The booth I enjoyed visiting the most during the PGA Show was a company you may not have heard of: Kikkor Golf (pronounced “Kicker”). Founder James Lepp, a professional golfer and former All-American at the University of Washington, started the company because he was frustrated by the lack of shoe options that didn’t make him look like his dad.
The 25-year-old from British Columbia, Canada, who grew up playing in the junior, amateur, college and eventually professional ranks, was forced his entire life to wear stuffy-looking golf shoes. When he turned professional in 2006, he became increasingly annoyed with the lack of cool shoe options.
“There were only classic saddle shoes, rooted in the tradition of golf,” said James at the Kikkor booth during the PGA Show after pouring me a mysteriously delicious drink. “But for myself, some fellow players, guys from home and friends, it’s not even close to what we wear off the course and it doesn’t embody our personal style. That’s the only option we had for golf shoes.”
James, who graduated with a B.A. in Business, with a focus on entrepreneurship, finally decided to take action.
“It was always in the back of my mind that there should be a shoe like this,” said James. “I didn’t really have aspirations of doing my own shoe. It was almost like a hobby. I came up with some designs, talked about it with friends. I got invested with it enough that I was like, if no one is going to do it, I’ll do it.”
Kikkor launched in April 2010, and at the PGA Show, the fledgling company presented five styles and 20 total colors. And they actually have women’s shoes!
“It’s always going to be a style-and-comfort story,” said James, who won the individual title at the 2005 NCAA Championship. “The inspiration comes from the West Coast and surfing and skating, a little of retro. But typical west coast rooted, which is where we’re from…My target is the younger customer, making sure they’re taken care of, being awesome on the course, we want golf to be fun. That’s what Kikkor is all about.”
When I popped by Kikkor on Friday afternoon of the Show, I ran into long-drive world champion Jamie Sadlowski, hanging out with his fellow Canadians.
Is Jamie wearing Kikkor Shoes? James smiled slyly and said, “Maybe.”
What’s next for Kikkor? James plan to continue developing the product and eventually getting tour players to wear them, which might be tough because it’s expensive.
“We want to make sure we get really cool, young guys, who’s coming up in the ranks and going to be on Tour, to wear our shoes,” said James.
James has never taken a conventional route, starting with his golf. “I’ve always done things my own way — I never had a coach, I taught myself,” he said. “It’s not a one-man operation. I have a lot of people out there helping me with marketing, sales. They’re not full time employees, but they’re out there repping Kikkor.”
As I examined the various designs of the shoes, I checked out the bottom, and the spikes caught my attention. I asked, “Did you come up with the prototype for these, too?” James nodded. I was impressed and inquired, “How did you figure out how to design spikes?”
“Honestly, a lot of it starts with Google,” said James.
The plan is to expand the brand and produce hats, pants, shorts, shirts and belts, but James emphasizes Kikkor will always be a footwear brand.
Expect to hear more about Kikkor in the near future and keep your eye out for their viral videos, which, of course, are about being young and awesome.
Sweet kicks, dude!