By David Droschak
After a long career in the technical textile market supplying products to the consumer products and automobile industry, Michael Ambler was looking for a change, something that would keep him closer to home with an enjoyable environment and friendly customer base.
Ambler had always wanted to own his own business and was intrigued in 2016 when he met the owners of what is now called CoverShots Mobile Canopies International.
“I liked the product, I saw the potential and liked what it stood for,” Ambler said of the golf canopies company.
And Ambler’s family had a common thread with the original owner – skin cancer.
“The original owner was a golfer and developed skin cancer on his forearms and wanted to continue to enjoy hitting balls, and also saw this as a need in the market place,” Ambler said. “The first units were sold in 1998 and it started very small.
“I have a parent and my wife has a parent that has had skin cancer due to sun exposure, and I enjoy the outdoors and just liked everything about the product. It is a high quality item and I wanted to continue that process.”
Ambler’s clients run golf’s gamut – from high-end private clubs to muni tracks to resorts to test facilities and universities. His international clients include an Army base in Germany, a resort club in Singapore, and Middle East golf courses in Israel and Abu Dhabi.
On the day I caught up with Ambler on the phone he was in the car driving to Georgia, on his way to see another potential client or two – a man on a mission to sell, sell, sell out of his Summerfield headquarters, which opened last March.
“I love golf, used to play a lot and I quit when I started traveling around the world because any free time I had was spent with my family,” he said. “So, I really didn’t play for 10-11 years. I’ve really enjoyed this past year getting back into that environment. My assessment when I bought the company was there was a lot of market that was still there.”
He was correct.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time in the marketplace with the customers. It is a niche market, so what we will eventually want to do is expand it into other markets. Right now we’re just trying to service our customer base in the golf industry and grow that business and getting it out to more customers.”
One of those “expansion” markets has included a CoverShots unit purchased by the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department for their gun range. Ambler is also tapping into the university market, recently signing on the University of South Carolina. He also has units at the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon and Tiger’s alma mater, Stanford.
However, the wheelhouse for CoverShots is driving ranges or practice facilities, many seeing as much as a 30 percent increase in business after purchasing one of the canopy units.
“They don’t want cancellations, people not coming out because it’s too hot or it is raining,” Ambler said. “Ranges want to see a return on their investment.
“When I go to see a potential client, I ask them what do you want to accomplish. How big is your range? Do you want it to generate revenue or accommodate member needs? Do you want it to make you a more competitive club, which it automatically does if you have one?”
CoverShots supplies two options – a PTC (Professional Teaching Canopy) designed for up to three golfers and an instructor, while an Eclipse unit has coverage from 41 feet up to 104 feet, protecting up to 11 hitting stations.
All units are custom build to client specifications.
“We offer a lot of different options, like a retractable top vs. a fixed top, motorized vs. non-motorized, or painted vs. non-painted,” Ambler said. “All of our units are hot-dipped galvanized steel, which means they will not rust or corrode. Our units are intended to last 20-plus years. It is not an item you turn over every 3 years and have to replace.
“We respect that our customers are making an investment so we are always looking for ways to help support the purchase. One way we are doing this is working with semi-private, daily fee, and commercial range clients on a concept to sell very nice looking logo space on the canopies, which is a perfect billboard and generates up-front revenue from businesses in the area who would like to advertise,” Ambler said. “Clients can then change the tarp out and have an ongoing revenue stream. We’ve already made an install that has six logos on it.”
Ambler’s private club lists includes Congressional, Westchester and Trump International. That’s some pretty heady company.
“We’re very proud of our client base and it brings some instant credibility to people who might be an international customer and a club that benchmarks itself against some of those people,” Ambler said. “We are in some really, really exclusive high-end clubs that don’t even want us to say, but at the same time we have a mission and a passion to get this product into clubs that service the local communities or to business owners with a commercial driving range or the teaching profession, who needs comfort in his so-called office. We don’t want that revenue from lessons to be interrupted.”