Why Did You Decide to Start The (MAS Putter) Business?
I started my own putter making business when collecting alone no longer satisfied my passion for putters. I had a vision of my ideal putter and became obsessed with its design and eventually its creation. I could not have made the progression from idea to design on paper to the physical creation of the putter and eventually my own business if not for the inspiration, motivation and support of people who I befriended along the way. They certainly contributed to my decision to create MAS Golf.
Back in 2008, I hunted down and purchased my Cameron holy grail, which is a Studio Design 5 with a plumbers neck. I was able to track down the original owner, Ed Meiners, who ordered it custom when that was still an option. I started corresponding with Ed who just happened to have sold his putter collection to begin making his own, which he called Anton Putters. After hearing Ed's story, I expressed to him that my long-term goal was to do exactly what he was doing, although at the time I did not have the time and resources to get started. Had it not been for this inspiring chance encounter, I probably never would have set MAS Golf in motion. Ed and I still catch up from time to time share our experiences along the way.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
The biggest hurdle is moving from drawing to finished product. It is very difficult to get small quantity production done reasonably and a single prototype is even harder. The miller who made my first prototype and subsequent limited production is Kari Lajosi. He also happens to be an incredibly nice guy, who is willing to share his wisdom and offers the unique service of one off putter making. Anyone familiar with Kari knows that he does quality work and is always willing to help out when he can.
What was the most rewarding moment in this process?
The most rewarding moment in the process happened when I read my first online review on MyGolfSpy. One never knows what someone will say or think about your product, especially when you are sending out prototypes and not what will eventually be readily available for sale. The review justified the hard work put in to date, and hopefully there will be many more to come. The quote that resonated most with me was " With the Ackie, Matt said he was looking to create a hybrid design with both 'modern and classical' appeal. According to our test group, he absolutely knocked it out of the park." That was incredibly rewarding to read.
How long did it take from the original idea until the finished product?
This is a difficult question to answer because the process is not always perfectly linear, but from idea to finished product it took about 4 years total. That said, about a year passed between the first cad drawing and the first sale.
The process for me was not that hard since I was able to create a 3D CAD model of exactly what I wanted to have milled. I approached various millers and sent the model around to gauge cost and feasibility. From the first CAD model to the final product there have only been a few small modifications that had to be made due to the limitations of milling steel. I have learned along the way how design can directly affect product cost, but with the Ackie I was unwilling to make any cost driven changes that would compromise the original design.
What unexpected challenges did you face?
Honestly, there have been more unexpected bumps than I ever anticipated, so from the beginning I have come to expect the challenges. As a designer, I did not expect fabrication and sales to be as challenging. All millers are not created equal, and there is a definite learning curve to putter making. Building a company by liquidating a putter collection is not easy, but I have come to appreciate that if being successful was easy then everyone would do it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a golf business?
Don't quit your day job! Take a hard look at some of the companies that have survived for many years and take notice of the many that have not. It could be years before a company becomes profitable. I have been able to weather the bumps in the road and stick with my dream because I do not rely on MAS Golf to pay my bills, and that is what allows me to enjoy the business. If you have the passion and can stay committed and anticipate the challenges, then you should go for it.