By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Jake Rheude is not even out of college – that occurs next month – but he already qualifies as a serial entrepreneur with his latest undertaking named JuniorGolfInfo.
The Ohio native founded SummerSett Foods, LLC, a start-up that won three business plan competitions hosted by the University of Tennessee (UT) – the 2011 “Fall Vol Court” and 2012 and 2013 “Boyd Venture Fund.”
Now, as he prepares to graduate with a B.S. degree in Marketing, Rheude is integrally involved in a new start-up, JuniorGolfInfo.com, the brainchild of Nashville producer and country music Hall of Famer Kurt Howell. The new initiative focuses on helping parents of junior golfers find the best competitive venues for their sons and daughters.
Although Rheude participated in sports (swimming and wrestling) in high school, he admits golf was not a passion then.
“I am a golfer now,” Rheude says with a laugh.
The idea behind JuniorGolfInfo is simple, but it is also driven by the real life experience of Howell. In fact, he has posted a video on his motivation.
“Kurt’s son is a senior in high school, and he’s been golfing since he was six years old,” Rheude says. “They have spent quite a bit of time, navigating various tournament sites, trying to find the right tournaments for him, while attempting to understand the rules and regulations of the NCAA.”
Rheude explains that tournaments for junior golfers are plentiful, but some are best suited to individuals who want to impress college recruiters while others are more appropriate for those who want to compete professionally.
While the average parent might expect to go to a single website, such as the American Junior Golf Association, to find a list of all tournaments, Rheude says that is not the case. Instead, there are a number of sites that charge a listing fee to the tournaments and an access fee to the parents.
“Our goal is to have one site for all local, regional and national junior golf tournaments,” he says of the new start-up. “You just plug in dates and regions and get a list of opportunities.”
That’s not the only capability that Howell and Rheude plan to incorporate in the website that is currently under development.
Based on the initial profile that each golfer creates, the website will provide suggestions on the tournaments that appear to be the best match for the individual’s goals and current qualifications. Then, as the golfer updates his/her statistics after each tournament, the website will be able to provide revised feedback and suggestions.
“It’s an interactive tool to use throughout the season,” Rheude says. “It will really help parents who haven’t spent years in junior golf, while opening new opportunities and simplifying the process for seasoned parents.”
Howell and Rheude have been working on the concept since October and expect to have the business plan finalized in the next several months.
“It’s a really, really cool business model,” Rheude says.
JuniorGolfInfo will do a soft launch this fall to gain feedback. As part of that effort, Rheude expects to set-up tents at junior golf events and sign-up subscribers. A full-fledged launch is expected in early 2015.
“We’ll run JuniorGolfInfo for a few years, validate the business model, and then expand,” Rheude says. Expansion means other sports like tennis, gymnastics and swimming.
For now, there’s a sizable market just in junior golf. Rheude says 300,000 students are part of a formal high school golf program and about 2.3 million individuals between 7 and 17 years of age are participating in some form of golf.
“There’s growing interest,” he says. “We want to be seen as a tool for the parents.”
As far as SummerSett, Rheude says he’s evaluating the path forward after a joint-venture proposal from his co-packer to license the distribution of his brand of Momma Rudy’s Buffalo Chicken Dips.
Rheude is also hoping to continue his education with an MBA from UT, concentrating in entrepreneurship.