Business has been a multi-million dollar hit
It takes a lot of balls - millions of them, in fact - to run the kind of business that has earned North Toronto resident Shaun Shienfield recognition as eBay Canada's 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year.
Shienfield, along with his father Gary and brother Korey, are the driving force behind Knetgolf, a company that sells high-quality pre-owned golf balls to 30 countries around the world.
The trio started up the business in 1995, when Gary received a deal on a large quantity of golf balls and decided to try selling them by faxing out order forms. Working out of Gary's house, the Shienfields sold out within a week and the idea for a multi-million dollar business was born.
"It was just something we were doing on the side," Shaun Shienfield said. "When March breaks rolled around, I'd be sorting golf balls."
The family's first successful venture gave them reason for optimism, but came nowhere near foretelling their current success. Knetgolf is on pace to sell 20 million pre-owned golf balls in 2009, following 16 million sold last year.
The company has warehouses in Markham and Arizona with a total of 70 employees whose job it is to sort and package golf balls collected from 2,000 golf courses in Arizona, Nevada and California.
"We process about 30,000 golf balls a day, and they're all sorted based on the quality and the type," Shienfield said.
Golf balls purchased from Knetgolf range from mint condition - those with no imperfections - to practice balls for duffers and those hitting the driving range.
The staff is responsible for ensuring balls meet with strict quality standards before being deemed mint.
"I call (mint) balls one-hit wonders - they've been hit once and lost," Shienfield said.
While golfers can choose the quality of golf ball that best suits their game, the vast majority of golfers opt for the mint or Grade A balls for match play and Grade B balls for practice.
By buying pre-owned balls, golfers can save some serious money over buying costly new ones. Knetgolf sells golf balls for as much as 70 per cent less than golfers would pay retail.
"Balls are the one consumable in golf," Shienfield said. "They always get lost. You buy them, you lose them and you've got to come back for more."
Buyers also have plenty of selection, as the company carries 200 different types of ball, including well-known name brands such as Callaway, Titleist, Maxfli, Nike and Wilson.
Knetgolf really took off in the late 1990s, when their website (www.knetgolf.com) started up. The company's sales have been growing ever since, and Shienfield's eBay site has also grown by 20 per cent year over year.
The demand for their product means the Shienfields must constantly keep their warehouses stocked with golf balls. Their Markham site alone typically has about five million name-brand balls lining its massive shelves and the company is constantly shipping orders to individual golfers and golf courses.
The Shienfields have also expanded their company's scope, starting up Golf Balls Only, which refinishes damaged golf balls. Check it out at www.golfballsonly.com
"We want to have something for every type of golfer, from people with zero handicaps to duffers," Shienfield said. "We're just making the game more affordable."