We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesse Galvon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesse, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When G-Tech was first starting out, they were building heated pouches solely for football players in the CFL and NFL. As soon as I saw one of the first samples, I knew they would be a perfect fit for golf. Growing up playing in Western Canada, as well as down in San Francisco, I always struggled to keep my hands warm. Being able to keep your hands warm while playing golf is essential, due to the game’s use of finesse in touch and feel. I knew at this moment that there was a lot of potential, but wasn’t sure what the market acceptance would be. I took the first 500 units that we ever got, and went around to every golf course in Calgary, Alberta where I knew someone in the pro shop. I was able to sell all 500 units in a single day, and even ended up with backorders.
The number of orders was encouraging, but what really convinced me that we had something special was the feedback we received from the pro shops. I was told that their clientele thought that the pouch was an amazing idea for golf, but were also very interested in its other applications. Hockey moms who spent their summers on the course and their winters in a cold arena thought that it would be perfect to keep them warm in the stands. Other golfers who worked outside for a living, or enjoyed hunting and fishing, loved the idea of using the heat to maintain their manual dexterity during the freezing Alberta winters. There was so much more than the football and golf that we had originally considered, and I knew it was time to invest in G-Tech by coming on full-time.
What should our readers know about your business?
I called our director Clarke, who had formerly run IMG golf for about 20 years and was therefore very well-connected in the industry. I told him that I thought I should go to the Riviera to hand out some new Heated Pouches, and asked if he could get me tickets. He told me that tickets weren’t going to be the problem, but getting access to the players on the range, in the clubhouse, and elsewhere was going to be near impossible. We decided that I should head down regardless, and I arrived at the Riviera with one of our business partners and about 40 plain Heated Pouches, along with about 20 custom Pouches logoed for the organizations that we knew would be attending. Among these were the Tiger Woods Foundation, CBS, Serio Garcia, Golf Channel, and Genesis, the host of the event.
The four days I spent at the Riviera were like a dream come true for me. Despite not even having the parking pass and credentials to get into the parking lot, we somehow charmed our way through several stages of security to arrive at the clubhouse. Somehow, some way, we got introduced to the general manager, who set us up with a small place to store our pouches while we networked and tried to find a way to get to the players.
On the first day, we had an incredibly hard time getting onto the range to speak to the players. Without the correct credentials and passes, the security simply doesn’t let you onto the range (for good reason, of course!) That night, I texted Jim Furyk to tell him that we had a new Heated Pouch for him, and to tell us where to meet him so that we could give it to him. He replied with a request that we meet him at the range (rather than on it) the next morning.
The next day, we assumed that we would be able to meet up with him close to the range, but security would again not let us close enough to get the pouch to Jim. I showed the security guard the text that Jim had sent me, and told them that I had to give Jim his pouch. They gave me 5 minutes to find Jim, get the pouch to him, and leave, which didn’t leave me a lot of time to do what I had come there to do: hand our product out to as many players as possible.
The range at Riviera is huge, and I knew that once I was on it, I would be able to get away from security and approach some players to show them the G-Tech Heated Pouch. What transpired over the next two hours was one of the coolest moments for me in all my time at G-Tech. It was the third round, and all the pros were warming up getting ready for the round. I found Jim, gave him his pouch, and had a great conversation. Then I took my spare pouch, put it on high, and continued walking up and down the range.
As someone who has played golf his whole life, I knew how to approach these players without being intrusive. Initiating conversation while they’re mid-swing is obviously a recipe for disaster, but each time they changed clubs or chatted with their coach, I saw my window. I would introduce myself, explain what our company does, show them the pouch, and talk about how cold the next day was meant to be during the fourth round. If they seemed interested, I would offer to have a pouch placed in their locker for use the following day. I approached about 40 different PGA pros, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas. All 40 responded with a resounding “yes”, expressing disbelief that no one had ever made something for this purpose before.
I can tell you confidently after talking with several people in the industry that if you were to try to do what we did that day, and approached golfers mid-practice before a massive tournament to sell them on a new product, not only would you get turned down, but you’d be kicked off of that range so fast your head would spin. Somehow the stars aligned for us, and I was able to spend 2-3 hours on the range and get 40 players to agree to have me place a pouch in their locker.
Our luck held out the next morning, and due to rain delays during the third round, the fourth round had a very early start. The 5:30am start was so early that lights had to be brought out to the range for the players to be able to see in the dark. We arrived at the Riviera just as early ourselves, taking advantage of the clubhouse’s fantastic view of the range so that we could watch the players practice before their round. In the pitch black early morning, all we could see along the range was the small red lights of our pouches, around the waists of more pros than we ever could have hoped.
Seeing this, we rushed down to the range. Though we were unable to get back through security and onto the range, I was close enough that I was able to use my phone to get photos and videos of all the incredible players wearing and using our product. As I walked on the golf course during the round that day, I was thrilled to see the G-Tech pouch being used by Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and many others. I’m truly grateful to Clarke Jones, the Genesis Open, the Riviera Golf Club, and everyone else involved for one of the most memorable experiences not only for our company, but for myself as an individual.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Golf trip for sure!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
To see it all come full circle, from six years ago seeing one of the very first Heated Pouch samples and saying, “This would be awesome for golf,” to getting some of the best players in the word to use it, to being one of seven official suppliers to the US Ryder Cup team, is incredibly special. I’m very excited to see what will come from this within the next couple of years from the golf industry. I still play quite a bit of competitive golf, and it’s always interesting to see other local players wearing our product, as well as players throughout the world.
Our product is great for performance, and definitely makes you play better, but I don’t think anyone likes playing in the cold. Being able to go to a place like St. Andrews or Pebble Beach for the first time, and having to play in the cold and rain and not really enjoy it is exactly the scenario we’re hoping to eliminate. We want players to be able to enjoy what they are doing regardless of the weather.
A program that we’re really excited about is that we confidently believe that our product is one of the best charity or corporate first tee gifts out there. So many times, you play in a tournament and get a sweater, overnight bag, backpack, or other item that you already own several of. It’s hard for corporate tournaments or charity tournaments to find new and exciting gifts that players will actually be excited about. About 20% of our sales historically have been for first tee gifts, whether it’s a corporate charity or member-guest tournament.