By VIKASH SANYAL, CEO AT BRAINSTORM GOLF
Starting a golf equipment company is a bit like starting your own bar (I would guess) … it seems like such a fun, great, romantic idea, and then before you know it you’re filing bankruptcy papers and a guy named Dog takes your car in the middle of the night.
But at least if you start a bar, you can drown your sorrows before you walk home.
I’ve been going to the PGA Merchandise show for years, and I love walking the aisles and checking out the “little guys with big ideas” - the guys that have put all their hopes on a ten-by-ten-foot booth and hope to hit it big. I’ve been one of those guys in one of those booths, and I’ve felt that mix of excitement, optimism and naked fear. And I also know that when you’re in one of those booths, you’re looking for anyone to stop and listen to your story, so whenever I’m there, I stop as much as I can to listen and give a little encouragement.
Creating a golf equipment company - which I’ve done three times now - is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach or the behind in the mortgage. It’s like golf itself—you’ve got to be resilient, mentally tough, and more than anything - you’ve got to be unbelievably focused.
But - unlike golf - it’s not just you out there. And that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned from helping start a hugely successful putter company (Odyssey Golf) followed by a not-hugely-but-still-very-successful putter company (Never Compromise Putters).
Odyssey’s success happened - in spite of the fact that we were winging it in a lot of ways - because we had an innovative product, the timing was right (golf was ready for a new idea), and we had an incredibly passionate team.
When you have the right team, the environment is electric. Some of my best memories are of the team sitting in a room debating (rather loudly, I may add) the different issues. You had one person representing the consumer (usually me), another the tour players, then there were the engineers telling us we were crazy, and the finance/operations people (the least popular in the group because they always ruined the discussions by insisting on being realistic and logical). But the great thing was, because we were all so passionate, every idea that entered that forum came out better because the theories were “stress-tested” and they evolved as everyone added their own point of view and expertise to every idea.
Maybe that’s why the idea for the new company seemed so right: Brainstorm Golf.
So, as soon as I decided to get back into golf again with the concept of the Happy Putter, I craved that same electricity. But it’s not easy to catch lightning in a bottle - it usually misses the bottle and catches me in the head, thus explaining my strangely curly hair. But please believe me when I tell you that the team dynamic is the best part of these adventures. For a startup, the line that separates personal and business isn’t blurred, it’s completely erased.
I knew that the first, biggest decision that would determine failure or success rested on one question: Who would be on the team?