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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Swinging for a Hole in One

Golf enthusiasts Craig Reibenspies and Dewayne Sode have always dreamed of owning their own business. So when they learned about the opportunity to purchase a franchise territory in the GolfTEC store chain, the duo jumped at the chance. GolfTEC, headquartered in Denver, provides golf lessons to aspiring golfers. They began offering franchise opportunities in 2003, giving entrepreneurs the sole rights to own and develop GolfTEC stores in specific territories. Reibenspies and Sode purchased GolfTEC’s north Los Angeles territory in 2004 and now own three stores, in West Hills, Pasadena and Sherman Oaks. The advantage of buying a franchise store, Reibenspies said, is that “you don’t have to start from scratch. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” Indeed, the ventures have been so profitable that the duo plans on opening a fourth location in the Conejo Valley by the end of the year. In addition, they plan on eventually opening a store in the Burbank/Glendale area. Their territory runs from Thousand Oaks in the west to Pasadena in the east and includes part of downtown Los Angeles. “We’re actually looking for space in Thousand Oaks,” said Reibenspies. Finding a good location, he said, has proven to be the most challenging aspect of developing the franchise territory. The business partners had some potential locations in the Conejo Valley to open their fourth store, but lack of space has prevented an expansion. “Commercial space is so tight in Southern California,” Reibenspies said. The business partners are looking for prospective stores in their territory based on where they believe the greatest need and desire for their services exist. Their existing stores, they say, are in areas where many residents are golf enthusiasts who have incomes in the middle and higher range but can’t afford expensive golf lessons. According to Reibenspies, the GolfTEC chain has been hugely successful, with a new franchise opening every three or four days. There are currently 83 GolfTEC franchises throughout the nation and a total of 100 stores are expected to be open by summer nationwide. They hope to expand to 300 stores at buildout. Although the GolfTEC chain still owns 15 to 20 stores across the country, they are continuing to sell new territories. The success, Reibenspies said, is because the stores use state-of-the-art, high-tech equipment to assist golfers with their golf swing. The lessons, which are given indoors, use high-speed video that tapes a golfer’s swing from two angles. After the golfer is attached to a harness equipped with sensors, the swing is analyzed at various positions during instruction. The video, which shows the head of the golf club striking the ball, can then be downloaded on the Internet. The advantage of this type of instruction, Reibenspies said, is that golfers and their instructors get instant feedback and can see exactly where improvement needs to be made. In addition, aspiring Tiger Woods’ can compare their performance to the pros. “The golfer is able to see and feel what he’s doing,” Reibenspies said of the instruction. The videotaped instruction has been so successful, Reibenspies said, that the GolfTEC chain has developed its own instructional video software, Seva Pro, which the franchises use for their golf lessons. “We’re the only one that’s taken it to a national level,” Reibenspies said. “We’re the only one that’s branded golf instruction.” The chain has developed a new software program that came out earlier this month, which expands the existing computerized technology to include putting skills. According to Reibenspies, it was GolfTEC’s innovative golf instruction that first inspired Sode to purchase the franchise territory. “We saw something that’s just phenomenal in what they’re putting together,” Reibenspies said. Prior to the franchise purchase, Sode took golf lessons at GolfTEC in the Golf Smith store in Woodland Hills and was so impressed with the state-of-the-art instruction that he approached Reibenspies to go into the golf business. The business partners now own that same Woodland Hills store that Sode first took lessons at. Golf Smith, which sells golf merchandise, is a separate entity from GolfTEC, but the two chains often work together, with Golf Smith allowing GolfTEC to open stores in their locations. Most of the GolfTECs, however, are standalone stores. The first GolfTEC franchise Reibenspies and Sode purchased was the existing Woodland Hills store. Their Pasadena location was opened in 2005, and the Sherman Oaks store opened last year. “We’ve had really good success in Woodland Hills because it’s a mature store,” Reibenspies said. Since the Pasadena and Sherman Oaks stores opened, revenues for the three stores combined have nearly doubled from 2005 to 2006, Reibenspies said. “We’ve just had tremendous momentum in the last couple months,” he said. Encino resident David Meshulam, who has been taking golf lessons at the Sherman Oaks store for two years, said it’s a combination of GolfTEC’s personalized instruction and computerized system that makes it attractive to golf enthusiasts. The 15-year golfer said he chose GolfTEC for lessons because of its unique teaching approach. “I liked the feedback I got with the video replay because I’m a visual learner, so I could see very clearly exactly what I was doing, and with the aide of my instructor, I could make corrections,” he said. Since taking lessons, Meshulam’s golf handicap has improved, going from an 18 or 19 to a 17 now. SPOTLIGHT – GolfTEC: North Los Angeles Year Franchised: 2004 Revenues in 2005: $375,000 Revenues in 2006: $680,000 Revenues in 2007 (projected): Just under $1 million Employees in 2004: 3 Employees in 2007: 10 Goal: To open locations in the Conejo Valley, Burbank/Glendale area and Downtown Los Angeles.

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