Monday, October 26, 2009
5 Questions With Photo Ball Marker
PhotoBallMarker.com is owned by B&B Software, Inc., a small private corporation located in Eugene, Oregon. Through Cascade Technologies (ctsoft.com), B&B Software, Inc. provides contractual computer programming and consulting services to local companies in the area. Though domain names like PhotoBallMarker.com, the company provides their own web services and products. Ken and Charlotte Barley are the sole stock holders of the company. Ken was kind enough to take a moment and be a guest for 5 questions.
1. How did Photo Ball Marker get started? What was it that you initially set out to do and how has that changed (if it has)?
Like many avid golfers in Eugene, Oregon we spend a lot of time wandering and shopping at Fiddler's Green, a famous golf shop just outside of town.
During one of our visits in June 2008, Charlotte and I were making our latest and greatest golf purchases, when I pointed to the display of ball markers and mentioned that it would be cool to have photo ball markers. Char normally shakes off my ideas for products I think are cool but this time she surprised me with her response. She thought it would be a very good product for golfers and make for a wonderful golfing gift.
We checked on the internet and found a few sites offering photo ball markers but not the type of product or website experience we envisioned. We strive to create a quality and long lasting ball marker and combine it with a nice website experience.
We worked hard over the summer perfecting our photo ball markers and building a website that is easy and fun to use.
We set out to create a cool niche golf product. Something unique, fun and simple. That's why the Three Photo Marker Set was the only option for most of the first year. It's very easy and quick for anybody to build a Set of Photo Ball Markers using this option. We envision PhotoBallMarker.com as being our retirement project, something we do in the mornings and then go golfing in the afternoon and watch the sunset, or if it's winter here, listen to the rain in the evenings. The direction we are going is seriously suggesting it will turn into something bigger than that, and that is fine also.
Our original vision for Photo Ball Markers hasn't changed but it is evolving. We've added the Build Your Own Set, which allows our users to build larger custom orders for Photo Ball Markers. Last Spring, Char made a customized team set of Photo Ball Markers for the Springfield Miller's Boys Golf Team (she is the head coach). Each Photo Ball Marker was customized with the player's name on it. The response from the players was amazing. We also, did a team set for Thurston High School. We have now have added this option to PhotoBallMarker.com and will start promoting the new team option after Christmas. We also are looking to do the same with group and business sets. We've done some logos and they have turned out very nice. Small businesses, golf groups, and tournaments will really like these.
2. Are you guys big golfers? How often do you get out and how's your game? You must have about 600 of your own markers or so?
Charlotte does have a significant set of Photo Ball Markers. She put a magnetic strip down the side of our refrigerator door, and has her personal collection of Photo Ball Markers hanging on the magnetic strip. But, she is third on the list of Most Photo Ball Markers. Two people in our family of users have more Photo Ball Markers than she does. That's cool...
Were avid golfers not big golfers (smile). I'm more of a wide golfer rather than a big golfer, but my kids would agree with the big part. But, I have been jogging and counting calories so I am trying to get less wide. It's working, I'm slowly getting less wide. Charlotte is a tall golfer, not a big golfer at all. She is in very good shape and is a very good athlete. Golfing is our major recreational activity. Were members at Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Oregon and that's where you can find us when were not at home. Charlotte is a past president and is serving again on the Board of Directors.
My handicap hangs around 12-13, like to get it under 10, just like everybody else in that handicap range. Our boys, not boys anymore, two in college Kelly and Kyle (University of Oregon) and one graduated, Chris (living in Las Vegas), are all very good players. They are 2-5 handicappers but claim they are better than that. We have pictures of them on the PhotoBallMarker.com site.
But Char is the best player. She carries a handicap that ranges between 7-10. Two years ago she missed going to the U.S. Open Women's Senior Amateur by one stroke. It's a goal of hers to play in that tournament, and she has come very close to accomplishing it the last two years. We go on a vacation every year to have her play in a qualifier, it's great fun. Been to northern California and Colorado. Looking to visit southern California or maybe Arizona next year. A little serious golf and a whole lot of less serious running around and enjoying the sites.
3. Who are your favorite golfers to watch in the PGA and LPGA? Which events do you enjoy the most in pro (or amateur) golf?
Tiger Woods is amazing to watch. But, not when he plays good, it's when he struggles he is the most fun to watch. When he is on he just blows the field away and it gets boring. But, when he is off a little and really having to compete he is at his best. His ability to just will his way into contention is amazing. Phil Mickelson is Char's favorite. He tries so hard to reach Tiger's level but Tiger's level remains just out of reach. The LPGA seems so lost without Annika Sorestam, they have a lot of terrific young players but without Annika the young players are missing that legend to beat. So they just beat each other and nobody really becomes the next super star. Annika needs to come out of retirement, if not for herself, for the LPGA. In Oregon, we don't get any PGA events and only one Senior and one LPGA event. We've gone to a few of the events live, but we rather play than watch. Like everybody, we like the major championships and the Ryder Cup and President's Cup. The Solheim Cup was also very fun to watch this year, Michelle Wie and Juli Inkster made it interesting.
4. Will you be expanding the Photo Ball Marker technology to other accessories? What about those little numbers on head covers or something like that?
We've been thinking about larger poker size Photo Ball Markers. That's something we will probably add in the future. Your head cover idea would be cool. We could have headcovers with magnets in them and then a big Photo Ball Marker on top of each head cover. You get the head covers and we'll create the Photo Ball Markers. Speaking of head covers, Charlotte made a really cool Photo Ball Marker for one of her head covers.
She has this Odie Head Cover and so she takes a picture of her head cover and makes a Photo Ball Marker out of it. She then puts a hat clip on Odie's floppy ear and puts Odie's Photo Ball Marker on his hat clip. So, Odie has his own Photo Ball Marker. It's so cool. Char uses that one when she needs to mark another players ball.
5. What else can we expect from PBM in the future?
Were just going to keep having fun doing this. "The Twitter Girls of Photo Ball Marker" is one example. It's just a fun way to promote Photo Ball Markers and some terrific Golf Blogs, like yours. The people we meet have been amazing. We enjoy seeing and working with their special photos. We also enjoy the stories behind some of the Photo Ball Markers. Our Comments Page is amazing. It's filled with a wide range of comments and stories. I think our Comment Page does a terrific job of saying what Photo Ball Marker is all about and what we want to be. I talk about that page on Twitter all the time, because those comments are who we are and who we want to be.
Photo Ball Marker is a special product for this reason. Our users create their set of Photo Ball Markers and have an expectation as to how they are going to look. With each order we send a confirmation showing exactly what they are going to look like. But, when their order arrives in the mail and they open it up for the very first time and see their Photo Ball Markers they are amazed and a little surprise. They turn out better than they imagined. I call that the "Charlotte Magic" and I don't know how she does it either. This is a very special thing about Photo Ball Markers and the opposite of how most things work in this world! It's what makes our product very special, and we are very very proud of that.