It all started as an idea. Then it became an event. In 2019 it became an entire business.
Yes, we’re talking about Ledgestone, a world-wide disc golf brand that has established itself on the front lines of the sport’s business innovation.
The business side of Ledgestone truly began in 2019. Greater Peoria was elected to host the PDGA Disc Golf World Championships that year and Nate Heinold and his Ledgestone team were tasked with directing the tournament.
“That was the first time we charged for spectators,” said the Ledgestone tournament director. “Steve Dodge kept telling me to do it and we ended up bringing in $30,000 for the week.”
It was also only the second year Ledgestone had sold branded merchandise. With the amount of spectators and the prestige that came with attending the event, fans wanted something to commemorate their experience and time in Peoria.
That same year, Ledgestone also tested the waters on a one-of-a-kind disc release.
“At Worlds that year we also dropped the Big Z Luna for the first time,” Heinold said. “I didn’t even think it’d be popular at all. They said ‘Limited Edition’ on them and people bought them all. Up to that point we had just sold everything online. It’s the first time I realized people would come to an event to buy exclusive stuff.”
Shopledgestone.com opened the following January with the encouragement of Discraft’s marketing manager at the time, Jon Richardson. Up until that point, Ledgestone had done all its sales through other avenues like Facebook groups.
“We would post on the Ledgestone Facebook page that we had these discs available,” Heinold said. “People would private message me, I’d send them an invoice through PayPal, and then I’d ship them myself.”
The move to open the online store made its impact known immediately as the inaugural disc drop sold out of everything. But just six weeks later, COVID hit.
After a brief lull as the world reeled from the devastation of the pandemic, the disc golf industry saw a dramatic increase in popularity as people looked for something to keep them entertained, outside, and socially distanced all at once. With the supply chain struggling to keep up, discs became hard to find. Fortunately, with the help of Discraft, Ledgestone was able to maintain enough stock to keep selling to the masses.
COVID accelerated growth so much that for the 2020 Ledgestone Open, the disc golf giant had sold out of 98% of its inventory before the event even began and barely had anything left to sell on site at the actual tournament.
The spike in popularity and sales allowed Heinold to step away from his full time insurance job, build his own office with a warehouse, and hire double-digit employees to help run the business.
“I’m very blessed and lucky to have hit it at the right time,” he said. “The business has gone from running events to running an entire online fulfillment center.”
The success has helped Ledgestone expand, but has also had several positive impacts on the local community. Ledgestone has sent funds to clean up, install, and maintain numerous local courses, 14 of which are featured in the Ledgestone Open each year. Sizeable charitable donations are also sent to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital annually through fundraising at Ledgestone. Additional charitable partners include Easter Seals and the Paul McBeth Foundation. The donations have now reached over half a million dollars.
Even with the quick rise and opportunity for growth, Heinold doesn’t see extra expansion of the business happening anytime soon.
“I went from packing my own boxes just a few years ago to 17 employees in five different states. I can’t run any more tournaments right now and our warehouse is at capacity,” stated Heinold.
Blog by: Jacob Arvidson