During my annual golf trip in 2012 to Tampa, FL is when I personally and professionally had an epiphany moment that would change my life.
The golf trip is your normal trip full of fun, gambling, lies, and a lots of food and libations, but one unique thing about this trip is how the assembled group always uplifts motivates each other. During a 19th hole conclusion to our round at Cheval Golf & Country Club we were watching “How I Made My Millions” which was featuring a company named Vineyard Vines. Watching the show I kept thinking these guys just went out and did it and why couldn’t I do the same thing.
Fast forward several months – I was invited to play in an LPGA pro-am and I was so excited I accepted without thinking about it – but the FEAR hit me twofold.
First, I wasn’t a good golfer and could easily line drive a ball into someone or hit a house and second, what was I going to wear – my normal cargo shorts or wind pants would not cut it
I visited four different golf stores looking for something to wear – and big surprise — nothing fit. Everything was too tight, too short, or just plain wrong. So what did I do? I got creative and reached out to a friend in manufacturing and we designed a pair of blue unbranded shorts that I wore in the pro-am. Again, to my surprise, people noticed that this 6’4” 320 pound hunk of a man — pardon my self promotion — had on golf clothes that fit, and by the end of the event several people had stopped me to ask about my shorts.
Within 45 days of the pro-am I developed a second pair of shorts as well as a pair of pants — created a company name and logo — and started getting a temperature gauge on big and tall in the golf industry. The temperature was very warm so I decided to take the line to the PGA merchandise show in the coming year. All of a sudden this not so good golfer/engineer/marketer found himself with both feet in the golfing industry.
I realized my prayers had been answered so smoothly that even I had not realized. My expertise was strategic planning and marketing which is required to build a business. My passion was helping people — helping guys comfortably look the part so they stand apart for all the right reasons.
The point that I want to drive home here is this – The things that you want to accomplish for whatever your reasons are attainable you just have to be willing to put the work in. The work can be long, confusing, and challenging but the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming and addictive.
MATT WARD: How did you decide on the company name is Aveo?
DARIUS HICKS: The company name started as Aveo Mor which really has two different meanings. The word Aveo which has multiple meanings can be translated to mean want or desire. It also has a loose translation meaning Vast — which I relate to large or big. While the word mor can be loosely translated into long — which I relate to tall. So Aveo Mor is loosely another way to say I wanted more — or a fancy way to say Big & Tall. Plus the letter A pops on alphabetical lists much earlier than Huge Man Golf Apparel.
MW: Are more golf clubs and courses coming on board to provide such clothing options for their members and golfers?
DH: Absolutely, we are already available in Haggin Oaks pro shop in Sacramento California and are talking with several others right now. The “awakening” that’s occurring is hitting at the perfect time. The category of men’s big and tall golf has been ripe and ready for a while but primarily ignored by many manufacturers. The real issue is that it is tough to find a pair of shorts or pants that really fit — not almost fit — while still delivering on your style needs. And lets not skip one of the most important aspects — the clothes have to be comfortable for a 4 hour round.
MW: In rough terms — what is the percentage of your outreach efforts — via green grass shops, online and retail outlets?
DH: As we grow we fully expect to be available in most channels and most retail outlets both online and brick and mortar. However, as a new brand we have to grow in a smart way and that means pushing for brand name retail inclusion and targeting highly credible smaller institutions. I’m happy to report our progress has been stellar and a few of the top retailers we have distribution in through an online connection include Golfsmith, Dicks Sporting Goods, Golf Galaxy. And through retail outlet brick and mortar through Golfdom stores, Carls Golfland and Haggin Oaks pro shop. We have also recently launched our own ecommerce site at Aveogolf.com.
MW: Your motto is play, work and live fearlessly. Frankly, you’re saying the people who buy Aveo have felt some sort of previous fear in what they wore when playing. Can you expound on that?
DH: What we are saying is a reminder to be bold never hurt. Play fearlessly is a motto for those who have the ability to do and be anything. It’s a reminder that the best success comes from being fearless in your approach. Starting Aveo I heard all kinds of good and bad but I chose to listen to myself and follow my instincts. Playing fearless is how I grew a business in golf apparel when I was an engineer and marketer by trade.
MW: How do you cultivate customer feedback?
DH: By any means possible – I laugh when I say that but I wholeheartedly mean it. As a new and growing company — a huge part of our competitive advantage is the ability to listen to our customers and change — if warranted — on a dime. Our customer can easily reach us via aveogolf.com and any of our social channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I encourage them to reach out to us as often as possible.
MW: Has there ever come a time when customer feedback determined a clothing approach you eventually implemented?
DH: Yes indeed it has – We received early feedback about one important element of our clothing and incorporated that feedback into all designs. For us that is a best case scenario – a customer who cares enough to tell you that I love what you all are doing and while it worked for me it would work even better if you did this. We took that info — checked it against other customers — and boom made the change.
MW: In terms of costs — how do you compare against competitors who only provide basic clothing lines for men and women?
DH: We provide a special design for men with big and tall needs. We use proprietary materials that ensure top of the line performance, durability, and fit. With all of that our price is at par or lower than most other big and tall offerings — however scattered those offerings are.
MW: Are there plans to include a women’s line as well?
DH: We get that question at least twice a month and the answer is yes. But first we want to make sure we’re taking core of todays core customer – big and tall men. As soon as our vision is realized we will take on the women’s clothing area with as much focus as we have the men.
MW: Why do you think mainline clothing companies have been slow at the switch concerning the target audience you deal with daily?
DH: Great ideas are often overlooked until someone makes a move and wins with it. However, in this case I had insider knowledge– I am a big guy who has big friends who all love to play golf and have the same big problem. I had to make Aveo real for me — I am a big customer — and for all the other guys just like me and there are a lot of us. I’m sure eventually other big and tall players will enter the market but we got here first and will do it the best.
MW: Curious to know — have you made any outreach efforts to specific players on either the PGA or European Tours and do you feel such endorsements would add to your overall standing and market awareness?
DH: Thus far no — but we plan to do so in the near term. Before draping a top level golfer in Aveo and flaunting it to the world it was important to make sure we had strong distribution. The last thing we wanted to do was appeal to a big and tall guy but then create frustration when he couldn’t find us. Now that we have a broad enough net that access is easy to access. Expect Aveo on a pro golfer near you in the future.
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