How does a company go from startup to successful in golf? A Q&A with Ship Sticks CEO Nick Coleman
Since its founding in 2011, Ship Sticks continues to grow its golf-club shipping company. Working with shippers such as UPS and FedEx, golfers can have their clubs shipped to and from their destination by printing off a label and attaching it to their travel bags. In 2017, Ship Sticks is working on an app to simplify the process further, allowing golfers to schedule shipments from their phones. As we often do in Golf Digest Stix, we spoke with Coleman about the golf-travel industry and how Ship Sticks has continued to grow.
1. Based on what some have written about golf, one might expect the travel industry to be slowing. How robust is the golf-travel market based on what you guys have seen?
We disagree with that narrative. The game is in a good place, and we support that statement by the number of new courses being added by existing resort partners, and by the consistent inbound inquiries for our service from hotels, resorts and green-grass facilities. There are millions of golfers, and a large percentage of them go on trips each and every year. We have noticed an increase in travel and shipments. As a result of new courses being built like Cabot Links, or massive renovations like Pinehurst, we are seeing an increased demand for travel and golf. Ship Sticks believes that we have barely scratched the surface with regards to the addressable market opportunity.
2. What are some of the hot destinations that you guys see growing based on your club-shipping business?
The most popular places fluctuate each year, but the staples being the largest resorts in the country and now, more so than ever, a tremendous increase for international destinations. This was the first full season we’ve offered international shipping through our website, so we’ve overseen a lot of golf bags going overseas to Scotland and Ireland. And this time of year, we’re seeing a lot of bags going in and out of the islands, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
3. What’s the process like for those shipping over to Europe, and is it different than the domestic service?
For our customer, the experience is the same. They can either go directly to www.shipsticks.com or call our customer service line at 561-429-3900. On the back end, we handle all label creation, customs documentation and any other required documents for transport. In three-to-four business days, we can see somebody’s clubs over to Scotland or Ireland. So you can have your clubs the weekend before, and still ship your clubs at the start of the week so they’re at your destination by week’s end. Following the same process and protocols for securely attaching your label and customs documentation ensures a seamless experience. Using a fly tag, which can be acquired from a local-carrier store, or from us with enough time, will allow for a perfect place to apply the label for future shipments.
4. For 2017, what’s Ship Sticks excited about in terms of growing your own business and maybe in golf in general?
2017 is expected to be another great year for growth as we continue to grow our customer base and reach all different types of golfers. We cater to anyone of any skillset going on a golf trip. We have also added the ability for our customers to ship luggage along with their golf clubs, so they can walk freely through the airports without ever going to a luggage carousel. We continue to refine the process to make it even easier to ship your clubs, and we do this through technology enhancements and strengthening our partnerships and relationships with everyone in the supply chain. We have some exciting new feature developments that will revolutionize the way people are accustomed to shipping, and we’re working on simplifying the process even more by creating an app for customers. We have some innovative ways of taking it to the next level of simplification—allowing golfers to schedule pick-ups and shipments through their phone. And in general, we see the economy continuing to grow, so the golf industry is right alongside it. We’ve had triple-digit growth year after year as a business, so we have reason to be excited that will continue.
5. For others who might be considering getting into golf, what advice might you offer, based on your observations and ShipSticks’ success?
Specifically for other businesses in the game of golf, I would encourage them to focus on a strategic plan and not to deviate from their core competencies. In every major city, there are 10 million great ideas; but it always comes down to execution. Build a brand, build a loyal customer base and always do right by your customer. As the saying goes, the customer is always right. At Ship Sticks, we would be nowhere without our customers, and we focus on retaining them and providing the highest level of service possible. Simplifying the way people travel, and allowing them to have a hassle-free experience, has led more people to be playing golf on their trips. Previously, it was thought to be a difficult or cumbersome item to take on a trip. We’ve done well at staying on message, adding a bunch of other services and products, and just making sure we’re offering the highest level of customer service to those who want to ship their sticks.