Interview with Matt Ward
Helena Stanton is Founder and Lead designer of the Rocket Tour Golf brand. The classic but modern knit headcovers line is known for it’s signature collegiate – inspired stripes encouraging players to express their personal style on their golf bags. The brand has now grown to outfit and supply 300 plus NCAA programs with their signature striped headcovers in school colors and appeals to golf enthusiast and avid golfers.
THE STANTON STORY —
My early years studying textile and weaving arts at Cranbrook School, the Bloomfield Hills school focused on the arts, was the beginning of my passion for textile design. I went on to earn my degree in economics and business at the University of Utah. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After college, I co-founded a successful craft beer label for 10 years doing the brand marketing and design. We had a successful sale of that company.
I have a sports background in competitive ski racing and junior tennis and later fell in love with golf as a young adult. I have always been fascinated with classic “collegiate and varsity style” regardless of the sport – inspired by the details of classic ski sweaters and school and team sporting stripes. In 2004, I paired my love of golf and textile design and Collegiate style founded Rocket Tour Golf. I noticed there was something missing on the bags of avid and professional golfers – head covers that blend the best of the traditional look with bold modern details that would appeal and inspire our younger generation golfers and collegiate players.
I believe that the golf bag is part of a golfers on-course or at-the-club wardrobe and that it should always be fresh, look great, and say a bit about who you are. I set out to create a look that is a bit throwback but distinctly colorful and modern. Rocket Tour was born and since 2004 I have been outfitting teams and avid golfers, helping them express their own personal style on the course.
You wake up in the morning what’s the driving passion?
I aim to attract more people to golf through fun design. Enhancing their golf experience making it more meaningful. It feels good to show your affiliations – school, team, country or OEM bag colors. It’s the most visible thing on our bag… and follows you around!
What was the genesis for Rocket Tour’s creation as a company?
When I started Rocket Tour in 2004 there were not many options for golfer to personalize their golf bags. Personalization was the driving force in starting Rocket Tour. The golf bag follows the player and should speak to who you are, where you’ve been and show some personal style.
How do your efforts differentiate themselves from your competition?
In several ways. First, we have obsessive attention to detail and quality. Second, unlike some other competitors, we hit a sweet spot with a look that has a cross-generation appeal – a nod to classic traditional old school hand-knit covers but injected with our modern details that resonates with the competitive junior and collegiate golfers and older golfers too.
Who is your customer?
Our customer is the avid player – from enthusiasts of all skill levels and all ages to competitors. Within that avid group there are a large number of junior golfers and their families, collegiate golfers and players. They all have one thing in common – they place a value on showing personalization on their golf bag.
Is there a difference in how men and women purchase your products and if so what are the most telling distinctions?
Women tend to want to match their headcovers to their bag while men are more likely to purchase covers with their alma mater stripes and colors or favorite sports team or perhaps match a OEM bag . They are not as concerned about matching perfectly but would rather show affiliation. School pride is huge with our male customer. Many played collegiate golf and / or follow collegiate sports, so this distinction makes sense.
Outline the methods you’re using to market / brand the company via online sales, green grass shops and traditional brick and mortar retail outlets?
We currently sell direct to golfers via our website, to over 200 collegiate golf teams and to our state golf association partners for their State Amateur events. Early on, we were selling in select green grass and retail shops but we pulled back several years ago due to our size in order to focus on our collegiate golf team customers.
We plan to re-enter green grass shops and retail in the near future. Most of my personal purchases are made in pro shops and retail stores and believe that the on –site shopping experience is crucial to golf.
Many companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow at Rocket Tour?
I appreciate our customers and like making interacting with Rocket Tour a happy experience. We don’t save lives but add style, personalization and color to your golf game so it should be a fun and positive experience. So much is done online these days with no human interaction so when we have a chance to talk with customers we embrace it. Not long ago we heard a customer refer to Rocket Tour as the “Happy” company. That makes my day.
Are any players on the professional tours using your product and what value do you see endorsements having overall with the general public?
Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk and about 50 others on the various tours sported Rocket Tour covers for many years by choice and that is flattering for sure. We always have a handful of pros styling out their bags with Rocket Tours. I don’t keep track. We never paid endorsement/ sponsorship dollars. I think people assume it’s always a “pay for use” scenario in professional golf.
I prefer “earned credibility” and for players to use by choice. I’d rather have the loyalty and use of college team like say LSU, TEXAS A&M or UCLA that sport Rocket Tour covers by choice than placing too much weight on Tour player endorsements.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
Golfers should enjoy creating their personal style! It doesn’t have to be about playing perfectly but about the whole experience.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Jim Flick and my father were dear old friends. He was speaking about my father when he said this to me but I have always taken this as good advice and a great reminder in anything I do or design. “Authenticity is a rare quality – people can smell it from a mile away.”
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