The trio behind Elevate Golf Partners aims for the “cool factor” with technology, marketing and branding
Ever since his dad put a sawed-off 3-wood in his hand at age 3, Brad Powell has been a passionate golfer. After graduating from Clemson with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, Powell saw a business opportunity to help the golf industry, which he says is struggling with technology, marketing and branding.
Now Powell is CEO of Elevate Golf Partners, a marketing solutions company solely dedicated to golf. Partners Angela Taylor, who serves as chief creative officer, and Nate Phillips, chief technology officer, are already making ground (pun intended) in the world of golf.
UBJ recently sat down with the three company founders to gain more insight into their business, learn how they came up with the idea and find out where they are headed.
Powell: After pitching some ideas to Angela (Taylor, Elevate Golf Partners‘ chief creative officer), who is also extended family, we sat down and sketched out some products and services. I didn’t even have a name for the company yet. But I told her I wanted to elevate golf, and that’s where the name came from, and she built this whole brand around this idea.
As we started doing more and more research, I knew we needed a website and to do marketing online. So I started interviewing people that could help with that. I probably interviewed six people before Nate (Phillips, chief technology officer for Elevate Golf) was referred to me from a previous classmate from the MBA e-program. I went to him and pitched my ideas and vision and he came on board.
How is the company structured?
Powell: It’s an LLC and Angela and Nate both have an equity stake in the company.
Taylor: It’s really sweat equity [laughing]. We’re really all three entrepreneurs in our own fields as well. We’re three like-minded people and saw there was a niche market in the golf industry that needed all of our skills.
Taylor: We really started in August 2013 putting the pieces together for what we needed and who we needed to bring together.
Powell: Jan. 1, 2014, was when we launched and set up the LLC. I had been working out of my garage for the past nine months. We needed to get together under one roof where we could collaborate. We’re now together working in the same space. Nate started in November and the whole goal of launching in January was so that we could go down to the golf show in Orlando, Fla. It’s the one trade show that you have to be at if you’re going to be in the industry. I went down by myself.
Taylor: He took a box of business cards and some sales material. He was like a kid in a candy store.
Phillips: It really all gelled in January and it all came together.
What was your first deal?
Powell: It was with Fluor Corporation. They were looking for a company to build an auction website for their 23rd annual Golf for Greenville golf tournament at the Cliffs. We ended up winning that bid.
Phillips: It was an eBay-type website with people able to bid for the chance for one of four executives to be on their golf team. All proceeds went to charity. We built the site for them, launched it, monitored it throughout the contest and then sent data afterwards. It raised over $2,500 for them and now it’s something they plan to use year after year.
What is the niche that you’re trying to fill?
Powell: There’s a lot of competition out there and they are giving stuff away for free, and you get what you pay for. Some courses will buy a POS or tee-booking software and that company throws in a free website. We bring more of a higher-end approach than anyone else.
Phillips: The golf industry is about five years behind other industries when it comes to technology. Be it websites, social media, and integration with technology. The game itself is very old, so there is hesitancy to change and add new technology.
But as the younger generation and millennials play more, we need tools to help understand and help connect with the game.
Powell: As the baby boomer population ages, golf courses need to attract the young generation. That’s what we bring to the table. How do you attract millennials? How do you attract them to the course and your amenities and keep them engaged? You need to have that cool factor.
What is your target market?
Powell: We really can help any golf course – from daily-fee public courses to private ones. Some of our products work better for different courses. For example, our Cloud Caddie app has a 3-D flyover of each hole, so that app is very appealing to a public course because they have new people playing every day. A private course, where 90 percent of the rounds are played are by the same people, would have different needs.
We’re also working with other startup companies that are catering to the golf industry. Whether it’s a craft beer company that wants to market to golfers or a subscription-based service where you get a monthly shipment of golf goodies, we see ways we can help all of them.
Taylor: The golf industry isn’t just about putting the ball in the hole. There are so many different areas – it’s massive.
Powell: Cloud Caddie, a custom mobile app; Text Caddie, which is a SMS/MMS marketing, tracking and notification service; and Branding Caddie, a corporate identity service, are the most popular. Everything is custom-tailored. We’re not a transaction company, we’re a partner. We go the extra step to really be a part of the management of the course or the company.
Phillips: Cloud Caddie is the attention-getter, the show-stopper of the services because it is so different and unique.
So what’s next?
Powell: We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works. The goal is to sign four golf courses in the first year. We’re also working on a really cool golf-industry book with a foreword written by a very well-known golfer. The book has been written and we’re going to build them an app, build them a website and help with their branding. It’s incredible how many people I talk to and the great feedback I’m getting.