By GARY BUDZAK

By GARY BUDZAK

ThisWeek Community Newspapers

Hilliard resident and HelmetMug founder/president Doug Lessells likes to tout the multiple functions of his product.

“There is every kind of mug out there, and every kind of bottle or can cooler, but there is literally nothing that does both, and looks like your favorite team’s football helmet,” he said.

The HelmetMug can also be used as a collectible desk caddy available in the logos and colors of 11 college and 13 NFL teams, but perhaps the product’s most important function is as a charitable moneymaker.

“The charities will never pay more than $5 for the mug, and they will sell it for a minimum of $10,” Lessells said. “If you get Peyton Manning and some of these big guys to sign the mug, you can sell them for $50. I’m excited about the possibility of working with a lot of current and former NFL players and their charities, and auctioning off or selling autographed mugs for their foundation.”

Lessells said he recently got the OK to supply HelmetMugs to the BuckeyeThon (Ohio State University) and THON (Penn State University) student philanthropies. Helmet Mugs are also being used to help a growing list of organizations and former players with their charities. They’re even being given away on “The Jerome Bettis Show” in Pittsburgh and on WSYX-TV, where Lessells co-hosts “The Football Fever” Buckeye pre- and post-game programs.

“I donate five HelmetMugs to any charity that asks,” Lessells said. “Beyond five mugs, we work out a deal. We want to work with nonprofits where they make the lion’s share of the profits.”

HelmetMugs are available online at helmetmug.com, at Buckeye Corner, Buckeye Room, College Traditions, Conrads, Giant Eagle, Kroger and Station 88 at the Ohio Union, Lessells said. They retail for $7.99 to $10.

“It’s a $10 item. I don’t think it’s a $20 or $25 item. Is it something that people have to have? No, but is it something that people will want to have and enjoy? So far, the response has been yes from the fans. Our inventory is sold out (to stores). We did 9,000 Ohio State mugs since last December. Right now, we have 44,000 Helmet Mugs in stores for this fall. We’ll be bringing more December.”

He’s also looking to expand the product line to other major colleges and the entire NFL.

Lessells said the mugs were out 20 years ago and known as Team Mugs, and sold for $20.

“I always thought the product was great. The original company never attempted to revive it, so I redesigned it three years ago, made it more modern and authentic-looking, and got a patent on it.”

Saying he sacrificed yard work and home improvement projects, Lessells tested the product personally before pitching it to the public by attending tailgate parties, watching football games and drinking hot and cold beverages.

“Sure it was hard work, but I’d do it again for the good of the fans,” he said. “After all, there’s no ‘I’ in HelmetMug.”

Eric George/ThisWeek

Hilliard resident and local sportscaster Doug Lessells has started his own business making helmet-shaped drink holders, HelmetMug.