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Kikking Golf Into Another Gear

James Lepp and Kikkor Golf are drawing reaction from golfers everywhere
James Lepp and Kikkor Golf are drawing reaction from golfers everywhere

James Lepp makes no apologies for who he is.  And he shouldn’t.  He’s young, in touch with fashion trends and pop culture and when it comes to golf – he gets it.  It is a game, it’s fun, and he likes that.

Lepp, a Vancouver native, has been grabbing headlines in the last month for his new company, Kikkor Golf.  And rightly so.  The designs of his golf shoes are fresh, current, and obviously striking a chord with the plugged-in world that are flocking to check out their website and Facebook page, and more importantly – his products.

But headlines are nothing new for Lepp, a standout amateur who won the 2005 NCAA Golf Championship and went on to win on the Canadian Tour. He has shown he has a high comfort level inside the ropes.  It has given him a unique and beneficial insight as he has taken to the business side of golf – all on his own terms.

When we first sat down with James it was in January of this year at the PGA Merchandise Show.  The 25-year old was making his first foray into the beast of a show where the golf industry meets each year.  As overwhelmed as he looked by the scope of the event it was clear he was ready to take it on and show the world what Kikkor Golf was all about.

Hatched from his mind and his experience growing up in a west coast skate culture, Lepp’s focus with Kikkor is a street style sampling of shoes that immediately grab your attention.  The look is distinctive, the colours (if you prefer) are bold.  They are not for everyone but once you get your paws into a set of them the comfort level makes you rethink any preconceived notion.

That winter day in Orlando Lepp’s media pitch was about comfort and styling.  It was also about doing things right.  Almost four months later he has delivered with a solid product, lots of buzz generated by his own massive multi-media efforts, and flowing distribution deals that are getting product delivered to what seems to be very happy end users.

“The response, I don’t know what to base it off,” admits Lepp as he talks to us by phone from British Columbia. “From the consumer it’s been very good.  It’s been very polarized which I actually like.”

Most entrepreneurs would cringe at the thought of people having a love-hate relationship with their products but James takes a different approach.  “I’d rather have five percent of people just absolutely love it and be loyal to the brand and the other 95 percent hate it because those five percent of the people are actually going to buy the shoes.  If you are just somewhere in the middle, kind of neutral, then people will just go buy a different pair of shoes because your shoes are not really doing anything for them.”

It’s that type of honesty that has gained Lepp and Kikkor plenty of grass roots support as he pushes his way into the golf industry, even if the majority of golfers are not his target demographic.

“I’m not surprised at who likes the shoes; I designed them for younger players.  I’m surprised at how the older generation is responding to the brand.  Even though they may not buy the shoes they seem to get the vibe of what Kikkor is all about; they seem to respect that and enjoy it,” Lepp relates in his typical straightforward nature.

Part of that hook has been the marketing campaign that has included golf tip videos on the Kikkor website, YouTube and Facebook.  And these are not your usual instruction pieces.  Ever hear of a Saucer Pass shot in golf?  Yeah, we thought not.  The result has been a viral effect that has attracted golfers young and old to see the clips, and in turn, learn about Kikkor.  How pervasive it?  I walked into one clubhouse just over a month ago, mentioned the word Kikkor is a casual conversation and before you know it a multiple time Canadian PGA Zone champion (in his late 30’s I might add) was demonstrating the Kikkor Saucer Pass shot into a net.

The Kikkor Golf Circle 3 Shoe
The Kikkor Golf Circle 3 Shoe

In the first year Lepp has been cautious is his business model.  There will be a limited number of shoes available from the small line-up that currently consists of two models (Eppik (4 colours) and Circle 3 (two colours) and a couple hats.  He says that they will see how that goes while working on a larger spread for the 2011 line.

Looking ahead there are plenty of possibilities for the Kikkor line and Lepp already has some things in mind.  “Right now the shoe is very “skate shoey”, typical of Vans or any skate shoe but built for golf,” he shares.  “Going ahead we might get a little more streamlined, a little more classy looking I guess, but still with that sneaker and street shoe roots.”  He says they are also looking at a retro-runner style shoe that is looking pretty good in development.  He exclaims, “That should appeal to a lot more customers.”

As for the potential for their products Lepp feels there is less of a limit than most people would imagine.  “I think there are a lot of people out there, of just about any age, that wants to be youthful,” he remarks about the customer possibilities.  “Unless you are 10 or 12 years old just about everyone wants to be younger than they are.”

That’s a trump card for Lepp who is obviously in tune with his youthful customer.  That is exactly why, in their first year of business, he has leveraged social media (which attracts the “youthful” folk like a magnet) so hard to get the word out.  “I think people like the lighter side of golf,” he says with particular reference to the success of the unorthodox videos on their sites.

“Golf is supposed to be fun,” says the guy who knows about the serious side of competition but always stayed true to his own attitude about the sport.  “I think people like the lighter side of the game and we want to show them that Kikkor Golf can be a part of that for them.”

To learn more about Kikkor Golf swing by their website at www.kikkor.ca.  You can also find them on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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