Today’s interview is with Josh Waldron. Josh is the Founder and Owner of Waynesboro Golf and Games located in Waynesboro, Virginia. Josh also successfully runs a web design firm called Studio JWAL.
As seen below, Josh bought an aluminum sign for outdoor use from us to help advertise his Mini and Par 3 golf offerings.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Josh Waldron. I am a husband, father, small business owner, and former educator. With the help of friends and local students, I launched Waynesboro Golf & Games in the summer of 2013. This business has been a labor of love since then.
What does your company do?
Waynesboro Golf & Games is a fun, cost effective entertainment center for individuals and families who enjoy being outside. Our business features a challenging mini golf course and a scenic Par 3 golf course in Waynesboro, Virginia. We host parties, fundraisers and tournaments during our peak season.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
As referenced earlier, I was a public school teacher for six years before stepping away from teaching. During my time in the classroom, I often heard students say “There’s nothing to do around here.” Even though I disagreed with them at some level, their sentiments reflected a real need for fun entertainment options that united people and didn’t break the bank.
What is the story behind having a web design firm AND a theme/games park – not exactly the same line of business!?
I loved working with students in the classroom, but there came a point in my teaching career where I felt it may be time to move on and focus more on my family. My wife and I sat down and began discussing some options that would allow us to work together as family and have fun at the same time. One of the best ideas we came up with was building a mini golf course. As fate would have it, there was an older neglected course in the area that was up for sale or lease. We signed a lease and the rest is history.
My web design business — on the other hand — is something I started in college and continued to manage while I was teaching. Because Waynesboro Golf & Games is fairly new (and limited by weather), I continue to develop websites during my downtime at the golf course, at night when the kids are sleeping, and during our off season.
The two businesses are completely different, but both work well together from a scheduling standpoint.
What sets you apart from your competition or what is your unique selling proposition?
The best entertainment options in the area are going to the movies (can be costly) or eating out (can be costly and unhealthy). Waynesboro Golf & Games is unique in that it’s affordable, appeals to a variety of audiences, and it encourages physical activity.
What is one strategy for gaining customers that you have been successful with?
There are a few strategies that have helped us gain customers, but I think the most effective strategy has been building real relationships with our customers.
We work hard to memorize names, and then we use that entry point to build a deeper connections. When our customers know that we care about them as individuals, it gives them a vested interest in our success. Word of mouth is very important to our long term success.
Our business also lends itself nicely to social media campaigns. We do some paid advertising through Facebook, and I use my web design skill set to rank well for certain keywords in our area.
How do you offset what I can only assume to be a very seasonal business? (At least for the outdoor portion of your business.)
This is a great question. Much of our business depends on good weather, so we hope for the best [insert jokes here] and use the bad weather days for planning, marketing and web design projects. Seasonal businesses need to have multiple streams of income or good enough income to weather the offseason.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have had with your business and how did you overcome it?
My wife and I originally signed a lease on the property because of our interest in the mini golf course. I completely underestimated the challenges that would come with running a nine hole Par 3 golf course, especially a Par 3 golf course that was neglected for a number of years.
I’ve had to learn about equipment, mowing techniques, turf grass maintenance, topdressing, etc. Thankfully, two local experts have been very helpful in overcoming these obstacles. A guy by the name of John Allen is our equipment maintenance expert and all-around source of wisdom. He’s helped us keep moving forward. I’ve also had a local greens superintendent offer important insights while donating his time.
Overcoming these obstacles is largely a result of finding the right people, at the right place, at the right time.
If you could rewind time is there anything you’d do differently? If so, what?
I’d negotiate my lease more strategically. Our rent each month is quite reasonable, but I did a poor job of determining what repairs the landlord would cover and what responsibilities fall on me. With an older building and several acres of land to manage, I would be much more specific about the terms of the lease.
If you had advice for other SMB owners, games park or otherwise, what would it be?
- Figure out what you like to do, and focus on those tasks. Have someone else tackle the tasks you don’t enjoy.
- Be careful about paying for print advertising. Most print advertising is dead, unless you’re appealing to an older demographic.
- Take care of your employees, and look for ways to be a superior business owner.
How do you “WOW” your customers?
We treat every customer with respect and we look for opportunities to put them first. This may sound like a standard answer, but very few businesses take customer satisfaction personally.
What do you think the future holds for your business?
Our Par 3 golf course has tons of potential, and I think it’s continued growth is part of my vision for the future. Somewhere down the road I’d love to be able to offer free golf for kids under a certain age. Golf is often labeled a rich man’s sport, and since I grew up in a low income household, I didn’t have the chance to play golf as a kid. I’d love to make golf more accessible to kids in the same situation.
Without sharing detailed financials can you speak to your growth to this point and why you think it will continue?
Waynesboro Golf & Games grew steadily in its second season. Each month we doubled and sometimes tripled our income when compared with the same month in the previous season.
I think our growth will continue. We meet new customers on a daily basis which leads me to believe that the future is bright if we can avoid complacency and continue to explore unique twists on our current business model.
Where can you be found on the internet?
Twitter – https://twitter.com/waynesborogolf
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WaynesboroGolf
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Josh for taking the time to interview with us! Josh represents the path that many small business owners follow. That path is one in which a need is recognized and a career change takes place when the side project becomes self-sufficient. This can be seen in both his Web Design firm and the Golf & Games venture. The key for aspiring entrepreneurs is to fill a need and build your business to the point that it is self sufficient. Nothing will sink a small company faster than lack of capital and cash flow!
Josh also gives great advice on acquiring customers through building relationships and the subsequent word of mouth marketing that comes from it. Our own small business landscape infographic points out that for small businesses 84% of people say that word of mouth and customer referrals is an effective marketing tactic. One of the other great tips from Josh is the key to build multiple revenue streams for any seasonal business (on this note, we’ve written about pumpkin patches, haunted houses and landscaping businesses). With long periods of reduced revenue a seasonal business is more difficult than one that has steady income year round and needs careful planning or alternate sources of revenue in order to survive.