Life after ‘Shark Tank’: Golf startup founders tee up exit as sales grow

Denver startup makes golf spikes

Golfkicks founders Ty Stuart, front, John Krosky, back left, and Matt Mockus, back right, show off their product. (Photos courtesy of Golfkicks)

Ty Stuart and his two co-founders thought they had a hole-in-one when they reached a deal with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank” in 2019 for their company Golfkicks.

Instead, it turned out to be a bogey. The deal fell through due to legal hurdles.

Nearly three years later, however, the Denver startup — which makes cleats with screws that you can put into the sole of your sneakers, turning any pair of shoes into golf shoes — can point to years of increasing sales. The company found other investors and recently launched a new product line.

“Shark Tank is ancient history. There was a great boost for our awareness three years ago. And we’re now in direct-to-consumer e-commerce, getting into retail, launching baseball, international expansion,” Stuart said.

He dreams of selling the brand in the future, although he knows the company isn’t quite where it needs to be just yet.

The TV appearance

Golfkicks was founded in the summer of 2018. A little over a year after getting off the ground, the company was invited onto “Shark Tank.” The episode premiered in 2019 and featured the fledgling brand agreeing to a deal with Mark Cuban.

The agreement, a $300,000 investment in return for a 13 percent stake in the company, never came to fruition.

The legal hurdles for the investment were just too high, said Stuart.

The company still communicates somewhat regularly with Cuban and is on good terms with the billionaire businessman, Stuart added. And despite the deal falling through, the exposure from being on “Shark Tank” helped the company explode in sales.

At the time of the episode’s premiere, the company had been averaging $50,000 a month in sales. In the 24 hours following the episode’s airing, he said the company did a month’s worth of sales.

The product

“When we went on the show our product was pretty bad. It was our first or second version,” Stuart said.

Golfkicks is now on its fifth iteration of the golf spikes. The company also received a patent last month that had been in the works since the inception of the product.

The product looks and works like a screw, with a plastic appendage that acts as the cleat. Each package of Golfkicks comes with 20 screws, shoe goo for extra adhesion, a sharpie for marking out where the screws will go, a screwdriver and a drill bit.

Golfkicks also recently unveiled a new product line: Yardkicks. The new product is essentially the same as Golfkicks, but designed for other sports, like baseball, football and ultimate frisbee.

The company sells its products three ways: through the Golfkicks or Yardkicks website, through Amazon and via retail stores. In the U.S., the product is sold at PGA Tour shops in airports, as well as in a dozen Scheels locations in Colorado and the Midwest. Internationally, the product can be found in stores in Seoul, South Korea and Japan.

Golfkicks and Yardkicks are manufactured by Pride Sports in China and are then sent to Stephen Gould in Aurora by the airport for packaging. Afterward, the packaged goods are sent to Next Level Resource Partners in Denver for fulfillment. From there, direct sales are sent directly to the customer, while Amazon orders are sent into the company’s fulfillment system.

The numbers

The year after the TV appearance, sales were $900,000. In 2021, they were $1.2 million. This year, that number is expected to be $1.5 million just from the golf product, Stuart said.

Golfkicks’ website accounts for approximately 30 percent of sales. Another 60 percent comes from Amazon, and the remaining 10 percent is sold wholesale to retailers. Ninety percent of sales are within the U.S.

body golfkicks

Golfkicks displays are being put up in retail stores.

Each pair of Golfkicks retails for $34.99 on Amazon and $32.99 on the company website. The cost of production is about $8. The company has a gross profit margin of 55 percent on their website and 52 percent on Amazon, Stuart said.

The company has been successful so far in raising capital but has still yet to make a profit. Golfkicks has raised revenue three times, first through Kickstarter, then from family and friends and finally now through seed funding.

Cumulatively, the business has raised roughly $682,000. Stuart said the firm needs an additional $500,000 in investment to reach profitability.

Golfkicks was founded by three friends: Stuart (12 handicap), Matt Mockus (11 handicap) and John Krosky (a danger on the golf course, per the company’s website). All three live in the Denver area, although only Krosky is a native to the state. Stuart and Mockus are originally from Iowa.

“We have kind of a tech background together. Matt is still in the tech world and has a full time job and this one … this was like, a napkin sketch, kind of like, you know, a fun, silly idea,” Stuart said.

The business office is at 621 Kalamath St., Ste. 175, and the three remain the only employees at the company, owning roughly 70-80 percent of the business’ equity.

The trio enjoy playing on the City Park Golf Course and shoot much of their marketing material at the Overland Golf Course.

The future

As the company continues to raise funds from investors, it’s also seeking to open up new lanes for cash flow.

“We’re just getting to the point where we’re scaling this thing. Which is kind of what the industry terms would say ‘going through brand development startup phase,’ and now we’re getting to scale up the brand. A sports minded angel would be great,” Stuart said.

They’re selling Yardkicks at a discount as the brand seeks to generate interest. The product is being sold in a pilot program for $20 with a tentative plan to raise the price to around $30 once Stuart collects feedback from consumers.

The brand is also rolling out a program for golf pro shops and retailers to request a display of the Golfkicks product. These would be put up in-store and direct customers to Golfkick’s website to purchase the product.

Stuart also wants to increase international sales.

The difficulty for the upstart brand is marketing. The company’s paid social media is all outsourced, while Stuart manages the organic content on Instagram and Tik Tok. The company hasn’t paid for influencer marketing, which Stuart says isn’t authentic.

“It’s kind of a grip and grin type; they’re holding up like a Mich Ultra. We don’t want that. The ones that work the best and are the most fun, they genuinely like it,” Stuart said.

The exit

The end goal is to sell the business, and so far, two of the three necessary boxes have been checked off.

First, there’s getting the patent. Check.

Second, get the product right. Check.

Third, pump up sales. That’s in progress.

Increasing sales means getting Yardkicks firmly integrated into the company, as well as maximizing international and retail sales.

Once that’s done, it’ll be time to sell. The goal would be to sell the company for somewhere in the eight-figure range, Stuart said.

“Golf is popular in a lot of other places in the world, so we have plenty of room for international expansion. I think this baseball brand has the potential to be even bigger. You just got more kids playing baseball than golf,” he added.

Denver startup makes golf spikes

Golfkicks founders Ty Stuart, front, John Krosky, back left, and Matt Mockus, back right, show off their product. (Photos courtesy of Golfkicks)

Golfkicks’ on-air deal with Mark Cuban in 2019 fell through but the TV exposure boosted awareness of the brand and sales have been climbing each year.

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