How I Customized My Own USAPA Approved Ball – The C Drive Pickleball

The Yellow C DRIVE Pickleball in Calvin Keeney's Hand held up close to the camera

My basket of pickleballs started running low again for lessons and clinics that I run here in Austin, Texas. I’ve previously ordered 100 pickleballs on two separate occasions.

When I reached out to other coaches to see where they bought their pickleballs, I was told that they often bought balls in orders of 100 as well and paid over $2 a ball. That’s not a horrible price considering some of the high end pickleballs cost around $3 a ball when bought in lower quantities (bags of 3-12 that you would likely see at your local sporting goods store).

A little over $2 a ball is what I was already paying for boxes of 100 pickleballs. Since I was enjoying coaching so much, I decided I wanted to search for a better deal which is when I discovered buying pickleballs in bulk straight from the manufacturers in China.

Using Alibaba to Find a Pickleball Manufacturer that Could Custom Print My Own Logo on the Ball

It took me several weeks of searching through Alibaba to find a pickleball manufacturer that I wanted to use.

Sinowest International Trade Company is who I chose to work with after communicating with several companies.

I chose them because the owner, Michael, had great communication and he answered my questions really well.

One of my bigger concerns was if the ball he had was USAPA approved. And it turns out, the ST40 by Sinowest was already approved by the USAPA.

Once I found out their Pickleball was USAPA approved, I began working on my own logo to put on it.

How Did You Get Your Own Logo on the Pickleball?

Many of the manufacturers that you find on Alibaba offer OEM manufacturing. Original Equipment Manufacturers are companies that make a product which other companies can purchase in bulk while applying their own logo to the product.

In my case, I purchased 500 of the ST40 pickleballs and designed my own logo on it so that it would say “C DRIVE” on the ball instead of “ST40”. There was an added flat cost of $90 to have a custom plate made for this. The plate is used to stamp the pickleballs with the logo that I sent to the manufacturer.

If I want to order more of my C DRIVE pickleballs in the future, then I won’t have to pay for the $90 plate fee again since it’s already been created with this order.

How Did You Choose the “C DRIVE” Logo Design for this Pickleball?

Calvin Keeney's hand holding a Yellow pickleball with a 1 inch by 3 inch blank box on it where the C DRIVE pickleball logo will eventually go
(1 inch x 3 inch is the amount of space you have to put your logo)

I could have chosen anything I wanted that fit in a 1 inch X 3 inch space. But I really was hoping for a logo that was:

  • Concise – A smaller word would be easier to read given the space requirement
  • Personal – Have good meaning to who I am and something I like about Pickleball
  • Inspiring – I wanted others to feel empowered when playing with this Pickleball (Like “my theme song plays in my head when I pickup this ball to hit” kind of inspiration.)

I went through many different iterations of the logo design when creating it in Affinity Designer (a cheaper alternative to Adobe Illustrator).

The first thing I did was design a triple “C” shape to represent my 3 main attributes as a person. I wanted my creative mind, caring heart, and competitive nature to be shown in this logo.

After over 50 different iterations of the triple “C” shape, I was ready to add an inspiring word that was relevant to pickleball.

I thought of about 20+ words to add to the right of the triple “C”. Here are a few of them:

12 Different words next to the triple "C" letter in creating the C DRIVE pickleball

Then narrowed them down to only a few:

The triple C Logo for Calvin Keeney next to the 4 words "Quick", "Start", "Fun" and "Drive"

I decided on going with C Drive because it had multiple meanings that were interesting to me.

Drive is a type of shot that you hit in pickleball. But it also could mean a players drive to improve themselves. Finally, a C Drive is commonly a hard drive on your computer. Since I love me some computer time outside of the pickleball court, I felt this was a hidden bonus of the “C DRIVE” pickleball logo. (It also helps that Austin tends to be a great town for technology so I knew some of the local players would appreciate the reference as well.)

After deciding on going with “C DRIVE”, I needed to know which font I liked best. Here are some of the iterations I tried out:

20 different fonts of the word "DRIVE" next to the triple "C" logo for Calvin Keeney's C DRIVE pickleball

Thanks to my amazing mom and brother who were very patient giving feedback on the logo design throughout the process.

Here is what the final USAPA approved C DRIVE pickleball looked like when it arrived to my doorstep.

The Yellow C DRIVE Pickleball in Calvin Keeney's Hand held up close to the camera

Some FAQs of Purchasing Pickleballs in Bulk from a Manufacturer on Alibaba

I wanted to answer some of the questions those of you might have that are wanting to get your own logo put on a USAPA approved pickleball like I did.

Here are a few of those questions. Feel free to ask me more in the comments below if I didn’t cover them here.

What is the minimum number of Pickleballs you can order?

