Cork inventor aces it with €100k Dragons' Den investment

Noel Marshall's fitness device is used by tennis ace Roger Federer
Cork inventor aces it with €100k Dragons' Den investment

Irish inventor, Noel Marshall of Muscle Ballers Ltd pitching on BBC One's 'Dragons' Den' on Thursday night, with Olympian Marilyn Chinwenwa Okoro demonstrating his BackBaller product.

An Irish inventor whose fitness device is used by tennis ace Roger Federer hopes to target the US market after he walked out of the BBC's Dragons' Den on Thursday night with a €100,000 investment.

Noel Marshall, 45, persuaded dragon Sara Davies to invest in his company, MuscleBallers Ltd, which makes the BackBaller foam roller device, and which now plans to launch the larger BodyBaller device.

The BackBaller is used by amateur, elite and professional athletes before and after training sessions and games to avoid injury. They rest or lie on the rollers, which apply targeted pressure to release the muscle groups and joints that can easily be strained during intense training. The BodyBaller is Mr Marshall’s latest invention.

Bricky wall-building tool

He is probably best-known for inventing the Bricky wall-building tool – a device which helped bricklayers lay the perfect line of mortar.

The BackBaller foam rollers are made from high-density EVA foam and fitted with steel ball bearings, and are mounted in a frame which sits just a few centimetres off the floor, giving the user far greater control and stability over traditional foam rollers.

Mr Marshall, a father of three who is originally from Ballygarvan in Cork but who is now based in Shannon, Co Clare, said they are being used by Roger Federer and by players at clubs including Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

He was helped in the Den by Olympic athlete Marilyn Chinwenwa Okoro, who told the dragons the device had helped extend her athletics career.

“I was nervy enough going into the Den. You are a bit daunted and they do take you asunder on your numbers. But when you get into the heat of it, it was alright,” Mr Marshall said.

“I went in looking for a £100,000 investment in exchange for 5% of the business but I parted with 20%, which will come down to 10% when Sara gets her money back.

We’re aiming to get on the QVC shopping channel next month. That will expose us to an audience of hundreds of millions.” 

Despite a grilling on his figures, he impressed the dragons when he said he has sold more than 60,000 individual BackBallers and had €1.3m turnover last year.

He also impressed them when he said he has created a bespoke 16-step programme, with video tutorials on his website www.backballer.com, which help people to use the BackBaller to target key muscle groups.

BodyBaller

But he said he wants to take his company to the next level with his new invention – the BodyBaller – where the foam rollers are mounted on a bed-like frame. This device would be ideal for older people who may struggle to use the floor-based BodyBaller, he said.

“A BackBaller should be in every household and the BodyBaller will be a great tool to have in gyms, clubs, and workplaces,” he said.

A former middle-distance runner, Mr Marshall said he invented the device after being told about six years ago that he faced surgery to cure chronic lower back pain. He said regular daily use of the BackBaller effectively cured his back problems.

He now employs three people in what he described as “a very lean operation” and he told the Irish Examiner after the show that he is planning to relocate his entire production process from China back to Ireland after shipping costs soared in recent years.

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