By Louise Lee
When the late Payne Stewart won the U.S. Open back in 1999 with a particularly strong putting performance, Jim Grundberg took note. Grundberg, at the time an executive at the big Odyssey (ELY) golf brand, was intrigued by the design of Stewart's putter, made by tiny SeeMore Putter. "We thought: 'Wow, that's something else," says Grundber. "We looked at (that putter) as a threat."
Grundberg left Odyssey soon afterward but SeeMore remained in the back of his mind. After Grundberg and three friends later won a recreational scramble using Grundberg's own SeeMore putter, he became even more interested in the company, which by then was flagging.
He called Jason Pouliot, a former colleague at Odyssey, and in 2006 the pair bought SeeMore, betting they could turn it around. They appear to have done so: In 2009, sales for the 10-employee company were $1.5 million, up from about $50,000 when they acquired it. The Franklin (TN) - based SeeMore accounts for a sliver of the golf equipment market, which totaled $2.8 billion in 2009, according to the National Sporting Goods Assn. Still, SeeMore's growth shows how entrepreneurs can jumpstart an existing business, using even the most basic strategies of new product introductions and marketing.
When Pouliot and Grundberg bought SeeMore, the company was selling just one product, a putter invented by Jim Weeks, a golf instructor who founded the company in 1998. The design of the putter's head set it apart, commanding $150 at retailers' cash registers. When a player, looking straight down onto the putter, positions it so that the shaft appears to run between white lines - obscuring a red dot painted on top - the putter head is supposed to be square to the ball, increasing the odds of an accurate putt. "Hide the red dot" is an oft-repeated company marketing line.