Most of the manufacturers I talked to and read about said that 500 pickleballs is the minimum order quantity. Some companies may require more (such as 1000) but you might be able to find some that require less.

Usually they require 500+ if you are wanting your own logo added to the ball.

Calvin Keeney standing next to shipping boxes full of C DRIVE Pickleballs and some Paddles
(This is how much space a shipment of 500 pickleballs takes up)

How can I get my own logo on the pickleball I’m buying?

I covered this well in the article above but I wanted to reiterate that you typically have 1 inch by 3 inches of space on a pickleball to have your logo added.

You will need to design your own logo or pay someone to have it made. Then the manufacturer will likely charge you a flat fee to create your own logo plate which will be used to “stamp” your logo on the pickleball.

How much do the pickleballs plus shipping and other fees end up costing?

Expect the shipping from China to the United States to cost about the same as it does to have the pickleballs made.

For example, I paid $275 for 500 pickleballs plus $220 for shipping. And another $90 for the logo plate. There was also about $27 in fees for using Alibaba.

Which totals $612 for 500 pickleballs shipped to me in the US from China. (About $1.20 per pickleball which is better than the $2+ per pickleball I would have paid for 100 balls from existing companies).

How long does the ball creation and shipping process take?

It took me about:

  • 2 weeks to talk to companies and decide on which balls I was purchasing (double checking the balls were USAPA approved)
  • 1 week of designing my own C DRIVE logo for the balls.
  • 6 weeks to have the 500 balls made and have my custom logo stamped on with the logo plate.
  • 3-6 weeks to ship to my door (there was a small mistake on the shipping which made the process take longer than normal. But the 3-6 weeks is the amount of time you can expect depending on the shipping company you use.)

Worries I had About Purchasing My Custom Pickleballs from Outside of the United States

I had several worries about ordering straight from the manufacturer. A lot of the worries were normal considering I was making a high dollar order for a lot of a product I planned to use for months/years to come.

Here are some of the concerns and worries I had with this new-to-me experience of having my own logo put on 500 of my very own USAPA approved pickleballs.

Will My Pickleballs Look Like they Did in the Pictures on Alibaba?

I was pretty sure they would be like the ones in the picture. But again, this fear was in the back of my head having not purchased something like this.

A similar worry was “will the balls play well?”

My experience playing told me that almost all of the USAPA approved pickleballs I had played with in the past were fun to hit with. And the 500 pickleballs I was purchasing looked similar to some of my favorite brands of pickleball. The hard and slick Durafasts.

Are There Going to Be Hidden Fees including Trade Tariffs that I will have to Pay in Addition to the almost $700 I’ve already Spent?

A week after I purchased the pickleballs, news broke that US trade wars with China was increasing. More tariffs were being put on products imported from China to the US. And China was answering with tariffs on products being imported from the US to China.

Luckily for me and this order it appeared that the type of product I was buying wouldn’t be affected by the latest tariffs. But still, I wasn’t sure if there were old tariffs that I didn’t know about that would catch me off guard.

The owner of the company said they took care of paying for customs and that I wouldn’t have to pay more than the roughly $700 I spent on my 500 pickleballs and 5 new demo paddles. I’m thankful that there weren’t any additional costs when shipping the boxes from China to the US.

Am I a Sucker Falling for a Scam?

Another fear I had that was VERY unlikely to happen given the website I went through and the research I did before purchasing the pickleballs. But it was still a fear nonetheless.

I was confused when my order updated with “your items have been shipped” several weeks earlier than expected. It appeared that my order was supposed to have been successfully shipped to me already.

Was this fear of mine becoming real? Did I get scammed? Surely not. Michael from Sinowest had been doing such a great job with communicating with me.

I reached out to him and apparently the wrong tracking number for my package had been inputted by accident by a coworker. Once he figured that out he updated the order a few days later with the correct tracking number and I ended up receiving my pickleballs about when I expected to.

Will there be Problems with Shipping the Pickleballs to Me?

Shipping large packages from China to the US turns out to be much more difficult than I had expected.

There are many different shipping methods such as delivery by air or delivery by boat and truck.

Many different “trade terms” exist as well. This is basically how much of the shipping the manufacturer will take care of vs. how much you (the buyer) is in charge of.

I don’t quite understand the trade terms and shipping methods well enough to explain it. But I did ask a lot of questions to the manufacturer and research the options that were discussed.

So Now I Have 500 USAPA Approved Pickleballs with My “C DRIVE” Logo on It

A shipping box full of about 250 USAPA approved C DRIVE Pickleballs

I’m really excited to get to play with a pickleball that has my logo on it. It’s going to be neat to have several full baskets of balls during my lessons and clinics so that we don’t have to pickup as often.

If you have any questions on how to get your own logo on a pickleball, feel free to ask me in the comments below. (Or you can reach out to me here as well)

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *