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What are a couple guys from the twin cities doing creating a lifestyle apparel brand around their flagship product, a sandal for golf? Just developing a vast targeted customer base around the rising popularity of the sport in millennials. You know, the usual.
Meet Adam Iversen (this week’s guest on G&E The Podcast), Matt Stang, and Sam Swanson, co-founders of Swannies Golf Apparel. These guys have been on one non-stop adventure since the successful launch of their Kickstarter campaign back in 2016.
But let’s rewind a bit to the genesis.
While attending the University of Minnesota, two of the co-founders, Matt and Adam, first got acquainted in the school’s entrepreneurship program. From their original venture together, it is no surprise the two are making waves in the golf industry.
Through the course, they developed an artisan marketplace in India that led to Adam taking a fellowship overseas. Matt started a consulting career at PWC but the two kept in touch. Especially on the golf course.
A few years after graduating, the guys were catching up on the links and Matt’s choice of footwear was quite audacious. He had taken a pair of Air Jordan sandals and super glued to them a soft spike bottom. At first, they thought it was hilarious. But at second thought, they questioned why something like this did not exist in the market.
“We went straight from the course to a little shoe repair shop in town and started talking to the guy about what went into making a piece of footwear and that was literally the start of Swannies.”
From that moment of inception, the crew has been on their grind. After spending a year putting together an appropriate prototype, they launched a Kickstarter campaign that saw massive success. So much so that ESPN anchor John Buccigross, was one of their original backers and continues to support the brand. And rumor has it that he sported a Swannies tee shirt to the ESPYs that year.
But as Adam notes in today’s interview, success on Kickstarter does not just happen upon the launch of a campaign. It takes an incredible amount of hustle and in today’s podcast, Adam talks about a few strategies that the team implemented.
That determination which they exhibited during their Kickstarter campaign “set the tone for our company, how we operate and how much we grind because from day one when that Kickstarter launched it was go go go”.
This was September of 2016. With a little money in their corner, it was time to take the idea and turn it into a full-blown business.
Boots On The Ground
Beyond their e-commerce platform, Swannies next goal was to get their products into golf shops around the Minneapolis area. The guys took their original prototype and went door to door to golf courses throughout the city limits. Around a dozen courses initially took a shot on the brand and by the summer they were in roughly 25 shops throughout the Midwest.
“It served as a really great pilot for us to figure out what people were saying, demonstrate that product to market fit, and release some other products as well. Speaking to the evolution of the brand, we recognized this sandal represented casual golf in it’s truest form in that there was definitely this disconnect between the products that existed in the market and generally what younger, casual golfers were looking for. So we started to create hats, polos, outerwear, and really a full apparel line around that same philosophy.”
Along with developing their brand into a full apparel line, Swannies has implemented a few out of the box marketing techniques that have given them some phenomenal brand recognition.
Notably, the Swannies Summer Scramble. What started as an event for the brand in the Twin Cities, has grown into much more. Basically, the guys are trying to open golf to a whole new demographic. And to do so, they want to show alternative ways to enjoy yourself while playing the game.
So they started everyone at a brewery, party bused them to a local course and set up a nine-hole event that incorporated party games every three holes that were part of your team’s score. They made golf remarkably social. And with a well-done recap video of the event, Billy Casper Golf Management Group (one of the biggest management groups in the US) picked up the idea and are turning it into a national series through the coming golf season.
Episode 27 of G&E The Podcast
As you can tell, the Swannies team has been making serious moves since it’s founding and have big plans for their brands future. The team has grown to a total of seven members including a few sales reps, along with participating in an accelerator program called Gener8tor to help speed up business development.
In this week’s episode, Adam walks us through a detailed evolution of the company. He has phenomenal insights into what it takes to grow a modern startup from an idea into a company and in this week’s episode he provides us with some great information and a few entertaining stories along the way.