ORLANDO, Fla. – James Lepp is an enigma. A few years ago some would say this kid from Vancouver, Canada was going to make it big in the golf world, and make a fortune on the golf course. However, Lepp never got that far. After winning the individual title at the 2005 NCAA Championship while at the the University of Washington, Lepp just one day decided to put aside his golf career to concentrate on his new shoe company, Kikkor Golf.
At first, Lepp will say he really doesn’t remember how it happened. He remembers going to practice every day believing and thinking that being a golfer was going to be his career. Period. This week the Washington alum could be found at the end of row 3900 at the PGA Merchandise Show, pitching a new shoe company which he founded under the belief that golfers can look cool.
Kikkor Golf shoes definitely catch the eye of the younger generation. According to Lepp, the shoes really attract the demographic of what his company is looking for, which is golfers from ranging in age from 14 to 35.
“People have overlooked the younger generation for way too long,” Lepp said. “Companies just seem to choose and ignore them, where as I feel like my company is embracing them.”
At first sight, the shoes appear to be a pair of “skater” shoes, but if you look at the bottom of the shoe more closely, you will find the spikes. Kikkor has six different lines (five for men and one for women). The “Tenny” line is the one that looks most like a common skateboarder shoe made of full-grain leather and a durable rubber cup sole. On the bottom of the shoe, there are 11 spikes, but they are not the type that can be replaced or changed.
“If you wear them out, you can them wear them out,” a smiling Lepp said. At first it took me a minute to get what he was saying but then I figured it out – after the spikes wear off, you have a regular good-looking sneaker.
Lepp focused on business entrepreneurship in college, but was determined to put his diploma to work as a professional golfer.
“For me, it was all about getting better,” Lepp said. “After a certain point I realized I wasn’t progressing so I thought, eh, why keep doing this?”
The new business owner plays golf sparingly, and when he does go out to play he will post a score that will drive any amateur crazy.
“I had two months off and in November went out to visit a sales manager in Scottsdale, Arizona,” Lepp said chuckling. “I was wearing indoor soccer shoes and shot a 66 from the tips, but on a brighter side, I’m down to a 4 handicap as a left-hander.”
Lepp isn’t fretting, even as he ventures into a business that offers no guarantee of success. The new business owner is aware, however, that his company’s biggest obstacle is building brand awareness. He understands that’s why hitting the younger demographic can really set the tone for his business.
“Kids want to have fun playing golf, and look cool playing it,” Lepp said. “We can provide that for sure.”
The Kikkor Golf line will be available in stores by the end of February and will retail anywhere from $90-135 a pair.
Kikkor Golf shoes have a unique approach. With the continued growth and popularity of golf, more types of people and personalities are getting involved in the game. Lepp’s approach is to go after the skaters, surfers, teenagers and golfers looking for a cool hip shoe to wear. The shoes are extremely comfortable and appear to be a product that can continue to grow in popularity with the golf circle.