1 - How did you come up with the name, Bender Golf?
"The name actually has a few meanings. First and foremost it is our family name. What better way to stand behind a product than to have your name on it. It wouldn't have the same ring to it had our last name been LATRINE or something like that, but BENDER works.
The second thinking behind BENDER was more about breaking rules than anything. White golf gloves are traditional. We thought that if a golfer wanted to be straight and narrow, and stick to the ordinary, they would wear white gloves. If they wanted to BEND the rules a little and shake things up, they'd step to the color side of things.
The third reason behind Bender Golf's name wasn't really thought about until after the company was born. The definition of BENDER is a wild drinking spree. Alot of our customers like to be bold and dress wild on the course...so it kind of fit in with what we wanted to do."
2 - Why color golf gloves?
"Why not? A few years ago when Rickie Fowler splashed on the screen he was decked out in orange from head to toe, except he had a white glove. You see John Daly wearing Loudmouth pants and colorful shirts, but always a white glove. We did some research and found a couple companies that sold color gloves and tried them out. The first was G/Fore...great gloves. The problem we had with their gloves were the price point. For me personally, I didn't want to spend that much on golf gloves. They push their gloves to a different market than we do though, more high-end golfers. They other company we tried, which I won't mention their name, has less expensive gloves...but they were junk. I bought a few and within a couple rounds had ripped through them. I decided to do something about it and start a company that had great quality and was affordable."
3 - Where do you come up with design ideas for your gloves?
"Inspiration comes from everywhere. At tradeshows, on the golf course, or even at the grocery store we see things that look cool. Sometimes customers hit us up with neat ideas, other times it's just alot of internet surfing looking at different designs that may work for golf. So the answer is really anywhere and everywhere!"
4 - Since starting with gloves you've since added sleeves and belts, what's next?
"I'm not sure, we've got a few things in mind but I better keep those to myself! You know, we hadn't really even planned on adding sleeves or belts. The sleeves came about when my dad developed a few cancer spots on his arms from being in the sun. He had two options, he could either golf in long sleeves or stop playing as much. It's too hot in Illinois for long sleeves, and giving up golf wasn't an option. So we set out to find a solution, and it was UV resistant arm sleeves. We got him some wild colors and people on the course took notice.
The belts just came about last year. I was all decked out in USA attire for a July 4th outing. The problem was I had a black or brown belt. I couldn't find a red or blue belt anywhere, mush less a white one. I thought others may have the same problem, so we started carrying them. Several hundred belts later, here we are!"
5 - How is your business different now than 5 years ago, and what do you see in the next 5 years?
"The crazy thing is we have this conversation internally alot. A few times a month I think about our first order. 4 years ago my wife and I were at a highschool basketball game and my phone dinged with our first order. We shipped it out, then nothing happened the rest of the week. Fast forward to now, I disabled the dinging notification a long time ago! It's just crazy how much we've grown and how much the systems we use have changed. We used to take orders to the post office and stand in line to mail them, now everything is paid for and labeled in our office and shipped in bulk.
5 years from now your guess is as good as mine. I'd like to think we'll still be coloring the golf world with our gear. I'm sure we'll have more cool colors and designs, maybe a few more products to add. Or who knows, maybe somebody will come in and offer us more money than we can turn down and I will have to change my last name!"
6 - What do like the most about your business, what do you like the least about your business?
"The thing I like most about our business is the people I have the luxury of meeting and some of the places I get to go that I normally wouldn't. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd hang Jim McMahon. Or I would have never guessed that I'd text NFL players or have an ongoing relationship with Nascar drivers. The thing that I find the most appealing is how classy and down to earth most of them are.
Tradeshows are a large part of our business. They are a good tool for advertising and branding our products, but I'm not much of a salesman. Get me on the golf course and I can show you how cool the gloves are, but I can't stand in a booth and sell them all day. I'm the talent!"
7 - Since this is a family business, who is in charge?
"For all of the big decisions, and most of the small ones, it's a team effort. We discuss them amongst each other, usually never agreeing on anything, and then come up with a game plan. So far we've been pretty lucky that we haven't had too many setbacks. Even though it's a team effort, I still like to think my vote counts the most!"
8 - You own a golf company, how is your golf game?
"My golf game is solid. One day I shoot well and look like I know what I'm doing, the other day I'd have better luck trying to out run a grizzly bear. I try to play as often as I can, but with little ones at home it's not as easy as it used to be. I fall in the same group as your typical weekend warrior...I can go out and par any hole out there, but at the same time it's not out of the ordinary for me to take a snowman from time to time."
9 - Do you have any particular stories along the way you want to share?
"I've got a few, some I could share others I shouldn't. One of my favorites was in Nebraska. We were asked to come out and help support Larry the Cable Guy's foundation golf outing. It would be the first time we met Jim McMahon. We were set up on a tee box greeting the players. It was hot that day, not much shade other than under our canopy. Jim came walking up and flopped down in a chair. We started talking and I told him my aunt was obsessed with him, that she had a bobble head from his Chicago Bears days on her desk. He stopped his golf round and had me video call her so he could talk to her for a couple minutes. I'll never forget how loud she was screaming on the other end of the phone."
10 - If you were to give advice to someone wanting to start their own business, what would it be?
"Hang in there. You are gonna hit some road blocks, some bigger than others. Just hang in there. Find a product or products you believe in and stand behind them. Sometimes it's not who gets to the party first, it's who stays there the longest. For us, golf is what brought us to the dance...now it's time to spike the punch bowl!"