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Throwable Paintballs Made by Lehigh Valley Startup Now Available at Michaels Stores

By Colin McEvoy on June 15, 2018

Mezzimatic founder with a Goblies display at a Michaels store.

Goblies Throwable Paintballs, which started as a homework assignment in a Lehigh University technical entrepreneurship course, are now available for purchase in Michaels stores across the country and online.

Mezzimatic, the Bethlehem-based startup that designs and manufactures the marble-sized paintballs, has signed an exclusive deal to sell Goblies and other products in Michaels department stores through July 4.

“I feel like I’m on a new playground,” Gardell said. “I am enjoying tackling the new challenges and opportunities that this stage of the business presents.”

Mezzimatic was founded by Briana Gardell, a 26-year-old Lehigh University graduate, who designed paintballs that can be thrown by hand as part of a master’s-level Technical Entrepreneurship course at Lehigh University.

She turned that idea into the product Goblies, and she formed her own company with help from resources and organizations like Ben Franklin TechVentures, the SoBeCoWorks co-working space, and the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ).

“Before I started the business, I don’t think I fully grasped the importance of being in an entrepreneurial ecosystem like Bethlehem” Gardell said. “Now I wouldn’t want to build my business anywhere else.”

Now Goblies – as well as Play Paint, a Mezzimatic product designed to be used in water guns – can be found at Michaels, which currently operates more than 1,200 stores in North America. A promotional video by the arts and crafts retail chain can be seen below:

“There is no doubt that Goblies is one of the biggest economic development stories of the year,” said Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez. “As a former educator, it’s encouraging to see what essentially started out as a class project evolve into a real world application. I’m excited for Briana and looking forward to the future success of Goblies.”

Gardell entered Goblies into the EUREKA! Ventures Competition in November 2014 at Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. She won the grand prize, which led her to work out of the Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator.

She also sought crowdfunding support through a successful Kickstarter campaign in July 2015, where she exceeded her $8,000 goal and raised $9,368 from 175 backers. Following her stay at Ben Franklin, Gardell moved into SoBeCoWorks, which provided her space to start building a manufacturing facility.

Mezzimatic also received receiving two technology transfer grants from the Southside Bethlehem KIZ totaling $30,000, and will be able to take advantage of up to $100,000 in KIZ Tax Credits annually, according to Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator.

“Briana Gardell’s success speaks to the power of collaboration between Lehigh University, the KIZ, and the City of Bethlehem” said Adrienne Washington, Assistant Vice-President, Community & Regional Affairs at Lehigh University and a KIZ board member. “Lehigh University is committed to support innovation and entrepreneurship in South Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.”

Golbies have also been featured at the New York City Toy Fair in 2016, and has been sold by nearly three dozen independent retailers.

LVEDC produced a video about Goblies and Mezzimatic in 2016, which includes an interview with Gardell. The video can be seen below:

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