Here’s the scenario: Two people from Colorado – one with a detail-oriented personality, the other with a passion for a growing sport – were looking to move somewhere with a historic home in need of updating.
They find the perfect location in Southern Illinois and combine their move and interests into a unique new business opportunity.
This is the story of Matt Locke, director of a software company, who realized during the COVID-19 pandemic that he could work from anywhere. Eager to take the opportunity and sharing the desire with his domestic partner Katie Lee to find a home with an “old character”, he began to look to relocate.
Working state by state in eastern Colorado, the couple searched for homes online. One, in Benton, captured their imaginations.
“When we reached Illinois we found this crazy house and in photo 23 or 26 there was a golden spider on the ceiling of one of the rooms and it turned out in every window in that room , there was an ornate spider web, ”he explained. “We called it the house of the spider.”
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As it turned out, the couple had discovered a 6,000 square foot three-story house on McLeansboro Street in Benton, built in 1910 by prominent banker, entrepreneur and farmer Robert Ward. Formerly the residence of a stained glass company, the house had the character the couple were looking for.
Their new home also had a lot of square footage, perfect for Locke to practice his disc golf shots. He is passionate about the sport where players throw flying discs at targets. The game is played much like traditional golf, with the required number of shots from tee to target counted for the scores. As in golf, low scores are preferable.
Given the growing popularity of disc golf in the area, Locke’s interest in the sport, Lee’s desire for a new challenge and, thanks to a converted school bus – also with ‘character’, a new venture was born.
“We found out that a lot of people in the area were already playing disc golf, but there weren’t a lot of places to get discs,” Locke said. “There are so many different plastics, so many different brands and molds. You cannot have an idea of what an online disc will be like; there is simply no way, but it is imperative to touch the discs before purchasing them.
To help disc golfers and grow the sport, the couple, using their new home as the inspiration for a name and the converted small school bus as a mobile retail unit, launched Spider House Disc Golf earlier in the year. year.
While the company offers discs and accessories online, one of the main goals of the business is to locate at disc golf tournaments and events in the area.
“Matt brought a lot of passion to the sport and I brought a passion for small business,” said Lee. “We both wanted to start a small business and I just didn’t know what it was. Disc golf is perfect for us. With the bus, our overhead costs are low.
“Katie grabbed the corporate rings and did a great job,” he added. “She set up all the relationships with the companies, made our store run and everything went perfectly. We go to tournaments and we settle in and people love it. “
Disc golfers can play an entire course on a single disc, but like traditional golfers, many use specialized equipment depending on the course and stroke required. Special “driver” discs, mid-distance discs and “putters” are all available.
With disc golf courses in Anna, Carbondale, Carterville, Cobden, Goreville, Marion and other area communities, Locke said the sport is taking off in southern Illinois.
“I think we have a subtle glow right now, but it’s about to ignite,” he said. “We create on average about 1,400 new courses nationwide each year. It is growing incredibly quickly in southern Illinois.
He said it’s a big game for the residents of the area.
“Disc golf is great for southern Illinois for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that it’s such an affordable sport, ”Locke said. “You can get a starter disc set for $ 14.99 and you can worry about it for years, and most of the lessons are free. It’s a great way for people to go out and play for a really low price.
The couple plan to convert the shed of their new home in Benton into a bed and breakfast for disc golfers who can even play on site.
Locke said the pair see themselves not only as champions of disc golf, but entrepreneurship in the region as well.
“We want to serve as an inspiration for other people – encourage them to do something similar with their own passions. We want to let them know that they can be successful in a job they love if they just put in the effort and dream a little, ”Locke said.