Former Wall Street hedge fund manager Keith Bolognese says he has the right gift for the golfer who has everything -- more of the same, every month.
Bolognese, 41, left Quad Capital LLC in 2012 and created BirdieBox, a monthly gift subscription company for golfers. He unveiled the concept he calls “discovery shopping” in January at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
“I was burned out and had made enough money,” he said. “I’m addicted to golf.”
The business follows other similar subscription-based consumer-product companies such as 4-year-old Birchbox Inc., which supplies $10 boxes filled with women’s cosmetics and TrunkClub.com., a men’s clothing provider. Bolognese, who worked at Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc. for 10 years before founding Quad Capital, said his boxes, filled with products ranging from clothing and golf balls to nutrition items, sunglasses and electronics, tap into the “cool factor” for golfers.
“I’m used to taking on risk,” Bolognese, who entered the financial industry after spending two years playing professional baseball in the minor leagues after college, said in an interview. “It doesn’t bother me.”
A one-time BirdieBox sells for $44.95 with three, six and 12-month subscriptions also available for as much as $500. Each box is filled with items with a total retail value double the cost of the boxes. While Bolognese, who invested $750,000 to get the concept going, is currently the sole financial backer, he said he received an offer of $1 million for a 20 percent stake. He turned it down and declined to say who the offer came from. If the business grows, Bolognese said he would consider taking on investors, probably at a higher price.
Bolognese has four employees, mostly compiling data on its customers. The boxes are filled and shipped by Dotcom Distribution, a fulfillment company in Edison, New Jersey, which also handles orders for Birchbox.
The company’s first golf-themed boxes will ship March 14, Bolognese said. There are also plans to offer larger themed boxes, priced at $99.95, for golf’s major tournaments, corporate outings and key U.S. holidays, such as Father’s Day, Bolognese said. He currently has about 400 subscribers and is targeting 30,000 by the end of 2015.
Along with partnering with Golf Digest (3319) magazine and Scottsdale, Arizona-based GolfLogix Inc., a mobile-GPS golf company, as a way to reach potential subscribers, Bolognese said he has currently enlisted about 40-50 golf and lifestyle-product companies to supply items.
Travis Mathew LLC., a Huntington Beach, California-based golf apparel company, is among those initially supplying items for BirdieBox as a way to get their clothing and accessories in front of potential new customers.
“He’s a new entity, which is part of why I have some trepidation in the beginning,” Gary Richards, director of sales for Travis Mathew, said in an interview. “But if it works, I know there’s a good chance I could sell some products.”
Richards, whose company also offers a subscription-based membership club for its line of polo-style shirts, is cautious about Bolognese’s plan.
“It’s going to come down to choosing the right products and knowing your customers,” Richards said. “It’s a cool idea, but if half of your customers don’t like what’s in their box, they’re gone, and they ain’t coming back.”
As a member at Whisper Rock, a private Scottsdale, Arizona, golf club with a membership list that includes U.S. PGA Tour players, Bolognese’s list of potential golf-savvy investors is long, he said. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Bolognese is also a member at New Jersey’s Bayonne Golf Club, a private club across the Hudson River from New York.
Describing himself as a golf addict with a 7.6 handicap, Bolognese said he is new to the e-commerce business. He maintains an 11 percent ownership in New York-based Quad Capital and remains active in finance. The fund doesn’t disclose annual numbers, he said.
Quad Capital didn’t respond to a request for comment about Bolognese or his new venture.
“They’re extremely different,” Bolognese said of the two businesses. “But I’m an entrepreneur with a good business sense. And I love golf.”
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