Bearded Buffalo Golf
Golf Simulator Venue on Course for Success
Nick Papke had a great idea for an entertainment venue featuring golf simulators, but until he sought the guidance of Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) Consultant Sara Bennett, he couldn’t get past the first tee.
“I started a lawn mowing and landscaping business about 10 years ago, but what I needed to get that running wasn’t near as complicated as it was for this business,” says Papke. “Sara pointed out requirements I never would have considered, and I thought I had a good handle on things.”
With her advice and support, Papke in late 2017 opened Bearded Buffalo Golf, the only golf simulator venue in or near Grand Island. Bearded Buffalo features three aboutGolf simulators with more than 40 famous golf courses from around world that participants can play while honing their golf skills.
About a year earlier, after seeing a flier promoting NBDC services, Papke went to visit Bennett, associate director of the NBDC office at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. “Because Nebraska weather limits year-round recreational activities, Nick devised a solution to address this problem, and the vision for Bearded Buffalo Golf was born,” Bennett says.
Papke came to NBDC to obtain assistance with starting his business and to develop a business plan to secure financing. “Sara was a big help with pretty much everything,” he says. “She pretty much wrote the business plan based on the information I gave her. She helped with the budget analysis and everything I needed for the SBA loan application.”
Papke says one of the challenges was coming up with realistic revenue projections, since there is no other business like his in the area.
“The closest you might compare it to is a bowling alley, but people who bowl can do it year-round,” he says. “I was trying to tap into a segment of the community that can’t play golf year-round. Luckily, the company that I bought the simulators from had some analytics available based on the size of the city and the population. With their numbers, and what Sara put together, so far we’ve hit the nail on the head.”
Over a period of 11 months, he worked with Bennett to overcome a number of other obstacles, including finding an ideal location. He persisted and ultimately secured the funding he needed, along with a prime location at 217 East Stolley Park Road, not far from the Nebraska State Fairgrounds and Fonner Park. He runs the business along with six part-time employees.
By addressing an underserved entertainment need in the area, Bearded Buffalo Golf has generated considerable interest and gained quick acceptance in the market, Bennett says.
“I have a lot of regulars who are really good golfers, and some people who own golf courses,” Papke says. “I also have a lot of first-timers who feel less intimidated on a simulator than on a course surrounded by experienced golfers.”
He says the assistance he received from Bennett and the NBDC put his business on the right course. “There are a lot of things that come with starting a business most people don’t realize,” he says. “If you go into it blindly, you can get bit pretty hard.”