Golf instructor James Skrypec was out of a job when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but he quickly got back into the swing of things by launching a new product meant to make golf safer.
Pin Caddy is a hands-free device – useful in a time of health and safety restrictions, when health and government authorities are recommending physical distancing.
“You don’t have to touch your pin, you don’t have to touch your ball. It’s a contactless ball retrieval tool,” says James. “We feel we helped safely return golf.”
How did Pin Caddy come about?
I’m the director of golf instruction at Deer Ridge Golf Club in Kitchener. I was contacted by a member, who wanted me to check out this new product he had designed.
When I first picked it up, I was totally floored by the simplicity of the product. Once I put a Pin Caddy on a pin and used it myself, my mind was just racing with thoughts; I was so excited.
Originally, he and another partner wanted to hire me as a sales guy, but I negotiated with them – I wanted to be their third partner.
I literally went home that afternoon, picked up the phone, and started calling some of my contacts.
We took a video when they showed me the product, so we had something to show people, and it had a 100-per-cent sell rate. Every person I talked to and showed the video to was buying a set of them.
We officially launched Pin Caddy Inc. on April 20, 2020, and have sold more than 8,000 units so far. A single Pin Caddy unit costs $35.
I converted my golf lesson website to Pin Caddy, and people were just buying them instantly. It was really cool, honestly.
What’s it like starting a business during a pandemic?
People were having such trouble with their jobs, so I feel very fortunate that we started a business during the pandemic.
We had kind of filled that void of what people were looking for.
There were a lot of questions about how we were going to reopen golf. We feel we helped safely return golf.
I learned so much about starting a new business.
Since then, I’ve had five or six people approach me about other products, like, “Hey, why don’t you sell this?” Well, I have a full-time job, and it requires so much work to get a product off the ground.
For the first three or four weeks that we had Pin Caddy, I was making phone calls, sending emails, and talking to everyone.
It’s a lot of work to get something off the ground like that, but it was such a great experience.
I was learning a lot about everything from patents, to all the legal aspects of starting a new product, to marketing and how important all the connections are around you that you’ve made throughout your life.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
Don’t think about all the things that could go wrong. If we’d done that with Pin Caddy, we’d still be sitting there thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong. And a lot of things did go wrong.
Think about the product’s potential. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get through all the hurdles along the way.
What’s it like working in the golf industry right now?
As the director of golf instruction at Deer Ridge, I basically build and implement all the instructional programs at the club.
In the last two years because of COVID-19, golf has absolutely started to boom.
My schedule is crazy busy; I have about 75 people on a waitlist to take a golf lesson, and I’m booked three weeks in advance.
We have an indoor facility we’ve run for the last three or four years, and it’s fully booked.
It’s been nice to turn golf into a year-round, non-seasonal career.
Any golfing tips for this season?
Practice and see a certified PGA of Canada instructor to help accelerate your progress.
At the end of the day, I say to all my junior golfers, “You get what you put into golf.”
What’s next for Pin Caddy?
We’ve been told there are a lot of clubs in Toronto and Vancouver that are going to continue playing with Pin Caddy even past COVID-19.
Pin Caddy will be maintained as it is. It’ll be something I will always look back on and relish the memory.
As far as continuing on, I love my job as a golf instructor, so that will remain my primary.