Noticing a gap in the market, the author brought disc sales to the course and turned it into a full-time job
November 13, 2020 by Bogi Bjarnason in Gear with 0 comments
One of the very first things I noticed when I transitioned into disc golf as my main hobby back in the summer of 2014 was the huge entrepreneurial talent gap present in the Icelandic scene and the plethora of unexplored niches left vacant in that gap.
At that time I had a day job in the tourist industry, an industry that was experiencing a massive growth burst at the time, and on top of that I dabbled in band management and concert promotion. I was working for an adventure trip company, mostly as a driver for snorkeling and white water rafting day trips, and my first idea was to pitch disc golf day trips around the Golden Circle to the CEO. In hindsight the market for that obviously didn’t exist yet, and maybe it never will, but without an established foothold in the sport and any deep insights into its inner workings, this was the only thing available to me at the time.
Another thing that quickly became apparent to me was how, both locally and internationally, the major players in the business1 were prioritizing the sustainable growth of the sport over a quick buck, and centered their marketing efforts around building a solid base of tournaments, course development, and supporting the talented professional players..
Armed with that knowledge I set out on a path where I would volunteer my work and specific skill set towards causes such as promoting pro clinics, managing emerging players, tournament directing, promoting the sport in South and Central America, serving on committees, and providing disc golf content for various disc golf and general media. This continued work would then garner goodwill and supply me with the leverage needed to launch the actual businesses — my mobile disc golf pro shop, Frisbíllinn, is just one example — needed to fund these efforts, all without investing any starting capital. A virtuous cycle, if you will.
In the summer of 2016 I was browsing YouTube for disc golf content and discovered a video of a player I was vaguely familiar with wearing a T-shirt for the technical death metal band, Fallujah. This kindred spirit happened to be a pre-World Champion Gregg Barsby, and I reached out to him through Facebook to ask him to come teach clinics around Iceland. This, in turn, snowballed into Philo Brathwaite and Nikko Locastro tagging along as The High Energy Tour in the summer of 2017. For the sheer hell of it, I reached out to my favorite player, Ricky Wysocki, separately.
After a week of hijinx across the country and sweeping the podium at the Iceland Solstice Showdown Eurotour event — Nikko shot a 1077-rated round wearing the clothes he’d slept in and Blær Örn made round 2 lead card at age 14 — the pros headed off to mainland Europe and the European Open and I started making plans to travel to USDGC.
At USDGC I was introduced to Innova West Senior Sales and Purchasing Manager and former World Champ Sam Ferrans and Dave Dunipace, who I believe needs no introduction. From there I traveled to southern California, visited the Innova warehouse, and played some 6 am rounds at La Mirada with Dave and co-course designer/man who’s never missed a putt in his life, Jerry Ross. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Frisbílinn mobile disc golf shop was launched in the spring of 2018 out of the back of an old Citroen Berlingo, the best used minivan I could afford to purchase with cash in hand at the time. That summer we had the worst weather in 104 years, and business was slow, to say the least.
The following spring I had planned to flip the van and upgrade to something a bit nicer, but I was struggling to get it through Iceland’s annual inspection process. When it finally passed inspection I had paid more to get the vehicle fixed than the original purchase price, and even though I could now finally flip it, the savings meant to pay for the upgrade were now costs sunk back into the thing and I was stuck with the beater for another year.
The weather in the summer of 2019, though, was the best in living memory and business was booming. Until mid-July I was working full time driving the Icelandair crew shuttle with 12-hour shifts starting at 5.30 am. The work left me with two massive breaks during the day, two hours over lunch and another four hours in the afternoon, which allowed me to station the Frisbílinn at Klambratún, Reykjavík’s most popular pitch-and-putt course, and drop by with the crew bus during breaks and set up shop. Sales went so hard that by midsummer, fed up with two months of 70 hour work weeks, I was able to quit the bus driving job and focus only on disc golf revenues for the remainder of the season.
Which brings us to 2020. As we all know, disc golf has been a relatively Covid-proof business. With limited alternative entertainment options due to various lockdowns, fair spring weather brought an unprecedented boom in new players and their accompanying sales. Full time operations started weeks earlier than normal, and in the month of June there were only five days when the weather didn’t permit setting up Frisbílinn. By mid-July I was able to finally upgrade to this nice 2015 model Dacia Dokker.
In closing, this is what a typical day running the Frisbílinn:
7-10 AM: Do work on the computer in bed, watch YouTube, have breakfast.
10 AM to 2 PM: Play casual rounds, hit the gym, give beginner lessons, do restock of discs, clean the van, etc.
2 PM: This is generally when I will set up shop behind tee 5 at the 10-hole course in Laugardalur. This course is generally the one that provides the most shelter on windy days and is probably the most popular local course in the afternoon. Hole 5 often creates a bottleneck, so multiple groups often get piled up waiting by my store. Another bonus is that I’ve found people are way more likely to spend on new discs during the middle of a round than before or after, and due to the layout of the hole I can offer potential customers test throws with new discs while waiting for the green to clear.
5 PM: Depending on whether sales are starting to drop off or not I may move to another course after regular office hours. If the weather is great I may do a quick hit and run on the course at Vífilstaðir, where the van might briefly get mobbed for an hour or two. After that I will typically head off to Klambratún, the most popular out of the 13 capital-area courses.
On Tuesday nights I will set up shop by the registration booth at the Gufunesvöllur weekly, and then head off to Klambratún after taking down MP40. On Thursday nights I will head to whatever course is hosting the newbie league that week, and on Wednesdays, if the weather is good, I will host a Pop-Up League at the most highly requested course that week.
Pop-Up League is sponsored by Innova and Hleðsla, and is designed to bring in funds for whatever project I’m working on that year. Last year it was meant for me to be able to chaperone 16-year-old Blær Örn Ásgeirsson to Pro Worlds in Peoria. This year it helped me set up Nicaragua´s first ever PDGA event together with Chris Leonard and Sam Abdiast, and next year it might support my travel to the Japan Open with Blær or another Central American event.
On summer days, the midnight sun (and boozey play) may keep me in business until midnight or even later. With Covid restrictions closing bars at 11 PM throughout the summer, the downtown location of the Klambratún course meant that weekend party revelers would often migrate there after closing and drunkenly drop cash on premium plastic before promptly losing the disc in a bush. With business done for the day I might then play another round or two under the midnight sun before going to bed and starting the whole process again.
Frisbíllinn is an Innova-only enterprise. Just for fun, let me break down the best sellers in a somewhat particular order:
Next season I predict that the top seller will be a Tour Series Star Lion.
Frisbígolfbúðin in Iceland and Innova Champion Discs worldwide ↩