Golf pro and coach to the stars David Blair used his loan from Transmit Startups to launch his Glasgow-based teaching studio Swing Build Golf.
Here he tells us how he’s used his love of the game to create a special community during lockdown and build brand loyalty for the future.
Hi David, give us a quick overview of your business journey up to the point of COVID-19.
I have played and coached golf for over 35 years. I’ve had my own TV programmes, I’ve written for sports publications around the world and have coached hundreds of people including numerous celebrities.
I love sharing my passion for the sport with others so the next logical step seemed to be launching my own businesses. I joined forces with my wife Karen and together we planned Swing Build Golf to provide coaching to individuals and groups within a studio containing industry-leading simulators. The business launched last year.
How quickly were you affected by the pandemic and what impact did this have?
We were one of the first to close and we’ll be one of the last to re-open. The nature of our tuition means it’s impossible to stay two metres apart.
How did your customers and suppliers react?
Customers are really missing being able to get out on the golf course. Some continue to telephone to ask if they can use the premises, to have lessons – but of course we have had to say no.
What steps have you taken to minimise the impact on your business?
Our main concern has been to keep the golf community connected – to give something back to our customers. We started giving online lessons, critiquing videos and then launched weekly Zoom webinars. This has been going incredibly well. Golfers could talk about the game all day!
It’s given people a chance to escape the reality of lockdown for a while and to focus on something they love. We’ve had golfers from as far afield as Uruguay send us their videos. One player from Thailand contacts us once a day for advice. We’ve been doing this all for free with the aim of helping to ease the strain on customers during this difficult time. Hhopefully they will return to us when this is all over.
How would you describe your experience of the crisis as an entrepreneur?
We were just finding our feet as a new business when this happened so it’s obviously hurt us and delayed our progress. We’d had a tricky start in business because of problems with a supplier. We’d just managed to get over that and things were starting to really take off when the virus hit. It’s been difficult but the reaction from our very enthusiastic customers shows there is a real appetite for what we do. We can’t wait to get back to it. People will obviously be desperate to get outdoors once it's safe. But the studio will offer a cosy alternative to the unpredictable Scottish weather and the option to play some of the world’s top golf courses.
Have you taken any steps to cope with the crisis that could potentially lead to long-term changes for your business?
There is definitely potential to develop some of our new online coaching as paid-for services. We might explore this, though there’s no substitute for one-to-one coaching in person. We will also consider ways to keep our new community going because that has brought so much joy to people during this anxious time.