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Eastside Golf lands $3.4 million in seed funding

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Earl Cooper, left, and Olajuwon Ajanaku,have taken their Eastside Golf brand to the next level by securing funds to expand its product line. | PHOTO COURTESY OF EASTSIDE GOLF

WILMINGTON – Earl Cooper, a former collegiate champion golfer from Wilmington, is taking his company Eastside Golf to new heights. 

The apparel company, which aims to promote diversity and youth within the sport of golf, brought in $3.4 million in a joint venture investment at the beginning of 2024. It is the first outside investment for the company, and it comes from a joint effort between Elysian Park Ventures (EPV) and PGA of America.

Cooper, who attended A.I. du Pont High School and won a championship at Morehouse College alongside Eastside Golf co-founder Olajuwon Ajanaku, began the startup in 2019. With some experience and national exposure under its belt, Eastside Golf has a vision of growing its apparel line.

The funds from the investment are helping the company “beef up the business to keep up with demand,” Cooper told the Delaware Business Times. Eastside Golf has since filled two new roles – head of wholesale and head of product.

Three new roles – including a digital content strategist and executive assistant – remain open. Currently, 16 employees make up the company.

“As a startup, people are doing two, three jobs,” Cooper said. “As the business starts out initially, everyone’s just doing everything and you’re figuring it out. You don’t really have a CFO, you don’t really have an accountant. We’ve been able to get beyond that position and now we can be very intentional about…who we hire.”’

Cooper lauded EPV’s reputation throughout the sports industry, which partners with an extensive list of sport-based companies. With the PGA of America also involved, the presence of a governing body made it all the more appealing for Eastside Golf.

“I think for us, the timing was certainly right and we felt like we needed capital to grow,” Cooper said. “They have resources that they can also offer us to kind of cause exponential growth.”

As for the apparel itself, a women’s line is set to launch in early April, an area in which Cooper is excited for the company to expand. He called a women’s line a “huge growth opportunity” and said it would help Eastside Golf’s mission in bringing non-golfers to the sport.

Additional pop-up shops across the country will also be made possible thanks to the investment. Cooper believes it is important for consumers to touch the product in-person like the popular snap placket polos, the company’s first performance tech polos.

A head of wholesale will help secure the apparel in more stores across the nation and reach more major U.S. markets as they prepare to expand.

“We’re ready to compete in that space,” Cooper said. “Not to say we had a bad product, but now we have some of the best products…You don’t just come out the gate and work with some of the best factories in the world.”

The investment funds, he added, helped Eastside Golf begin working with a factory that specializes in polos, an “expertise” option the company did not have just a few years ago.

Facing the Future

Eastside Golf has already forged relationships with celebrities and athletes such as Mark Wahlberg, CC Sabathia, Michael Strahan and Michael Jordan. Cooper expects to sign more athletes moving forward, especially with the women’s apparel line.

A slew of NBA players have begun to sport Eastside Golf apparel in public or at press conferences, from veteran Chris Paul to superstar Jayson Tatum.

To increase visibility, community outreach in major cities such as Memphis, Detroit and Atlanta is on the way, as is new footwear this fall. 

“I think our next growth hack is gonna be really providing them with all of the necessary things outside of clothing. . . Whether it be equipment, whether it be lessons…creating life-long customers,” Cooper told DBT, adding that events and activities will also help broaden the company’s horizons.

After Mercedes-Benz sponsored the company’s first ever invitational last fall in San Diego, Eastside Golf is hosting its second invitational in New York on Sept. 16. The days leading up to the invitational will be full of events, and it comes at the perfect time, right around New York Fashion Week.

“There is no golf brand that’s going to Paris and watching runway shows and showing up in New York Fashion Week. But that is again the distinguishing factor between our brand. We’re creating golf clothing that can be worn on and off the golf course,” he said.

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