The apparel industry is littered with the corpses of failed clothing startups. But the Central Alberta partners behind LONGball Inc. are confident they have what it takes to stay in the game.
So far, the optimism of brothers Jeff and Jared Wood and their longtime friend Leroy Hollman appear justified. The trio’s golf-focused business has performed well since last spring, when the fledgling company was just starting to market its products.
LONGball now sells seven different men’s golf shirts, as well as a half-dozen T-shirts, a similar number of hats, and accessories like club head covers. It recently added a pair of women’s golf shirts and a women’s T-shirt, and is developing a line of pants.
The company has a roster of professional golfers who are wearing LONGball gear, and it’s earned exposure as title sponsor for such events as the recent Alberta Open and the upcoming Re/Max World Long Drive Championship Qualifier on Vancouver Island. Last week, it received praise in a blog by Rick Young, equipment and business analyst with SCOREGolf Magazine and ScoreGolf.com.
“We’ve made significant progress in the last year,” said Jeff Wood, 28, who grew up in Red Deer with his 26-year-old brother Jared.
Hollman, 29, is from Penhold.
LONGball has started to make the jump from Internet seller to retail supplier.
“Red Deer Discount Golf picked up our stuff in May,” said Wood. “It’s really helped us out to get our name out and get consumers’ feedback as well.”
Amanda Hoppe, an owner and buyer at Red Deer Discount Golf Centre, said the clothing has been well-received by her customers.
“The guys have done a great job with design, as well as putting it together with quality.
“People love it: the colour, the style, the fashion.”
LONGball plans to participate in the PGA of Alberta Buying Show in Edmonton this fall, which could open new retail doors.
“All of the golf courses and stores come to that show, and they’re able to look at our clothes and then order for the next year.”
LONGball has relied on input from the players wearing its logo: Canadian Professional Golf Tour member Parker Lilly; Asian Tour professionals Steve Lewton and Guy Woodman; Web.com Tour member Mitch Evanecz; Re/Max World Long Drive Championship contestant Matt Leslie; and long-drive contestant Jeff Freeborn.
“Everything we get, we test with all of our players,” said Wood, describing Red Deer native Evanecz’s role as that of a consultant.
“Mitch is our go-to-guy when it comes to that.”
On the women’s side, Alana Lauren performs a similar function. With a background in the fashion industry, the California resident is currently playing on The Cactus Tour and will participate in the LPGA Qualifying Tournament this August.
“She’s going to be the driver of our women’s line,” said Wood.
In addition to style and durability, comfort and functionality have been emphasized in the design process.
“We put a lot of extra effort into making sure we sourced the right material.”
A soft bamboo-cotton blend is used for casual clothing, while products intended for use on the course are made with a polyester-spandex material.
“So it gives a little more athletic feel to it, especially when you’re swinging, twisting and turning,” said Wood.
Manufacturing is done in China and Thailand.
“It took a couple trips and spending a lot of time with them, communicating exactly what we want,” said Wood, who spent the past 2 1/2 years working in Thailand as a drilling engineer.