5 min read
“If you never face hurdles then how are you going to get better at jumping?”
-Cody, Fly to FI
Disc golf is a fairly simple sport: you throw a disc (similar to a frisbee) at a target (a basket with chains) that is typically hundreds of feet away. Similar to golf, you want to reach the target in as few attempts as possible. Also similar to golf, a disc golf course usually has 18 holes.
I discovered disc golf a couple years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite outdoor activities. It’s free, it’s easier than real golf, and it’s an excuse to get out in nature with a group of friends. Also, I’m shocked at how many different courses are out there. If you hop on Google Maps and type in “disc golf course”, you’ll probably find a couple courses within 20 minutes of your home.
I recently got the chance to catch up with someone in the personal finance blogosphere who started their own disc golf manufacturing company: Cody from Fly to FI. In this interview, he shares how he came up with the idea for his company Arsenal Discs, mistakes he made along the way, his plan for future business growth, and tips he has for other young entrepreneurs.
Zach: How did you come up with the idea for Arsenal Discs?
Cody: At age 19, I read the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and that book transformed my whole outlook on work and money. My #1 key takeaway was that time and money didn’t have to be linearly related. Instead, I could frontload the work, build a business, and ride out the fruits of my labor in perpetuity.
I was instantly addicted to the idea of entrepreneurship and (semi) passive income. After two failed ventures (a tutoring company and a specialty clothing company), I finally found success. In June of 2016, I co-founded Arsenal Discs, a premium disc golf manufacturing company with my friend and business partner, Jim Fitch. I had a background in Finance and Economics and Jim was a talented mechanical engineer. Put those two skillsets together and you have a deadly duo for a disc golf startup.
So I’m sure you’re curious… “Why disc golf”? Well, I had been playing the sport since I was eight years old. My uncle owns a disc golf course and I had dozens of friends within the community. It only seemed natural to build a company that coincided with my passions. I had the hustle, I had the grit, now we just needed to put our plan to action.
At the time of our company’s launch, I was a 19-year-old junior in college.
Zach: What exactly is the business model? How do you make money?
Cody: Our business model is fairly straightforward. We sell a physical product (golf discs) to wholesalers and to individual customers. We manufacture the discs for a certain price and then mark the prices up accordingly depending on order quantity, disc selection, etc.
Although we are mostly found in what are called ‘Pro Shops’ or retail stores specific to the sport of disc golf, we are slowly branching out to the larger sports equipment carriers.
In the near future, we plan to launch our affiliate program and to team up with other companies within the disc golf space for sponsorship and advertising opportunities. Once you develop a solid network, your income-creation opportunities are virtually endless.
Zach: How long did it take you to go from a simple idea to making your first sale?
Cody: For anyone who has ever tried to manufacture a physical product from scratch, it’s not easy. Murphy’s Law is real for every aspiring entrepreneur: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
We launched Arsenal Discs in June of 2016, but didn’t have our first shelf-worthy disc until late October of 2017. During these 17 months, we underwent intensive R&D, redesigning, and plenty of panic-filled weeks. Almost 90% of our first-try ideas failed, but we weren’t giving up.
In disc golf manufacturing there are three main components to the Research and Development (R&D) process: The prototyping company, the mold manufacturer, and the product manufacturer. For each of these segments, we reached out to between 50 and 70 companies to find the most competitive on price, quality, and speed.
As you can imagine, this process was a massive headache and took hundreds of hours of emails and phone calls. Finally, in November 2017, all of our systems were in place and we produced our first shelf-ready discs.
Zach: What are your goals for the future with Arsenal Discs?
Cody: In the next couple of years, we plan to drastically increase our manufacturing quantities and to form partnerships with retailers from around the globe. Ideally, we can scale the business up to a point where a majority of the day-to-day operations are outsourced.
This would include a full-service fulfillment center, VAs for blog posts, and customer service assistants. We still have quite a ways to go, but that’s the goal!
I truly believe that if you are deliberate about setting up your business, you can focus on the things that you enjoy and outsource the rest. My inner Tim Ferriss is always trying to optimize everything and aim for that 4-Hour Workweek.
Zach: Through building this business,what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Cody: We have faced hundreds, maybe even thousands of obstacles including everything from faulty prototypes, partnerships gone sour, missing material, etc. — those stories could be an entire book in themselves. Every single part of the manufacturing process has failed or been screwed up in some shape or form.
Our biggest hurdle to date was our shift to a new manufacturing facility in early 2018. We are still recovering from the time and money lost during that enormous undertaking.
If we could start over again, I would probably opt to partner with one of the larger companies in the disc golf manufacturing space and work out some sort of profit-sharing agreement to use their facilities and state-of-the-art equipment. Manufacturing a product from scratch has, by far, been our biggest hurdle.
Zach: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from starting a business?
Cody: Building your own business is the best thing you could ever do for your growth and development. No matter how successful your venture is, you will learn countless lessons and grow in ways that you never even knew were possible. Arsenal Discs has taught me lessons in SEO, marketing, partnerships, graphic design, web design, video production, WordPress, engineering, and so much more.
I am, and always will be, a career entrepreneur and I cannot overstate how valuable the process of building your own business is. And like I said, it’s not going to be rosy. But, if you never face hurdles then how are you going to get better at jumping?
Zach: Any advice for other young people looking to start their own business?
Cody: If you are a young entrepreneur, you have so many advantages over your older counterparts. Screw experience, tenure, wisdom and all of that. You have something much more powerful than that. If you don’t have a family, mortgage, car payment, or other expensive lifestyle costs, you have so much more flexibility in your entrepreneurial ventures.
What’s the worst that happens? Your business fails miserably and you go back to living the crummy quality life you were living in your late teens or early twenties. Big deal! Now you’re equipped with a skill set that will make you even more dangerous the next time around.
Fail early and fail often. It’s better to lose $5,000 when you’re 25, than to lose $100,000 at age 50. Having a flexible cost of living is such a huge advantage that you have in taking calculated entrepreneurial risks. Use your youth to your advantage!
Zach: Where can readers go to find out more about both you and your company?
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