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“We were always looking for fun activities that would engage the kids and get them off their cellphones and out of the classroom — off their TVs and video games,” said Richards, who was serving as president of the young men’s organization in his local church congregation at the time.

Customers crawl into a giant ball with backpack straps and handholds, and are only able to see through a small plastic window. These so-called “soccer zorbs” fit over the torso of the user, leaving their legs free to chase and crash into other bubble-athletes in the playing area.

The Lehi resident graduated from Brigham Young University in 2002 and soon after opened Hill Insurance and Investment based out of Orem. Richards became associated with his business partner years later after finding Keetch hosting a Kickstarter campaign for a different business idea.

“It’s been fun to start this company and just watch it grow,” Richards said. “It exceeded all of our expectations by a long shot, to be completely honest. We just didn’t know what we were getting into when we started, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised.” Popping into communities

The company now presents the halftime show at Real Monarchs soccer games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City. Utah County high school sporting events also will see more soccer zorbs at halftime shows this season as student body representatives put on short competitions sponsored by the bubble sports company.

The department is producing Bill Nye-style science video lessons for supplemental teaching material for the upcoming fall semester. One video lesson filmed at Classic Fun Center in Orem has student actors explaining Newton’s three laws of motion while roller skating around in bubble-ball suits. Utah small business

Utah small businesses represent nearly 98 percent of all private employers in the state, according to a 2014—15 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The organization defines a small business as one operating with fewer than 500 employees, and it counts more than 252,000 small firms throughout the state.

Keetch and his cousin were featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank” during an episode in January and won a $300,000 backing deal from one of the sharks for their product invention called Phone Soap. Keetch lives in Provo and runs his Phone Soap company as his full-time occupation.

Going from two zorbs to more than 100 in less than two years shows just how in demand the recreational products are. This past spring, for example, a high school in Alpine School District arranged to rent 74 bubble balls for students attending prom.

“There’s a certain level of rowdiness that always results in injury. But when you have a huge inflatable bubble around you, you can kind of be as rowdy as you want,” Keetch said. "You can knock into things and flail around and you’re protected. Your whole body is protected, so you can really throw yourself around.”

He handles much of the marketing for the bubble sports rental company, while Richards manages the accounting and bookkeeping responsibilities. Much of the company’s mission statement centers on the mantra “Good clean fun,” and Richards said he’s still amazed at the exploding popularity of such a unique recreational activity.