Phil Loprinzi’s spontaneous decision to start a disc golf business was the result of a combination of a lifelong interest in entrepreneurship and the low risk of the venture.
Golf in Minnesota has traditionally been reserved for spring and summer months – both of which are relatively short seasons in the northern tundra. But not any longer.
Phil Loprinzi is in his third year as co-owner of the Kaposia Pro Shop, and he and his Kaposia team are providing avid disc golfers in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area the opportunity to play despite the winter elements.
Now a disc golf enthusiast and the catalyst behind Kaposia’s thriving business, Loprinzi wasn’t always familiar with the sport. In fact, just a few years ago he probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you much about it.
During the past three years, Loprinzi, a sales representative at SportsEngine, has relied on his sales pedigree to create a popular disc golf experience that has exceeded even his own expectations.
“Rewind three years ago, I was actually working in sales selling legal materials to attorneys,” Loprinzi said. “One of the guys on my team was an avid disc golfer. I had played a few times before with my family but hadn’t really gotten into the sport, but we became friends and eventually would play two to three times a week.
"One day he approached me and said, ‘You know those mobile pro shops at Kaposia? They’re up for sale and I think we should put in a bid.' I was like, ‘Ok, sure.’ ”
Name: Phil Loprinzi | Age: 30
Resides in: Bloomington, Minnesota
Jobs: SportsEngine Sales Rep and CEO at Kaposia Pro Shop
Interests: Friends, family, sports, food, travel
Following his graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in business administration, Phil Loprinzi began his professional career as a law firm consultant for Thomson Reuters Westlaw. In 2015, Loprinzi transitioned to a sales representative role at SportsEngine. In the same year, Loprinzi founded the Kaposia Pro Shop disc golf business. In the past three years, Kaposia, which operates on a pay-to-play model at two courses in the Twin Cities area, has seen significant growth and now averages close to 1,000 players a week during peak season. In the near future, Loprinzi hopes to continue to attract more players and add a possible third course under the Kaposia Pro Shop brand.
Q: To you, what's been the most rewarding aspect of Kaposia's recent success?
A: The most rewarding part would be the fact that I get to use my "think outside the box" mentality. Taking educated risks and learning from the success and the failures have led to great ideas. Now that I've surrounded myself with individuals who are just as passionate about disc golf as I am, it's just fun.
Q: When you first took over the business did you imagine it would take off to this extent?
A: I always believed it could happen but never realized that I would end up this involved in the disc golf community.
Q: What are the next steps you want to take to grow Kaposia and disc golf in the Twin Cities area?
A: We are actively looking to promote disc golf to middle school and high school students. We are also looking to expand the pro shop to a third disc golf course.
Loprinzi’s spontaneous decision was the result of a combination of a lifelong interest in entrepreneurship and the low risk of the venture, making it a good fit.
“I’d always wanted to be in entrepreneurship,” Loprinzi said. “That’s always been my vision. This was a business where a large down payment was not needed to get going. The process was just, we’ll give it a go and see what happens.”
The leap of faith has paid major dividends. Now the majority owner accompanied by two minority shareholders and two employees, Loprinzi has pro shops at courses called Kaposia and the North Valley that operate on a pay-to-play method.
The city owns the land and maintains the courses, while Loprinzi and his team operate in an eight-by-40-foot mobile office at each location. The pro shops sell season passes, day passes, food, discs and apparel. In exchange for permission to use the land, half of the proceeds are split with the city.
Interest and activity levels at the courses have exploded in the third year of Loprinzi’s ownership. During the height of summer, the courses attract close to 1,000 people per week, he said.
This year 600 players purchased season membership passes. Kaposia Disc Golf also now sponsors multiple tournaments and leagues players compete in on a weekly basis.
Much of the increased popularity has come from Loprinzi and his team’s ability to take an already famous course in Kaposia and add improved marketing tactics and features.
“One of the nice things about Kaposia is that it is nationally known,” Loprinzi said. “If you go onto a course and talk with someone who is a professional, if you ask them about Kaposia, they’ll know where it is. It is truly a destination course, not only locally, but nationally known.”
Local players have taken notice of Loprinzi and his team’s improvements to the course and passion.
