Iowa entrepreneur creates line of simple golf bags for the tiniest players
By Tony Dear
Early next week, a delivery van will arrive at Tyler Johnson’s house in Mason City, IA, and offload 22 boxes each filled with 25 golf bags. No, Johnson doesn’t go through golf bags any more rapidly than you or I. Nor is his family quite that large. He’ll actually be sending them on to golfers who ordered one online.
The prospect of having to take each one out of its poly bag and hang them in his garage to get rid of wrinkles that might have appeared during the shipping process probably won’t fill Johnson with a feverish joy, but their arrival will be a hugely exciting moment for him and his family. So special will it be, in fact, the 35-year-old father of two will happily go to the trouble of attaching a tag that says “Fostering a love of the game” to every bag before wrapping them in new poly bags, boxing each one individually, adding new address labels, and shipping them off.
The golf bags themselves will be colored blue, grey, or pink, have a single strap, one pocket, and one club divider. They will be made of waxed canvas and leather, be 4” wide, and stand less than two feet tall – 21.5” to be exact. These are not your standard golf bags, you understand, but rather, bags designed especially for toddlers.
So why will Johnson’s garage soon be full of them?
Necessity is the mother of invention, of course, and Johnson’s three-year-old son Charlie needed one for the cut-down driver, iron, and putter his grandpa had built for him. Johnson couldn’t find a bag he liked, or which Charlie felt comfortable with, however, so he designed one himself and had a national manufacturer make it – two actually, as a friend had a similarly young golfer in need of a bag.
The kids loved them. And when other golfers with young’uns of their own saw the bags, they inquired how they might get one. To “validate” his idea, Johnson had 150 more made up and they proved quite a hit on the one-page trading website he’d set up. “The blue ones sold out in four minutes,” he says. “The grey ones were gone in ten, and the pink bags took 28 minutes to go.”
There were calls for more and within a few weeks, the waitlist had grown to 175. A hundred were made in time for Christmas since when the requests have just kept piling up. Hence the full garage. “Fortunately, we have attic space above it,” says Johnson who also put up a lot of shelving to help store the bags. “But we’ve kept our vehicles inside this winter, so there hasn’t been much space.”
Besides finding room for his burgeoning business’s products, Johnson recently updated the website, fleshing out the bones with a few details on how the idea for toddler-only golf bags came about, a family photo that includes Charlie’s one-year-old sister Alivia, and a page devoted to a second product offering – 23” hickory alignment sticks made together with Nor’Easter Sticks of Amesbury, Mass.
Johnson’s garage operation has been doing business under the name ‘Charlie Golf Co.’ since the start of the year, and the former University of Northern Iowa golf team member is already beginning to dream of one day making it a full-time gig. Currently the General Manager of a local software company, the 2009 Iowa State Matchplay champion, says multiple new product lines are already in the works. “My hope is that one day Charlie Golf Co. becomes the brand most closely associated with golfers aged two to five,” he adds.
For now though, Johnson has a lot of unpacking and re-packing to do with Charlie helping out, of course. “He loves it when shipments come in,” says Johnson. “And he thinks it’s really cool that a lot of other kids will have the same bag as him.”
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