Blair Bardwell, CEO of Epic Carts On Growth and Future Plans
Blair Bardwell, CEO of Epic Carts On Growth and Future Plans
Show Notes & Links:
- EpicCarts Website
- Cart Crafter online
- Epic Carts on Facebook
- Epic Carts on Lifestyle Frisco
- Visit the Epic Carts Business Page on Lifestyle Frisco for an accessory credit with your cart purchase.
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis. This week I’m joined by Blair Bardwell the founder and CEO of Epic Carts. All right Blair, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you here.
Blair Bardwell: Hey, thanks Scott. Appreciate you having us.
Scott Ellis: It’s been awhile since we’ve had a chance to catch up. We did an article on you guys like years ago now, doesn’t seemed that long ago. Was it 2013, maybe 2014?
Blair Bardwell: That sounds right.
Scott Ellis: Yeah and it was an interesting and fun story because I got to go out and actually meet with some of your customers and look at their carts and the things that you’ve done and take pictures and all those stuff. Since then, your business has expanded. It’s growing like crazy right now, we’re going to talk about that a little bit more but what we want everybody out there to take away from it is if they want a golf cart of any kind, Epic Carts is the place to go and you guys are right here in Frisco.
Blair Bardwell: That’s right, yeah. No, thank you for that. That’s definitely what the message is that we want to put out in the market.
Scott Ellis: Yeah. Well, you guys make some really interesting fun stuff. I would encourage people to go out and hit Facebook, hit our article, there’s a bunch of cool pictures in there to see the types of things that you guys do. In your own words, tell us a little bit about what Epic Carts really is and where you guys are going now as opposed to where you’ve been in the past.
Blair Bardwell: Sure. No, thank you. Epic Carts has started originally in just refurbishing used golf course carts and we’ve taken that a step further and really tried to understand what the customers wanted and what they wanted was a good value, but something with a lot of flare, and something that’s really fun to drive. That’s really what changed the momentum of the company because we were able to go out and secure distribution rights for a new kind of golf cart. I believe it’s safer, we don’t use any aftermarket lift kits on it, it all comes from the OEM. They come standard with seat belts and all the fun things like the road safety aspects, blinkers, tail lights. Also, we wanted to make it something that’s as maintenance free as possible. We’ve switched over. We’re only the golf cart companies that offer standard a gel battery that basically you don’t have to do anything other than plug it into the wall and charge your golf cart when you’re done.
Scott Ellis: That’s good to know. I’m guessing that you guys are selling carts in far more places than just Frisco.
Blair Bardwell: That’s true, we do.
Scott Ellis: Probably all over the country.
Blair Bardwell: We have, we’ve shipped golf carts to California, to the east coast as well, to Florida. We’re really focused on this market right now for our growth plans. You’ve got to understand your backyard before you get out and expand too far out there. We’re real focused on the Frisco market, we’ve got a design center that is truly unique in the industry, it’s more like the Tesla model. People can come, they can see a few golf carts. You’re not coming into a hot, sweaty shop and you can design your golf cart from the ground up with one of our design specialist.
Scott Ellis: Let’s talk about that for a minute, I don’t think … This is a new addition for you guys, right?
Blair Bardwell: It is.
Scott Ellis: The design center, and at the time of this recording is the design center open or is it going to be open soon?
Blair Bardwell: We just opened the doors, however we haven’t had our official launch date yet. You could come to the design center now, it’s located at FieldhouseUSA and see a few golf carts and start working through the process. It’s a nice, comfortable location, but we will have a grand opening probably toward the end of August after school starts?
Scott Ellis: Do you encourage people to just drop in or is it best to make an appointment? If I’m interested in a golf cart how should I get started?
Blair Bardwell: All the above. Obviously someone’s usually there from 9:00 to 5:00. However, there could be the circumstance where they had to go grab lunch or whatever the case might be. Yeah, you can definitely hit us on Facebook, a lot of people like to contact us now through messenger and we accommodate all kinds of communication.
Scott Ellis: If you’re in the market for a golf cart, the point is stop in at the Fieldhouse, the design center is there.
Blair Bardwell: That’s right.
Scott Ellis: Hit them up on Facebook, website, contact the page, phone numbers, all that good stuff. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the fun things that people do to carts, because I know when I went out and was looking at some of them that you’d done a couple of years ago I was a little bit surprised at some of the things I saw baked into a golf cart.
