Co-Owner and CFO
Interview with Matt Ward
West Chester University Graduate with a Bachelors Accounting Degree, Josh Leahy resides in Cliffwood Beach NJ. Spent eight years in public accounting before doing private accounting as well as co-owning and managing Tanto.
Grew up playing many sports with a love and passion for golf, baseball and basketball. Recently engaged with wedding coming up in 2023. When not working or playing golf you can find riding him jet skiing at the Jersey shore.
THE LEAHY STORY
I first began playing golf at a young age with my father and brother. My dad would like to take us to the driving range and teach us all about the sport, the clubs and most importantly that golf is just a game, have fun. I won’t lie, at that age I was really just interested in mini golf but as I got to learn how to swing and sometimes hit the ball straight, it became fun.
My father started taking us to par 3 courses to get familiar with golf and to show us that there is more than just a bucket of balls. It was when I was 9 that my dad hit a hole in one at a par 3, after seeing everyone else’s reaction, I knew this would be a sport I would want to play for years to come. It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized a hole in one is not common by any means. Not to brag, but I did happen to get one by the time I turned 26, nearly after 20 years of playing.
After learning from my father and playing golf for the next 20+ years I learned that golf is a unique sport, it is fun but takes patience and a strong mind. You have to be respectful to others around you as well as the course itself. My father always emphasized for every ball mark you fix, fix 2 more. I always carried a divot tool of some sort in my pocket and kept a few extras in my bag.
I found that these tools were either plastic and cheap or the “nicer switch blade divot tool” would jam or fall apart after a year or so of playing. After a few rounds and many beers later discussing with my future business partner Joe Caiola, Co-owner and CEO, we came up with this idea to create atool that not only would last, but was cool. We knew it wouldn’t be cheap to create or sell but we do believe there is a market for this product.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I am numbers guy; I love to check the stats and sales. Getting up analyzing and comparing to prior day, prior week, prior month, etc, budgeting and forecasting. It’s exciting to see the company grow from the ground up and I am very proud to watch it do so as well as very much looking forward to our continued success.
What was the genesis for Tanto?
Joe (Caiola) and I always had a passion for golf, golf equipment, golf etiquette. Also, Joe had a passion for high end knives such as bench made and spyderco. We thought that golf deserves tools of this quality. There are many divot tools on the market but none of which are high quality, majority being plastic injected molding. We set out to make a tool that would be of much higher quality, to last longer and also look badass.
How and why was the name Tanto chosen?
We originally filed under the name Muse Golf, which we found out when applying for our trademark that there was a fishing company that had trademarked this already and we had to pivot to a new name. After countless hours of research, we came across “Tanto”. Which is a type of blade on a samurai sword.
We actually believe that the Samurai and the Golfer have a similar connection, in the sense that they both show much respect to the game, ethical behavior in all aspects of life and self-discipline, all very important to both a golfer and samurai. We believe in golf etiquette, leaving a golf course the same way you found it. Fixing and repairing ball marks is one way to show respect to your course.
What differentiates it from the competition in the marketplace today?
Although our tool has similar functions as other tools out there, our tool is made with very high quality. Each grip is made of G10 Composite Grip that is individually CNC milled. The weight and feel of our tool is just not matched, no other divot tool on the market right now can compare.
How did you determine your price point for the products and why do you see consumers plunking down in excess of $35 for it?
These materials are not cheap, it is expensive both in labor and parts to individually mill the grips. We know individuals will spend countless dollars on golfing equipment and gear, so we thought individuals would be willing to spend $40 on a tool to help keep our greens clean. Repairing ball marks is just as important as any other part of the game.
Who is your customer and how do you plan on securing others?
Right now, our customer base is online direct to consumer. We are very excited about our expansion into Golf Galaxies this spring. Our main goal in 2022 is to start expanding into pro shops and golf events.
Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed at Tanto.
It is important in this day and age to be responsive, respectful and curtesy. Also, this generation relies on fast and quick shipping, we try to get every tool out the next day after purchase if not that same day. We also stand by our tool, if a tool breaks or stops functioning just reach out to support and we can either fix or replace a tool.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
Besides requiring every golfer from carrying a Tanto? I would probably look to speed up the pace of play unless you are playing professionally or in a tournament, we should look to standardize the out of bounds to red stakes as well as dropping at where your ball went out of bounds as opposed to going back to the last shot and taking a new shot.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who was it from?
Life is too short to be wasting time, something my best friend once told me. And from there on I always try to make the best of something and always look to improve. Once we had this idea of Tanto we ran with it, did not want to waste any time.
The biggest challenges for Tanto — short and long term — is what and how do you plan in dealing with those situations?
I think our biggest hurdle is our price. A lot of people tend to comment on our ads or Instagram posts complaining about our price. But I think once individuals actually get a chance to hold a Tanto, they know it is worth the price.
So, by achieving our goal of getting into pro shops and events, it will give individuals a chance to actually get a feel of our tool before purchasing.