When it comes to golf startups, we always love talking with a few friends who had an idea and decided to run with it. We saw it with Palm Golf Co and the success they have seen by creating a golf glove they wanted to wear. Now, we are seeing it from the team at Rhoback Activewear as they wanted to create a shirt that could withstand their active lifestyle.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Loftus, one of three co-founders of Rhoback Activewear. The trio, composed of Matt, Kristina Loftus, and Kevin Hubbard, has built an incredible brand inspired by a breed of dog with an insatiable appetite for activity – the Rhodesian Ridgeback. We know you’ll enjoy this amazing team’s story!

To kick this off, I think it is important to mention that we probably wouldn’t be here without our dogs. So, I think I speak for the group in saying that this one is for our boys – Bunker and Tully. But let’s get started. Can you tell us what Rhoback Activewear is all about?

Thanks for having us, Matt. Rhoback is a lifestyle activewear brand specializing in performance polos, tees, Q-zips, hats and… dog bandannas. Like you mentioned, our brand is inspired by our dog’s breed – the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Hence, the name “Rhoback.”

That’s great. So, can you give us some background on the team that makes up Rhoback?

Our dog – Bunker – is the perpetual MVP of the business. Outside of that, we have three human co-founders. Kevin Hubbard, my long-time friend; Kristina Loftus, my wife; and me, Matt Loftus. Kevin and I became great friends at Davidson College where we never stopped talking about businesses we would start. Kristina and I met while working at GE together before we left to attend Darden Business School in Charlottesville, VA, where Rhoback is now headquartered. When we decided to start Rhoback, it only made sense that the three of us would join forces given our backgrounds and the amazing relationships we had already formed.

Sounds like a tight group. So you mentioned briefly, but what are each of your professional backgrounds prior to starting Rhoback?

Kevin’s experience before jumping on Rhoback full-time was on Capitol Hill in D.C. as a Policy Director for the House Rules Committee. Kristina and I share the experience of working finance jobs at GE before attending UVA’s Darden Business School. I also had a short stint in strategy consulting with Accenture before jumping on Rhoback full-time.

Qualified would be an understatement… What is your background in the golf world?

Golf was my life growing up. I played all the AJGA tournaments I could with dreams of playing big-time D1 golf. My peak was winning the Connecticut State Junior Amateur Championship at 15 years old. Since then, it’s been a steady decline!

My college golf dreams shattered when I broke my wrist freshman year at Davidson College playing rec football… Although I’m beyond my peak, my love and respect for the game has only grown. I still swing as hard as I can off every tee box, take way too many full-swing flop shots and jump at any chance to rip a driver off the deck. I have a ton of fun every time I tee it up.

Founders of Rhoback Activewear
Founders of Rhoback Activewear

That’s what we like to hear! Let’s dive into Rhoback a little deeper. What is it that sets Rhoback apart from other activewear brands out there?

Three things in particular set us apart – our quality, our creative social media, and our charitable dedication.

The quality of our performance polos is second to none. Our customers often note that our super soft, wicking fabric never fades, and our sharp collars remain crisp after dozens of washes. My favorite customer reviews we’ve gotten so far are:  “This polo is compliment city” and “This shirt makes me feel alive.”

As for social media, we continually document our #craveactivity adventures on our Instagram account (@rhoback). The authentic lifestyle we share on social media has led to a surprisingly high engagement rate which allows our customers to learn what we’re all about in an easy, digestible way.

Finally, we have multiple charitable campaigns we are thrilled to support. We donate a portion of every sale to American Humane’s Shelter-to-Service program which rescues and trains shelter dogs to become service dogs for veterans with PTS and TBI. We also work with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation which is committed to finding cures for paralysis and spinal cord injuries. We designed and sell custom performance polos and t-shirts where 20% of all sales are donated back to the Reeve Foundation. Both of our partnerships with American Humane and the Reeve Foundation are perfectly in line with what we stand for – inspiring others to live healthy, active lives. Nothing feels better than making an impact in an area we are so passionate about while growing the brand.

The Brand is Inspired By the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Brand is Inspired By the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Those are some truly admirable causes, and I’m sure it is greatly appreciated. So, let’s talk about the gear. Anything new coming in the pipeline?

