the samples were never perfect. On the chalkboard, I noted things that would give players an edge that no glove offered. I came up with a toweled thumb and a rough idea for a padding design under the fingers. However, when translated to paper and sampled, it just wasn’t good enough aesthetically, so I began looking towards other gloves for inspiration. I found a glove design that wasn’t specific to ultimate, but it had the perfect fit I was looking for, so I chose the specific materials and processed leathers with reduced tack and properties to make it an ultimate-specific glove.
We’re now prototyping our next line of gloves that are even more specific to the sport.
How have people responded to Mint Gloves? Why do you think gloves have become so popular in ultimate?
I’ve talked to a TON of players who have used our glove. The response has been mixed. In contrast to what’s out there, I intended to make a glove with the first priority being to throw and second to catch. But with catching in mind, we took a different approach.
Players tend to look at frisbee gloves and immediately have the expectation of something that will improve their catch rates, but they completely overlook all the factors that go into the process of making a perfect catch, both mentally and physically. There are players that thoroughly enjoy the glove mainly for the balanced grip, the incredible fit and utility, but there are others who were disappointed with the lack of grip. One glove cannot satisfy everyone’s preferences, but I’m cooking up a few things that will give other players what they want.
When creating our first glove, I stuck by a philosophy that I felt differentiated us from the other glove options on the market:
“A frisbee glove is meant to facilitate the execution of a thrower’s intent. If there is any interference in this communication, then the glove is too tacky or ill-fitted to throw with.”
This is one of our secrets to creating a great ultimate glove, and I believe this is what separates us from everyone else. Handlers like Nick Hirannet (Captain, Philadelphia Spinners) and Ben Breault (Atlanta Hustle) use our gloves for this very reason. High utility and our zen style have been integral parts of how we communicate our vision into the gear we make. This is frisbee, not football, and I’ve played both for over eight years to know the difference between gear that is optimized for either one.
I think gloves are becoming popular due to the benefits offered in various weather conditions. You’re starting to see more people wear them during warm weather conditions because players feel it gives them an edge managing sweaty grips. Some like the feel and aesthetics of it, and others use it for protection. For example, Barrs Lang from the San Francisco Flamethrowers told me that he started wearing our glove when his hand ended up quite raw after a sliding catch. Like football, I don’t believe gloves should just be used for wet or cold conditions. I created the Mint gloves to be used primarily in dry, warmer conditions but I’m working on something that will be wet-ready due to demand.
What’s next for Mint?
We have an improved version of the original glove called The Cutter, now available in store. This is the sport’s first position specific glove, and it’s like a toolbox in one glove.
The Cutter features leather molds to the form of the hand, giving that player more flexibility and a customized fit after repeated use. I think players are really going to like breaking this one in. While it can be used in wet conditions, I wouldn’t recommend using it in drenched environments and climates.
We’ve added some discs to the store, but we’re also working on an apparel segment, several gloves, and more.
If you keep up with our website’s news section from time to time, you may find hints about what’s being unveiled in the near future. On the front, we may seem a little inactive, but there is a lot that’s happening behind the scenes. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter at mintultimate.com to stay up to date with our latest news and product releases!