“Phil’s group has definitely done a great job taking care of the course,” Scott Trenda said. “If you just watch the Twin Cities Facebook page, You’ll get an idea of how much passion Phil has for the sport right away.”
THREE TIPS FROM PHIL LOPRINZI
1. Sponsorship Registration: Create a custom registration that allows potential sponsors to view your Sponsorship Proposal (with full list of inventory and pricing). Ensure that the registration gives potential partners the ability to pay and become a sponsor at your custom one-stop-shop. (State Farm Insurance agent Mike Tschida is one of Kaposia's featured sponsors).
2. Sponsor Finder: Use SportsEngine’s online Sponsorship Builder to locate neighboring businesses, then reach out to them with your Sponsorship Proposal and a link to your custom sponsorship registration.
3. Who’s Coming: Use the survey report page element to display up-to-date information from registration sessions so you, and everyone else, knows who is coming. Potential customers are more likely to register if they see recognizable names signed up.
CREATE YOUR OWN SPONSORSHIP GUIDE
FIND SPONSORS IN YOUR AREA
Loprinzi has relied on his sales experience at SportsEngine to help streamline tournament registration, thus providing him with more time to focus on marketing tools such as Facebook to reach out to players.
“I used to spend lots of time collecting registration fees on the day of tournaments when everyone was coming in with cash,” Loprinzi said.
“When I first started the business, there were 1,300 members [in the Twin Cities Disc Golf Facebook group], Loprinzi said. “Now there are 3,400 members in the group.
Loprinzi has also relied heavily on Kaposia team members - including Vance Anderson, Steve Bien, Mike Krough and Seth Peake - for innovative ideas.
Bien who is a part owner of Kaposia and full owner of Knight Chainz – a company that sells lights for both discs and baskets enabling players to play in the dark – has used his products to start night rounds at Kaposia, which by next year will occur every night.
Bien’s newest product is a proprietary 360-degree ring that is placed on top of the basket at the end of a hole and illuminates it completely. Initially, he met with Loprinzi and agreed to have his products sold in the Kaposia Pro Shop. Their agreement eventually turned into a partnership.
Based on the calculated steps the team has taken, Bien isn’t overly surprised by the recent success.
“The growth was expected because we’ve taken the right steps to get there,” Bien said. “Phil’s very good at promoting and marketing the passes and getting the company out there.”
An employee at Kaposia, Peake is responsible for managing Kaposia’s sponsored players - a new development as of this year. Currently Kaposia sponsors 21 golfers who compete under the Kaposia name in tournaments across the country.
Kaposia competitors are provided customized discs and apparel, and they are reimbursed for entry fees to a tournament or two throughout the year. All team spots are chosen by Peake, except for one spot that is reserved for the winner of the Kaposia sponsorship tournament each year.
For Peake, selecting players for the team isn’t solely based on talent but also their passion for the sport and willingness to give back to the community.
“We have tournament directors, league directors [on our team],” Peake said. “I try to spread our team around the entire disc golf community, not just St. Paul. We have kind of a cool reach and an extremely close community that is pretty special to be a part of.”
PROMOTIONAL VIDEO FOR KAPOSIA DISC GOLF
Kaposia is in the midst of its first winter in which the course is open Friday through Sunday. It hosts leagues such as the “Chilly Dog,” which features 40-80 players every Saturday from December through March.
Bien, Loprinzi, Anderson and Peake are optimistic regarding the future of the course and what’s yet to come.
The team just added microwavable food such as Philly Cheese Steaks and Hot Pocket offerings to the pro shop - hot ticket items during the cold winter months.
For Loprinzi, a personal goal is to get out on the courses and play more with his customers and friends - a task that can prove difficult with all of life's obligations.
“SportsEngine and getting the other business side of things and a normal life with friends and a girlfriend has taken up most that free time, so I don’t get to play as much as I want to,” Loprinzi said. “I need to start to play more because a lot of the disc golf players really like when the business owners get out and play.”
Whatever the next year brings for Kaposia Disc Golf and its players, Bien, Loprinzi, Anderson and Peake all presented a similar message surrounding their goals.
“When people are enjoying it and having a good time, that is the ultimate goal,” Bien said. “I took over for an old tournament called the Day Nighter this year and called it the Night of the Living Dead Chainz.
"This year we sold out and had 50 players show up. Everyone had a great time, and that right there is the big reward."