Matthew D. Ames, President and CEO of MN Pro Paintball, Inc. based in Burnsville, Minn., has been named the Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year is selected annually based on success as measured by sales and profits, increased employment opportunities created by the business, development and/or utilization of innovative or creative business methods, and demonstrated entrepreneurial potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth. If this wasn’t enough, all of these accomplishments are done before the Young Entrepreneur reaches the age of thirty (30). Michael Ryan, Director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, nominated Matt for this award.
Matt started MN Pro Paintball in 2002 and he currently operates a 200 acre outdoor paintball park in Lakeville, retail stores in Burnsville and Minnetonka, and an online store. Based in Burnsville, the business has grown from a one-man operation to eight full-time and as many as 50 part-time employees during the peak season, and has profitable grown to nearly $1 million in annual sales.
Matt began MN Pro Paintball as a senior at Lakeville High School, then commuting between Minnesota State University Mankato and the Paintball Park in Lakeville. In the fall of 2005, Matt was accepted into the Entrepreneurship Program at the University of St. Thomas. Within two years, Matt graduated and opened the first retail store in Burnsville.
Rich Rexelsen, a professor of marketing at St. Thomas as well as Matt’s mentor and academic advisor commented, “Matt has shown remarkable tenacity for his willingness to meet people and do the market development that is necessary for this business.” The numbers reflect this, averaging 15% sales growth during the past three years.
Matt was born missing a chamber of his heart. Although Matt would suffer from heart problems for the rest of his life, it didn’t stop him from living life to the fullest. As a child, he played hockey until his doctor would no longer sign his physical. Matt was looking for a new sport when he saw an advertisement for paintball.
Paintball is a sport in which players compete, in teams or individually, to eliminate opponents by tagging them with capsules containing water soluble dye and gelatin shell outside (paintballs) propelled from a paintball gun. The game is regularly played at a sporting level with organized competition involving worldwide leagues, tournaments, professional teams, and players.
Games are played on outdoor or indoor fields of varying sizes. A game field is scattered with natural or artificial terrain, which players use for tactical cover. Rules for playing paintball vary, but can include capture the flag, elimination, ammunition limits, defending or attacking a particular point or area, or capturing objects of interest hidden in the playing area. Depending on the variant played, games can last from seconds to hours, or even days in scenario play.
Matt played paintball every possible chance from the time he was thirteen years old. From playing in his backyard to participating in competitive tournaments, paintball was Matt’s life. Eventually this passion led him to open MN Pro Paintball.
His commitment to the community goes beyond his business, as MN Pro Paintball regularly contributes to charitable causes. Most significantly, they have contributed more than $50,000 to the cardiac unit at Children’s Hospitals through the Challenge for Children’s charity paintball event which is gearing up for its fourth annual event on May 20th.