Entrepreneurship Stories: Black Business Month Series – William and Kelly Thomas of Golf2Grow, Inc.
Entrepreneurship Stories: Black Business Month Series
Q&A Featuring William and Kelly Thomas of Golf2Grow, Inc.
August is Black Business Month in the U.S., and to celebrate, COED will be featuring black-owned businesses of Cherokee County all month long.
This week we’ll hear from William and Kelly Thomas of Golf2Grow, Inc. – a business whose mission is to support non-profits and community organizations through the game of golf.
Tell us what inspired you to start your business?
William: I wish I could say that it started with some grand idea, but it really was just an idea that originated from my wife. I enjoy the game of golf. I understand the aspects of marketing and engagement, and the aspects of using golf as a platform to really get to know people. I think the reason so many business deals are done on the golf course is because you get to learn people’s temperament, you get to learn their patience, you get to learn how they think and process. You learn how quickly they give up on things and I think that’s just a precursor for how you’ll do business with someone.
It really started with just a couple of guys wanting to play some golf one day. I asked a couple of my buddies to go play, and a couple of minutes later one of the guys said, “Hey, could you get another foursome? We have more guys that want to play,” and suddenly everybody started sharing it. They started sending me Venmo and PayPal payments to get the tee times reserved, and it turned into a whole bunch of guys coming together to play. Then I thought, why don’t we raise some money? If we have this many people together, why don’t we do something and give it away or have fun and have a competition?
My wife started seeing payments come in and she said, “Why don’t you do this for a living? You should put on golf tournaments for others.” I’ve always been an entrepreneur, but I said, “I don’t know if this is viable.” She said, “Why don’t you just gear it specifically towards nonprofits who already need to raise money?”
Kelly: Well, I do not love playing golf, it’s not fun to me – I’ve tried it. When we first started, I told William that this is something he should do, but then I realized it was something we both could do. Eventually it turned into something that we can do together, do it right, and do it great.
How has being in Cherokee County helped grow your business?
William: Well Kelly grew up in downtown Woodstock, behind the Seventh Day Adventist Church. She went to Woodstock Elementary, which is now The Circuit. She played on Arnold Mill when there were one or two cars that would come down an hour. Being in Cherokee County and being a native of Cherokee County has been beneficial because we understand the pulse of the community. We understand that most of the people in this community are great people and they love each other. They care about each other. They want their county to be viable for others that are coming and those who are here. And there’s an interest [in our business]. I think that is so cool that the community feels the pulse and says, “Okay, we’re committed to that.” I think it’s awesome.
So, it’s been interesting to see what has happened as we share our business and what we’re doing. To be honest, we thought in 2022 when we launched that we [would] do one or two tournaments, maybe three if we were lucky. In 2023, we’ve already done three, we’ve got four more scheduled this year, seven on the books for next year, and we have a waiting list of five clients in 2025. That community network has been huge for us. I don’t know if it would be like that if we were anywhere else.
What advice would you give to other small businesses who are wanting to grow/scale their business?
Kelly: One thing that we enjoy that I didn’t really think we would is the networking communities that we are a part of – just getting to know other young entrepreneurs like us who want to do good things in Cherokee County. We have two that we love; Canton Business Club and Young Professionals of Woodstock, (YPOW). I think it is important to be involved with networking opportunities and the great people there. I would tell anyone who is starting a business in Cherokee County to find a local networking group.
How can we as a community best support you now and in the future?
William: I would certainly say things like this interview, where you make a concerted effort to say, “We want to champion our minority groups,” – whether it’s women owned businesses, veteran owned businesses, Black owned businesses, Asian, Hispanic, whatever it may be. I think that is huge. People see that, especially as the demographics in Cherokee County continue to change, especially as the businesses look more like the communities now.
I would certainly like to continue to see the representation that is demonstrated across Cherokee County. It’s a continuation of making people feel included and valuable and welcome as a part of this great county.
What is Golf2Grow’s mission?
William: It’s getting ready to change as we continue to expand, but ultimately our mission is to partner with non-profits and community organizations by using the efforts and impact of the community to raise funds for mission-necessary monies through golf tournaments.
What kind of impact has Golf2Grow, Inc. had on the community it serves so far? Are there any success stories that you can share from these tournaments?
William: Through six months of operation, we’ve raised just shy of $50,000 in sponsorship dollars for our clients. For us, it’s cool to hear the things people say when we drop off their check. Recently, an Executive Director that we presented a check to said, “I don’t even know these businesses who are supporting us.” To us that’s cool. People see the value in supporting those in their community who are already doing great work. To me that’s a success story.
Kelly: Obviously, we’re just William and Kelly and we don’t personally have the resources to give millions to every non-profit. But, by bringing the whole community in, we’re able to give them a bigger amount of money than only William and Kelly can give. And I think even on the other side, as far as the sponsors, probably 95% of our sponsors are local small businesses and they’re getting a spotlight for being a sponsor in a golf tournament for as little as $100.
William: We’ve heard people say, “How did you get to become a sponsor in a golf tournament?” They’re thinking it’s thousands of dollars to be one, and in some situations, it can be. Our sponsorship levels, as Kelly said, are between $100 and $2500. I’ve played in tournaments where the title presenting sponsor is $10,000, $15,000, or even $50,000. If you’re the Mom & Pop business who’s been in business 30 years, you’re the local painting shop or you’re the local print shop, you may not have $10,000 in your marketing budget for a one-time event.
Kelly: When we’re contacting the local businesses, a lot of times they’ll say, “Thank you so much. We’ve never been asked to be a sponsor for a golf tournament.”
For more information on Golf2Grow, Inc. visit https://golf2grow.com/.