Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl Cooper are founders of Eastside Golf, a golf lifestyle apparel brand that they launched in 2019. Today, the brand has grown into an influential force for diversity in the sport.
It has been worn by golf enthusiasts like Barack Obama, DJ Khaled, Dwyane Wade, and CC Sabathia and has collaborated with the likes of Jordan Brand, the NBA, Apple, and Mercedes-Benz USA. Also, the brand landed a six-episode in the Hulu series titled Grails, When Sneakers Change the Game.
The apparel brand has grown from just two employees to 16, with its revenue increasing from $100,000 in its first year to a projected $4 million to close this year, according to Fast Company. The two entrepreneurs, who met as teammates on Morehouse College’s golf team, are not stopping there. Their agenda is to turn Atlanta into an incubator for future leaders in the golf industry who will continue to evolve the culture of the sport.
Before going into the apparel industry, Ajanaku worked in finance with his accounting degree. His initial plan was to become a pro, similar to Cooper, but was unable to secure sponsorship. However, he did not allow the setback to affect his aspirations. His challenges inspired him to create Eastside Golf and enabled him to become his own sponsor, per Fast Company.
No sooner had they launched the company than they realized that the brand was bound to succeed. This was after receiving attention from people attracted to the company’s swingman logo, which portrays Ajanaku in jeans and a sweatshirt.
“Going out on the golf course, one of the things that a lot of people don’t get to be is themselves,” Ajanaku told Fast Company. “The logo literally says I don’t care. I’m out here because I love the game of golf and because I like dressing fly. When people are able to be themselves, it gives them the power to do so many other things.”
Meanwhile, the brand has a partnership with the Jordan Brand that has led to the creation of apparel items and shoes including the Change 1961 Collection, which includes three Eastside Golf X Jordan Golf shoes and a 14-piece apparel collection from Eastside Golf.
“Because MJ and I love the game and these two gentlemen had aspirations of creating a brand with a new perspective for the game, we wanted to provide them with a potential jump-start by creating a collaboration,” said Gentry Humphrey, now the general manager of Jordan Golf. “We shared our thoughts, creativity, and business philosophy to hopefully aid them in their efforts. Making this type of investment in a minority-owned business that loved the game simply seemed like the right thing to do.”
Ajanaku and Cooper are soon hoping to have a brick-and-mortar store and their own Eastside Golf–style country club. They also want to set up a foundation to mentor and train junior golfers.
Figures cited by Fast Company show that more Americans are playing golf than ever before. Last year, there were over 5 million Asian, Black, and Hispanic on-course golfers, accounting for 22 percent of overall players.