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the ladder

Daniel Erdman's line of golf towels, called Uther, are now in about 1,000 stores in North America, generating revenue into the seven figures.Handout

Daniel Erdman vividly remembers when his golf-towel company made a proverbial hole-in-one. About a year after launching, golf media personality Paige Spiranac posted a photo of herself with one of his towels to her nearly two-million-strong Instagram following. The reach, he said, was so unbelievable it was almost immeasurable.

A Toronto native, Mr. Erdman’s line of golf towels, called Uther (pronounced ‘other’) are now in about 1,000 stores in North America, generating revenue into the seven figures.

As of mid-November, the towels, which feature cartoon-like images of ice cream cones, flamingos, and even lyrics by Canadian rapper Drake, are complemented by a line of golf balls featuring the same kind of imagery.

Mr. Edman’s recent success was based on a gamble he took on his idea. He wanted to take advantage of a government grant to start Uther, but it was only available to people not working or in school full-time. So more than halfway through a business degree at Toronto’s Ryerson University, he quit.

His only prior work experience was as a camp counsellor, and in the back shop of a Richmond Hill, Ont., golf club.

How did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

As a small child I would go to my grandparents’ factory – they had a carpet company that did pretty well. I was always in awe of seeing that. I knew from a super young age that having my own company is what I wanted to do, and it didn’t deviate from that. Being at school at Ryerson it was just like, I wouldn’t say redundant, but the information wasn’t as useful as what I was learning by doing things hands-on.

Being 21 with no overhead, it gave me the opportunity to mess up, and luckily I haven’t had any major mess-ups. It was the right time. That being said, I had no experience in the business world.

What prompted you to start a golf-towel company?

I saw a trend in golf as [multi-time PGA Tour winner] Billy Horschel wore pants that had octopi on them at the U.S. Open. They were huge. Golfers want something with a little more personality and style. In 2015, we took a trip to Buffalo to shop and went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and I remember going into the towel section and telling my sister there was something missing, and three years later we’re in all Dick’s Sporting Goods locations. That was a really cool moment.

Without a business education, or any experience really, what’s something you’ve learned since you launched that you didn’t know before?

Especially in 2020 I’ve learned to leverage different people’s skillsets. If you’re able to understand what certain people are good at and what’s missing that’s the most important skill [for me]. Delegating is the most important task – I would attribute Uther’s success, especially recently, to figuring out what we need and who’s the best fit for that task, whether it’s a team member or outside agency.

What have you identified as an area of improvement?

E-commerce is on the upswing for us, especially for this year. In 2018 and 2019 it was just handling the enormity of [bricks-and-mortar] retail. We pretty much forgot about online sales. This year has been crucial to understand the process to effectively get a lot of pieces out the door.

Is it still as fun for you to be a business owner, versus just a young man with an idea?

I would be doing it if I didn’t get a pay cheque at the end of it because I enjoy creating stuff – the process especially. At Uther we set out to make completely unique products. We wouldn’t even enter the golf-ball category, or any category, if there wasn’t something unique and creative. We have fun and our designs reflect that. Just making art out of our products is a lot of fun.

What’s your biggest advice to a young entrepreneur?

Build a strong team. It’s essential. What I’ve found typically as a concern was not prioritizing things that are important, like looking at what has the greatest return on your time. We can’t all do everything. Prioritize and delegate – those are my two biggest pieces of advice.

What about your path, specifically – dropping out of school. Would you recommend it?

At the time I didn’t realize how risky it was. I was just thinking hard work would handle everything. I’ve been very fortunate that it was a good idea and there is a lot … you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s difficult. It’s situational. If someone really believes in their idea then go for it. It’s a cliché to say but listen to your gut, because oftentimes that is going to send you down the right path.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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