Alumni Highlight: Jessica Kent

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While many aspire to turn their greatest passions into a career, alumni Jessica Kent is doing just that. Jessica is an undergrad at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. As part of the Entrepreneurship program, Jessica  and her classmates were charged with launching a profitable business in just 10 weeks.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and Jessica and her team needed to succeed. If the business fails, they fall the class, so Jessica and her team were determined to find a need in the market. From there GolfScope was born. GolfScope is a golf training aid designed to support the most competitive and the newest golfer alike. The training aid helps golfers with proper swing angle to help them focus on getting the most power out of their swing. As the CEO of the startup, we asked Jessica to share a bit about her experiences diving into the golf business. Here is what she had to say:

How did the idea for GolfScope come about?

The idea for GolfScope stemmed from a homemade training aid device.

While playing competitive golf throughout middle and high school, I had up and down days. The main problem I faced with my golf swing was straightening my spine angle at impact which resulted in inconsistent ball striking. The solution was a makeshift training aid device that provided me with a visual cue when my spine angle was not maintained. After seeing the huge improvement in my golf scores, I thought other golfers could benefit from it too. With a team of 4 other UW undergraduate students (Nic Larrivee, Daniel Stoll, Jiri Ferenc, and Taylor Herring), we conducted interviews with PGA Professionals, as well as competitive and casual golfers of all ages to further refine the idea and fulfill the desire for a smaller, more discrete, and less invasive training aids. What developed was GolfScope.

What makes it unique in the golf training aid market?

Many of our competitors market expensive, clunky large aids that physically restrict head movement by coming directly into contact with the golfer. GolfScope provides a discreet, less invasive solution that uses a visual guide that golfers look through during the swing to provide a natural, subconscious way to correct head movement problems and promote a consistent spine angle. The secret to GolfScope is during the swing, the golfer can see if the golf ball is centered in the “scope” or the circle piece of the device. If there is any swaying or “popping” out of the proper spine angle during the swing, the ball would no longer be centered in the “scope.” After hitting several balls with GolfScope, you will be able to understand and feel what is the proper body position, and start to strike the ball more solid which will result in increased accuracy, lower golf scores, as well as assist in reducing lower back pain by eliminating excess twisting of the spine during the swing.

Are there any lessons of The First Tee that you have found yourself using in the process of developing and marketing your product?

When given the task to create a fully launched company in 10 weeks, it’s easy for stress to take over because you have to constantly think on your feet to quickly adapt to changing situations. The First Tee life skill Replay, Relax, Ready, Redo also known as the “4R’s,” were the four words I found myself constantly referring to when persevering through challenges our business faced. Our team has undertaken a lot of risks regarding decisions when designing our product, choosing manufacturers, as well as choosing how to allocate resources among marketing strategies. Not all of these risks worked out as planned, but it made us stronger as a team. For example, when our team’s initial distribution channel to reach customers was not performing as well as expected, we “replayed” the situation and took a step back to “relax” and analyze how we could learn from this experience. With a new vision for our business, we were “ready” to “redo.” By learning at each stage of our business, we have continued to grow with steady sales.

Tell us about introducing Jermaine Kearse to GolfScope?

You’ll never know when The First Tee’s meet and greet taught at the PLAYer level will come in handy!  Needing to create a “how to” video for our golf training aid, Nic Larrivee (my teammate) and I headed to the driving range to film. Carrying a golf bag, a camera, two tripods, an ipad, and multiple GolfScopes for the video shoot, we were attracting curious side glances from those at the driving range including one particular patron, Seahawk Player and UW alumni Jermaine Kearse! Using The First Tee’s meet and greet, we approached Jermaine by introducing ourselves and asking him if he would be interested in trying out our product. He agreed and participated in a before and after video swing analysis with our training aid. Afterwards he purchased a GolfScope!

College can be a challenging time. What challenges have you found yourself overcoming during your college years and how did The First Tee prepare you?

The biggest challenge I faced in college was putting myself out there to meet new people to form teams and pursue new opportunities. Before I enrolled in The First Tee, I was extremely quiet and preferred to stay in my comfort zone. Today, I am an invited member of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Washington where we actively engage with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalist in the Seattle area to learn from their experiences. Inspired by these entrepreneurs, I enrolled in a startup class and have received funding to launch our golf training aid startup “GolfScope.” These are all things I thank The First Tee for because The First Tee provided me an environment of coaches who helped me build the self-confidence needed to overcome hesitations I had towards public speaking and trying new things. Through attending The First Tee’s national opportunities, I was able to learn from world leaders such as Hall of Fame Golfer Annika Sorenstam and Ben Bernanke, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to accomplish high goals by building powerful teams, visions, and effective communication. In college, there so many opportunities and resources open to students. You just have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone to pursue your goals and visions.

What are your plans for after college?

Growing up with The First Tee program, sports shaped me into the person I am today. Through my involvement with The First Tee, I see the empowering impact sports have in instilling core values such as self-confidence, perseverance, and integrity that help participants succeed not only in sports but in life. I strongly believe the best athletes are those who give back to inspire other athletes. I plan to go into marketing and utilize my creativity side in digital media to create marketing campaigns to capture and empower athletes. Through working with The First Tee and interning at the PGA TOUR, I have already accomplished mini steps of my goal ladder. I plan to graduate with a double degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, as well as a Minor in Dance at the University of Washington next year and accomplish my goal of pursuing a career in the sports industry after college.

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