Doug Marshall followed his dream, literally.
Four years ago he had a dream that he was at a football game and two men had their faces painted. The paint was rubbing off on their clothes and making a mess. Marshall envisioned creating a full-face temporary tattoo with all of the detail of face paint but without the mess.
After a few weeks of thinking about that dream, he decided to see if anyone else had tried a similar product. Marshall, 50, of Tyler, hired a New York patent attorney, who researched it and told him to go forward with applying for a patent.
“I've always wanted to own my own business,” he said.
Marshall is heavily into sports, coaching the soccer teams of his children, Will, 10, and Katie, 12, and is a big fan of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys.
He started by creating a line for college football, making a red and black split face for his alma mater, Texas Tech University. He soon added more colors to fit just about any high school or college team and added designs, such as the zebra, quad, checked and striped faces.
Marshall trademarked the phrase, “Put Your Game Face On,” which he uses as the company's slogan.
He works with a local graphic designer, Carol Levy, who helps him come up with different designs, and he soon grew his business to include a Halloween/costume line, including the skeleton, witch, pirate and gator faces. He also has added a zoo animal line, consisting of cheetah, zebra and tiger faces, and a festival line including flower power and butterfly faces.
The skeleton face is one of his biggest sellers. “We can hardly keep this in stock,” he said. “We keep running out of faces … It is constant restocking.”
He makes Kiss faces that the band sells at concerts and he made Green Hornet faces for the movie's debut in Spain. Four months ago, a Mexican company cleaned him out of every blue and white face he had. And his United Kingdom distributor designed and sold faces with different countries' flags, including the English, Welch and U.K. flags, for the 60th anniversary for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
His custom work has taken off, Marshall said. For a 300-order minimum, customers can create their own design and put their own headers or coupons on the packaging, so The Game Face Co. isn't represented on the product.
Marshall has received licensing from Mossy Oak and created camouflage faces for hunters, which Wal-Mart is interesting in selling at its stores, he said. Three months ago, the U.S. Navy bought some of his camouflage and tiger faces for testing at its Naval Research Center in Virginia, he said. And the Finish military wants him to create snow camouflage.
“The camouflage line is the stepchild of our line,” he said. “We don't even promote it.”
Marshall started out with four or five designs and now has more than 100. He attends about 10 trade shows a year around the country and he wants to continue expanding.
“There are so many applications,” Marshall said. “We keep adding; it's limitless.”
The Game Face Co. includes three tiers of pricing: retail on his website; whole sale, which makes up about 80 percent of his business with accounts all over the world; and distributors in Chicago and the U.K.
Marshall also designs and builds display stands made of cardboard he gives businesses with big orders to display in stores. About 380 retail stores carry the product, including college book stores, gift shops and airport stores. He also sells sports faces to several NFL teams and created faces for Texas Tech, Texas A&M University and Texas Christian University.
He created The Game Face Girls, a group of girls that help him apply faces to people before college football games. He said they couldn't put the faces on people fast enough, so he'd rather just sell them in stores so people can put them on themselves at home.
A NEW FACE
“I'm always wearing a face” now, he said, adding that people at the trade shows don't recognize him without one. “Every day I'm wearing a new face,” he said.
Marshall has even been kicked out of casinos in New Orleans and Las Vegas for wearing a face because he couldn't be identified, he said.
Warm water and soap removes the temporary faces but they hold up in salt water. He said Auburn University tested the product and found the white part of the faces have an SPF 50+ rating. Marshall is working on a new line of faces offering UV protection so they could be worn all day without having to apply sun block, he said.
Marshall believes they're easier than makeup and safer than a mask because they don't impair vision. An entire high school team in Virginia wore skeleton faces during a football game for Halloween, he said.
He also is working with a high school friend on developing a new adhesive that would allow for the faces to be peeled off in one piece instead of washed away. Using one of the tests in his office Monday, he easily peeled off an American flag face he applied.
“I've gone from two dimensions to three dimensions,” Marshall said while applying the face, adding that it feels like getting a facial. “I wear them all day, just to mow the yard.”
He believes the adhesive faces, once they are done being tested and approved, would be huge, adding that people could peel it off before going to a restaurant after a game.
Marshall also is looking at developing a face protector for Sherwin Williams. When applying paint, workers cover their faces to keep overspray and fumes away from their pores. The faces could be peeled off at the end of each day, he said, which could open up the products for industrial uses.
Marshall also wants to make some of his faces glow in the dark, as well as a glitter line for Mardi Gras.
Marshall grew up in Tyler, graduating from Robert E. Lee High School before studying finance at Texas Tech. He worked for Republic Bank in Lubbock and in Tyler, before moving to Taipei, Taiwan to work for the Home Shopping Network in 1987. He worked in product development and after a year, moved to Dallas to work for an import company. He got into sales, marketing and product development before moving to Charleston, S.C., where he got into politics and historic restoration.
In 1995, Marshall moved back to Tyler to work for Black Sheep, now Kent Sporting Goods, which is a cut-and-sew manufacturer that makes ski vests, life jackets, dog beds and gun cases, he said. He was a sales manager there for four years before he went out on his own, working in remodeling and construction. He was a representative for Pella Real Estate when the market began to decline and he had a dream about his Game Face product.
He now works full-time for Documents Solutions as its Xerox representative for the area covering Tyler to Mount Pleasant. His wife of 13 years, Lori, is a paralegal and works full-time for Southside Bank and handles all of the order processing, contracts and accounts receivable and payable for The Game Face Co.
Marshall and his wife share a small home office and spend an average of about two hours per day on their company. But now is his busy season so he spends a lot more time to get the orders out, he said, adding that he also has to allow time for continued product development. He has piles of work but with a full-time job he doesn't have enough time to dedicate to it.
He said The Game Face's sales increase each year but although the profits are getting better, “we're kind of outgrowing ourselves.” He is seeing demand for his product from South America, Australia and Columbia and is looking at a product for international soccer and rugby, as well as professional wrestling, the second biggest sport in Mexico, he said.
“The sport line I think is going to take off internationally,” he said.
A few weeks ago, Marshall auditioned himself and The Game Face Co. for the television show Shark Tank in Los Angeles. He made it to the final round and will soon go on to filming, although he has not been guaranteed he will be on the show.
Marshall also is working with the Tyler Junior College Small Business Development Center to grow his business through the center's new East Texas Angel Investors Group. It is a group of investors looking to help small businesses grow.
In 2008 — his first official year in business — The Game Face sold $6,500 in products. Last year, the company sold 65,000 faces for $102,000, he said. “And we'll see what happens this year.” Marshall hopes to soon be able to move the company into an office out of the house.
For more information, call 903-526-8880 or visit www.thegamefacecompany.com.