An Interview with the Co-Founder of William Murray Golf, Kerry Michaels
This week we were excited to sit down with Kerry Michaels, co-founder and CEO of William Murray Golf. With a notion that life and golf don’t have to be so serious, William Murray Golf is on a mission to bring some new life into an old sport. Read on to see how Kerry and her team have accomplished this.
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- Michael Lipkin, President of Assembled Brands
Founder Stories → Kerry Michaels, Co-Founder & CEO at William Murray Golf
At Assembled Brands, we believe that every single product in every category will be reinvented, something that Kerry and her team have tackled head on with William Murray Golf.
What was the driving force behind launching William Murray Golf?
When the idea to start WMG first came about, my co-founder, Brandon Barrett and I were working for another company — Chive Media Group. Chive Media Group already had a deal with Bill Murray for his likeness on t-shirts, so we were told the chances of getting Bill to say yes again to any other idea we had were essentially zero. But Brandon and I saw this incredible opportunity and massive white space in an industry we knew well. In 2015, as you looked out at what was going on in the industry, it was a sea of blue striped polos. No one was doing prints or had any personality. But there was also this shift happening in golf, where people were playing speed rounds, wanting larger cups and demanding a less stuffy approach to the game — golf needed to lighten up. And who better to help lighten up the game then Bill Murray himself?! That was the opportunity we saw and felt so compelled that we poured everything into making it a reality.
We actually had our first “pitch” with the youngest sibling of 9 in the Murray family, Joel Murray in March of 2015 where we met him at a golf tournament. He loved the idea, but had to convince his brothers. Then a few months went by — no word — and we got a call from Bill’s lawyer saying he wanted to come to Austin, TX to hear the idea and meet us in person. During our meeting in June 2015, Bill called his lawyer, who stepped out of our meeting for over an hour, and then he came back in and said, “Bill wants to do this!” From there, starts a whole new chapter of the story!
How has the challenge of working capital affected your business? How has partnering with Assembled Brands changed that?
As a fast-growing apparel brand, we are placing deposits on inventory for our business 9 months in advance. When you’re growing rapidly, you need the capital on hand to facilitate your growth curve. Partnering with Assembled Brands has provided us the credit so we can meet that future demand.
What should a future founder be most aware of before launching a brand? From your experience, what have been your biggest pain points and what have you found to be the most rewarding?
Before launching a brand, my advice to future founders is to make sure they are in it for the long haul. Starting a business from the ground up has so many ups and downs — it could take years before you finally get traction. If you have the drive to make your dream a reality and a passion for your greater mission, then you will be able to get through tough times.
In the early stages of launching a brand, the biggest pain point for us was always cash. We knew we had a great idea and an awesome brand, but buying apparel is expensive and you’re having to spend it so far in advance of going on sale. We raised money pretty consistently for the first 2.5 years.
The most rewarding part is seeing the impact William Murray Golf has had on our customers lives. Our team loves to share WMG Love Letters each week — stories from customers about how much they love what we’re doing and how we’ve changed their perspective on golf…and life. To know we are making a positive impact in this way is the most rewarding, and unexpected part of launching the brand.
How has receiving inventory-backed financing made a difference for your brand during the global pandemic?
As a primarily D2C company, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to get funding from traditional sources. Most banks will only lend to companies who are profitable or have large amounts in AR. Inventory-backed financing through Assembled Brands has given us the flexibility to borrow what we need, when we need it based on the inventory we have on hand. During the global pandemic, there was, and still is, so much uncertainty in the world. Knowing we had the capital available to help us through any tough times, was a relief and allowed us to stay focused on growing the business.
What companies in the modern brand ecosystem are you a fan of — and why? Are there specific commonalities in the brands that you respect?
There are so many cool D2C brands that I love, it’s hard to choose! Phlur is a company based in Austin, where we are also headquartered, so it’s always fun to support local businesses. They are an all-natural, clean fragrance company and I love their try at home program. You pick 3 scents that come in small bottles — I’ve tried nearly every scent they have!
I also love Beautycounter. They are another clean beauty company. What I love about Beautycounter is that they are leading the movement to bring safer products to market — and they are working to change government regulations so the entire industry is held accountable.
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