We’re excited to have just released our USA-themed polo called The Old Glory to gear up for The Ryder Cup. I’ll be repping this in Paris with a group of friends at the Ryder Cup… keep an eye out!

We’re also very excited to release our performance tees. We’ve spent two years developing the fabric which includes silver technology that naturally fights bacteria and odor. This ultimate performance technology combined with the incredibly soft fabric and a more traditional cut are the main reasons we can’t wait to release this line. Our goal is for our customers to jump at the opportunity to wear these performance tees throughout the course of a day. No matter the lineup of activities – from the gym, to a casual range session, to a night on the town. You can get first dibs by signing up for our email list at Rhoback.com.

Let’s get into the question everyone probably has at this point… Why is your brand based on the Rhodesian Ridgeback? And can you tell us about Bunker?

Kevin and I have been fans of Ridgebacks for a long time. I first learned of the breed while on a service trip in Zimbabwe where I stayed with a family that had two. I learned about their fearless history of protecting farms from lions… which is why they are known as the “lion hunter” in Africa.

When Kristina and I first got married, I convinced her to get a Ridgeback. We named him Bunker as I always seem to find myself in one on the golf course. We fell in love with Bunker, and it was only natural we named our brand after our favorite dog breed. We pay homage to the Ridgeback by placing a “ridge” on the back of each of our products – two small vertical stripes. We also created the motto of our company – “Crave Activity” – because it is Bunker’s perpetual mindset.

Rhoback at The Players Championship
Rhoback at The Players Championship

That is awesome. Tully’s too! What is the greatest challenge you have faced while building Rhoback thus far?

The greatest challenge for us has been building an apparel brand while none of us have experience in the industry. When starting the brand – and even now – we were pressed to learn the industry quickly, whether it was by reading books, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos or meeting with mentors. It’s been a challenge, but man, are we up for it! The positive is, we have found that having no experience in the industry has been our greatest competitive advantage as we challenge all industry norms and never feel confined by theoretical barriers. We just set out every day to make gear that we would want to wear ourselves.

New perspectives are always welcomed. What has been your most rewarding moment since starting Rhoback?

One moment I really appreciated as a golfer was when professional golfer, Andrew Dorn, reached out to see if we would send him some Rhoback polos to wear while competing at the Memorial PGA tournament in his home state of Ohio. We thought we were a long way off before seeing Rhoback inside the ropes, so we were honored when we got this call. It was amazing to see Andrew rocking a Rhoback polo among the other pros wearing competitive polos with all kinds of brands on them. And not only did Andrew look great, he also made the cut and finished ahead of many of the best players in the world. We like to think the polo had something to do with it!

Professional Golfer Andrew Dorn for Rhoback Activewear
Professional Golfer Andrew Dorn for Rhoback Activewear

It’s all about the gear… What would you say your vision is for Rhoback as we look ahead?

Our mission is to inspire the world to live active, healthy lives. Given how passionate we are about accomplishing this goal, we simply won’t stop until we’re bumping shoulders with the likes of the largest activewear brands out there. It would only be right that the #craveactivity mindset we learned from our dog be shared with the world.

You’ve come so far already, and we look forward to what you have left in store. Let’s wrap this up with some fun, rapid fire questions. If you could play a round of golf with anyone, who would it be?

Steph Curry. I was lucky enough to tee it up with him a couple times while we were both at Davidson, and each match went to the 18th hole. He might be the nicest guy I’ve ever played with. I’m curious to see if he remembers those matches… I certainly do! I also have a pair of his game-worn sneakers from Davidson that I want to return to their rightful owner. Maybe in exchange for a couple strokes?

That’s amazing. Sounds like we have a round to line up! What is your favorite club in the bag?

Lob wedge by far. Flop-first mentality all day.

Same here – love my 60-degree. What’s your top bucket list course?

Other than Augusta – too obvious. I really want to try out Cabot Links up in Nova Scotia, Canada. I’ve heard amazing things, and it looks similar to my favorite course I’ve played to date – Old Head in Kinsale, Ireland. I’ll have to convince my golf buds to make the trek to Canada next!

Great answers! Thanks again for joining us for a Quick Round, Matt and team. We’ll be watching Rhoback continue to grow and thrive.