Altvater: ‘Big Break’s’ James Lepp succeeding with Kikkor GolfWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Even though “Big Break Greenbrier” runner-up James Lepp lost the final match of the Golf Channel reality show to Mark Silvers last summer, he has been busy growing his business.
Lepp originally attended the University of Illinois on a golf scholarship, but transferred to the University of Washington and won the 2005 NCAA Division 1 golf championship. He has played professionally on the Canadian and Web.com Tours.
Lepp missed the cut in a Web.com event in 2008 and agreed to caddy for a friend over the weekend. After toting the bag for two days wearing his comfortable skateboarding shoes, he had an idea to make golf shoes that were more comfortable and modern.
After giving the idea considerable thought and research, Kikkor Golf was born. It was founded in 2009 and became a fully functioning company in 2010.
Kikkor Golf offers comfortable, cool, street shoes for the golf course. Lepp designs and produces all of the shoes personally. Kikkor Golf also has plans to unveil a new clothing line in the near future.
Lepp markets his Kikkor brand to a more fashion-conscious and stylish golf crowd. Much of his success has come through internet marketing at www.kikkor.com. A list of retail stores is also available at the website.
While trying to make a living with his golf clubs and get his shoe business started, golf had become a grind for Lepp. He was disappointed with the travel, missed cuts and poor play. Golf had definitely lost its allure for him.
Through a personal friend who is one of the producers of the Golf Channel’s “Big Break,” Lepp had been asked to audition for the show on several occasions. He had always declined due to the inconsistency of his game and time restraints, while attempting to get his fledgling shoe business off the ground.
The time seemed to be right in 2012 when “Big Break” called again. He took a chance and became one of the show’s favorites. His intriguing “saucer pass” chipping stroke gave golf fans a new short-game technique to try at their local clubs.
Lepp admits the “Big Break” was not like any previous golf experience. Contestants are up early and onto the range to prepare for the day’s filming. Players may only hit one or two shots if they earn immunity and have the balance of the day to enjoy the surroundings or practice.
He found the importance of each shot was magnified on the show. Unlike a round of golf when you may have 17 more holes to recover from one poor shot. One bad shot on “Big Break” could put you directly into the Elimination Round and maybe even off the show.
His competitive playing days may be over but running a growing business on a day-to-day basis keeps him in the game.
Since Lepp introduced the softer more modern looking version of the golf shoe, other companies have introduced their own copy of his idea. In an effort to protect his aging knees, Tiger Woods even sports a pair of tennis shoe-like golf shoes made by Nike.
Ecco, Adidas and Foot Joy have followed suit and offer similarly designed products as well.
Lepp’s Kikkor Golf is an interesting story of how a young entrepreneur can become successful seeing things from a different angle and offering a product that fills a need that the larger corporations with huge research and development departments tend to overlook or never realized exists.