If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that entrepreneurial success can be found in the most unlikely and unexpected areas. When starting a business, it’s tempting to sell an already popular and trending product. However, finding the proverbial “diamond in the rough” niche and learning to effectively market it can turn out to be even more of a profitable venture.
Alan Barker, the founder of Infinite Discs, understands this phenomenon more than most.
For nearly a decade, Barker has been operating Infinite Discs, which distributes disc golf equipment. Initially, Barker’s business began as an excuse to test out new disc golf products.
At the time of its launch, Barker was working as a lead-generating web designer for real estate agents, and any intention of becoming a full-time distributor for disc golf products was simply non-existent.
“Disc golf is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States and our entry into the industry 9 years ago couldn’t have come at a better time,” comments Barker. “We became the largest disc golf retailer by creating the most user-friendly website with more information, more inventory, more brands, and unique disc artwork.”
Thanks to his ongoing dedication to the brand, Barker’s business now generates $12 million in annual revenue—and they’re still growing.
The Backstory of Infinite Discs
In an interview with Starter Story, Barker reflects on how Infinite Discs came to be. “One day, when the internet went out, an employee and I decided to leave the office to play some disc golf. We couldn’t do anything productive while the internet was out, right?”
But their disc golf outing quickly turned into much more than a recreational activity. Barker and his partner saw an opportunity to capitalize on a fast-growing sport.
“Because building and optimizing websites for search engines was something we already did, we decided to slap up a quick disc golf review website on WordPress,” continues Barker.
Next, Barker looked for ways to monetize the traffic he wants to get on his website. After locating a disc golf distributor in Kansas, Barker could now drop ship products sold through his website.
And thus began the launch of Infinite Discs. In October of 2012, Barker’s passion for disc golf became a legal revenue-generating business.
The next step was to learn how to market and advertise his products.
Overcoming Obstacles and Refining the Brand
After officially launching the business, Barker and his team turned their attention to organizing, designing, and refining it. “In the beginning, our product was our website. Our goal was to make it the most informative and inclusive website in all of disc golf,” explains Barker.
While launching the WordPress website itself wasn’t too difficult of a task, the real challenge was “writing content, creating uniform disc flight ratings, reviewing products, and providing an advanced way for customers to find the best disc for them.”
And at this point, disc golf was only becoming more and more popular. Barker realized that it would take more than just a basic WordPress website to maintain success.
Now, he looked to develop a custom eCommerce website and offer additional features, such as a rewards program, tournament management system, a disc golf course directory, in-store sales management, and wholesale sales.
Fast forward to five years later, and Barker’s business now demanded even more of a robust platform. Since disc golf was becoming such a popular sport, the number of competing disc golf companies was increasing, and Barker would have to step up his game.
Online: The Way Forward
In the early days of Infinite Discs, Barker’s team sold mainstream retail disc golf equipment. But Barker wanted to do something no one else in the business was doing—create new and unique disc golf products.
After playing with ideas and designs, Barker settled on creating a disc golf bag. The next step was prototyping the product.
“We found existing bag manufacturers in China on Alibaba.com and paid for samples. We then modified them to make them better and more durable,” explains Barker.
A few dozen samples later, Barker still wasn’t feeling confident enough to market his product yet. After some more modifications, his team settled on two disc golf bag variations, paid the 50 percent downpayment required to have them mass-produced, and began offering their new products to customers.
Since then, Barker’s team has created various unique products, including a line of golf accessories and apparel. They’ve even expanded to selling on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, which enables them to reach a bigger audience.
As far as a brick-and-mortar storefront goes, Barker has been forced to expand along with his business. “Every year we just keep growing. When we started getting our inventory we utilized a single 400 square foot room in the office complex of my previous business. That room soon became three, and when the fifth and final vacant room was occupied, we piled up inventory on makeshift shelves in the hallways and bathrooms to accommodate our inventory growth.”
Now, Infinite Discs is looking to relocate. Since most warehouses are either too small or worn-down, Barker has decided to purchase a parcel of land and begin plans for building his own warehouse.
Changing with the Industry
As Barker’s business has grown over the past decade, he’s been able to learn all the dos and don’ts of entrepreneurship. “Growing a business is fun, but at the same time, there are lots of headaches associated with the growth,” comments Barker.
One of the biggest lessons he’s been able to learn is the process of adapting to industry changes and accepting help from external sources along the way.
“Things are always changing. Industries change quickly and you need to be able to adapt otherwise you likely won’t succeed. As your team grows, it is ultra important to have good people to handle important aspects of the business. In the beginning, you can do everything yourself, but this just isn’t possible with a business that has grown as fast as mine has.”