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  • KCK Productions

Golf And Black Entrepreneurship Meet On The Green

Updated: May 6

As reported by BLACK ENTERPRISE, Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl A. Cooper are the co-founders of Eastside Golf, a lifestyle and fashion brand that aims to bring youth and Hip-Hop swagger to traditionally staid golf courses. Both 34 and Morehouse College alums, the duo launched their company in 2019, and since then, they have been driving an expanding cultural revolution in the sport. Their creative sportswear is just a piece of a larger mission to attract young African Americans to golf and bring greater diversity to the sport.

Olajuwon Ajanaku

“When I first started playing golf as a child, golf wear was all khaki pants and a white Polo shirt—our culture and fashion were missing, and I didn’t enjoy it,” says Ajanaku. He was introduced to golf at a young age and developed aspirations for a professional golf career.

Unable to acquire sponsorship, he looked to entrepreneurship to bankroll his vision.

The idea for Eastside Golf originated from Ajanaku's self-designed logo for his golf gear – a cool graphic of a Black golfer based on himself, with a club raised and a swinging gold chain. His friend and Morehouse brother Cooper, a PGA professional and Eastside Golf co-founder, immediately sensed that the logo was a thing of genius.

Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl A. Cooper

The tee box caught on quickly. Ajanaku says he shipped the first 3,000 orders from his apartment in Detroit, where he resided at the company’s birth. At the same time, Ajanaku and Cooper developed a strong partnership founded in their mutual love for golf and their desire to connect the traditional golf world with the culture. “I think we’re well qualified to do just that because of our common experience,” Cooper says. “We both started playing golf at six years old and went on to compete at the junior and collegiate levels. Something that we’ve talked about forever is that golf needs needs representation. We’ve worked together and figured out ways to align passion with purpose. That separates us from any other apparel business or golf company.”

Both Ajanaku and Cooper have backgrounds in finance and were educated on money management and budgeting early on.

Cooper made his introduction to personal finance and business while in grade school where he and a friend learned that a $1 box of brownie mix could be baked and divided for an even greater return at .50 cents a square. He’s had the entrepreneurial-bug ever since. 

Ajanaku, who graduated from Morehouse with a degree in accounting, worked in regional sales management for eight years after graduation. He says money management was vital once he launched the business since “I started off with my savings, a credit card, and my cryptocurrency [account].” With limited cash flow, he had to be extremely precise about managing inventory – how quickly inventory sold and when to replenish stock across an array of various sizes. “I didn’t do a very good job of that at the beginning. But now, we’re hiring a fractional accountant. Hiring people [who] can actually help us figure [out] what those sizes are that we need. Learning from our mistakes is definitely helping us move forward.”

Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl A. Cooper

The company bootstrapped for a year and a half, but it was clear to Ajanaku and Cooper that they couldn’t keep the business afloat on savings and sweat infinitely. It was time to secure funding to encourage business growth. The funding avenue they went with was a SAFE note – a Simple Agreement for Future Equity.

For many startups, SAFE notes are a simpler, more “founder-friendly” alternative to more traditional funding sources and represent a simpler alternative to convertible notes and other more conventional routes to funding. A SAFE note is a legally binding agreement that allows investors to buy future shares at a set price. Like convertible notes, SAFE notes include valuation caps and discounts but provide the founder with a more straightforward formula and greater flexibility.

Another vital element and challenge for growing e-commerce retailers like Eastside Golf is staying in step with tax requirements across the many states where the company is drawing business. Cooper stressed the importance of enlisting a CPA to ensure tax compliance and conducting a nexus study to determine when earnings hit tax thresholds in each state. “If you don’t do the study, it’s easy to fall behind in your tax payments and not realize it until it’s time to file.”

Dedication and devotion to learning has yielded significant returns for the company. The founders recently announced that Eastside Golf secured an investment from the PGA, marking the first time the golf association partnered with an apparel company. “To have that credibility, to have the game’s governing body decide, ‘We’re going to park our money with you” – that’s huge,” Ajanaku says. 

“Having a partnership like that puts us in a unique position to get young people back to the game,” says Cooper.

The partners are still focused on their personal finances. Cooper, who manages his money from a conservative standpoint, says: “We need to be saving. We need to be thinking about contingency plans. One of the things that I’ve always done is never make a move that can affect my lifestyle.”

Jordan Brand x Eastside Golf collection

Asserts Ajanaku: “At the end of the day, what do you want to do with your life? That is what the money is for. You can do your job for 40, 50 years, then retire, and then you can go on to your retirement, or you can take that money and actually invest it into your dream and make that retirement even so much larger.”

Eastside Golf continues to build bridges between worlds and bring youth and cultural authenticity to professional golf.

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