GolfU, a golf instructional facility for kids, is jumping into franchising with the help of SMB Franchise Advisors.
Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, GolfU teaches golf to children between the ages of three and 18, and also puts a major emphasis on building social skills. It was founded by Brad Hare, a PGA professional, who opened its doors for business in 2016.
Hare, who turned pro at the age of 19, started the South Jersey Junior Tour, which he said brought “regular kids” who were still learning the sport onto the golf course to play in tournaments. This was at a time when golf was mostly reserved for elite and higher level players.
“We were one of the first ones to kind of see that there was a business model there featuring every kid,” he said.
As the business started to grow year-round, Hare decided that it was time to expand. And because franchising was an idea in the back of his mind since day one, he decided to take the leap.
“When we had our grand opening, there must have been 10 different people who asked us if it was a franchise,” he said. “At that point, it never really crossed our minds to go down that road. But in the first week, things were going so well that it got us thinking about the business on a broader scale.”
Hare knew that simply opening a second location himself was an option, but he realized he wouldn’t have the local knowledge about other communities, including “where the moms are, what Facebook pages to follow, and where to run ads,” which are all marketing strategies that have proven to be crucial to the success of his Cherry Hill location. Instead, he decided it would be best to “capitalize on the franchise model” and utilize the local community expertise of individual franchisees.
To start that process, Hare went through a franchise lawyer, who gave him a list of franchise consulting firms to reach out to. Hare interviewed several before ultimately deciding to work with SMB Franchise Advisors. He didn’t come to the decision lightly — his initial meeting with SMB Franchise Advisors took a couple of hours and involved showing off his prized golf facility. He also met with SMB’s Founder and CEO Steve Beagelman.
“I just liked his background,” Hare said of Beagelman. “I liked his credibility. I liked that I’d be working with a local consulting firm rather than talking to someone remote. It felt like SMB Franchise Advisors had more of a family atmosphere, and that if I needed them they could come over and help me out immediately. Every step of the way, his team has been great. He’s got a very good team and a very strategic team.”
Beagelman and the SMB team also liked what they saw in Hare.
“Brad has been very focused from the beginning of our work together,” Beagelman said. “He knew where he wanted to go with franchising his brand and has been asking great questions, ready to learn and apply what we have taught him to develop his business. It is fun for us to see him grow, just like he enjoys helping his young golfers succeed. At the end of the day, it is rewarding for us to work with an emerging brand like GolfU.”
The team that SMB Franchise Advisors has assembled also ensures that Hare receives support across the board throughout the franchising process. That’s because they provide expertise in a variety of areas.
“They have a qualified individual in each different area that I need as a franchisor,” Hare said.
As GolfU emerges in the franchising space — especially now that the brand signed its first development agreement for three units — SMB Franchise Advisors is helping Brad and the rest of the brand’s team capitalize on the competitive advantages that make it unique. For example, today, GolfU teaches approximately 200 children using golf simulators, putting greens, chipping areas and a sand trap. One result of all this training is that the kids involved are getting good at the game.
“We’ve already had seven kids this year who have already won their qualifiers,” Hare said. “Our kids are getting really good at the game in addition to having fun.”
Another differentiator that sets GolfU apart as it begins to franchise is the fact that the facility is never open to the public or to adults. That’s because safety and security for the young players is paramount.
Also paramount is the ability for kids to socialize with each other. Classes are organized by age and ability. The girls’ program, Hare said, is booming. And as the concept begins to franchise and expand beyond its flagship location, this focus on kids will continue to stay top of mind. That will make hiring easier for franchisees — an aptitude for working with children over being a professional golfer will remain the number one priority.
“We’re looking for people who are good with kids, not necessarily a PGA professional even though that is my background,” Hare said. “The franchisees need to find people who are good with kids. We can help them with the rest.”
Right now, GolfU is in the process of signing five potential franchisee agreements in five different territories…with the first franchise owner having committed to a 3-unit agreement in the South Jersey area as of early August 2018. The brand is motivated to move fast and get new facilities built, because as winter approaches, Hare recognizes that franchisees have the potential to tap into the ample opportunities the season provides for indoor activity.
“Our goal is to grow across the country in bad-weather demographics first,” Hare said.
To capitalize on the potential that winter provides, Hare is continuing to work closely with SMB. While Hare is continuing to “figure out the franchise process,” SMB is ultimately helping him “connect the dots,” he said. SMB is currently completing GolfU’s operations manual, for one, and is also helping to layout the foundation for GolfU and establish its training programs. SMB is also helping Hare establish policies and procedures, and providing guidance as he works with and screens the first five potential franchisees.
“The relationship [with SMB] are really good so far,” he said of SMB. “I can’t say enough about them.”
As GolfU builds on the momentum of signing of its first franchise agreement, Hare couldn’t be happier that he went the franchise route, and that he chose SMB Franchise Advisors to help him do it.
“I made the right decision,” he said. “Doing it incorrectly would have cost me a lot of money."