Blair Bardwell: Yeah, exactly.
Scott Ellis: You mentioned lift kits earlier, but what else? What are some of the more fun or interesting things that you see people do?
Blair Bardwell: What I like about the design center experience, it gives people a chance to really come up with whatever idea they have and we’ll make it happen. Some of the fun things that we do is color inserts in the wheels to match the bodies, custom paint. We have our own Kevlar product that we’re coming out with, it’s called Epic Liner. If you haven’t seen some of the real nice expensive Jeeps that role around town, they have the nice finish on the outside that looks like an old bed liner, but it’s colored and it’s a little bit more appealing than a bed liner so to speak. We have that same product, we can put Ferrari paint in it, we can put Bentley paints in it. Really the sky’s the limit when it comes to those kind of things.
Scott Ellis: I always assumed that the Kevlar was because it’s very durable, or more durable. If I’m in a Jeep I’m going to go bang that thing up. This will probably hold up better than the average paint job, is that fair?
Blair Bardwell: It does, absolutely. We have another product that we actually invented that came from the aviation industry. We made it a little more durable to soak into the Kevlar, but it’s a protectant, we call it Epic Shield. What that does is it allows anybody to be able to wash their vehicle. One negative about Kevlar is that it’s very gritty and dirt and mud and things get in there and then you can’t get it out unless you have a high pressure sprayer, you go to a car wash. With this product it’s a silicone base sealant and when stuff gets in the grooves and stuff you just need a small little brush and everything comes right out. Just slip it in.
Scott Ellis: Sounds like it would be a must investment for me for sure.
Blair Bardwell: Absolutely. Actually we’re having a lot of people come to us now that own Jeeps and want to put it on there as well because it’s really a universal product.
Scott Ellis: A new business opportunity already.
Blair Bardwell: They always pop up for some reason.
Scott Ellis: They will find you, I know, if you keep going. Talk to us a little bit about the growth of the business over the last year because when we spoke and we did the original article I think you guys were still fairly new. A lot has changed and evolved. Sean Heatley who’s been a writer for Lifestyle Frisco and we’ve known for a long time is now working for Epic. Just give me an overview of how things have grown.
Blair Bardwell: Sure. Golf carts are fun and that’s are motto it’s “Live wide open.” That means a lot of things. It means put your foot on the gas and let her rip. It means let your hair down or guys like us who don’t have hair, it’s more like let the breeze flow over the head so to speak.
Scott Ellis: It still feels good.
Blair Bardwell: It still feels great. It’s all about that outdoor lifestyle. Having fun with the family, with the kids. I wanted to take that and find … Really it comes down to the right people and how do we channel that into some that’s really special and different then just going out and buying a golf cart like you would at a dealership, so to speak. Where there’s a few to choose from but the opportunity to customize it to something that’s special to you and your family. If you have an affinity towards a certain school or team we can make that happen to really accommodate that. It came down to the people for me and finding the right ones to partner with to really grow the business. We’ve got Sean Heatley who’s an operations genius compared to myself. Who’s able to really scale the business from building it and putting the procurement in place to where you’re not having to wait 3 weeks for your custom golf cart. We can usually get it done in 7 to 10 days.
Scott Ellis: Wow.
Blair Bardwell: From the time you come into the design center our goal is to have you a golf cart in your driveway within 10 days. That’s the operations side. I can tell you Clint Bedsaul is also a partner. He was originally the guy that came in and said, “Listen I think you’ve got some real special here. What can I do to get involved.” We brought him in as a true partner. He made a good investment. It’s all about lining those thing up and finding the right staff that wants to work with you and make their lives a place where they want to stay. We want every person who comes in and gets a golf cart to feel like the staff actually worked to meet their needs and build something that was special for them.
Scott Ellis: I popped in the other day to talk to Sean and everybody was working pretty hard out there. I think they’re getting it done.
Blair Bardwell: They keep telling me it’s time to put air conditioning in the shop.
Scott Ellis: That might be good this time of year I think they would probably appreciate that.
Blair Bardwell: That might be coming.
Scott Ellis: Further expansion plans? Anything else coming up in the near future? Not that you haven’t done enough already recently.
Blair Bardwell: I think once we really nail this model. This design center concept. It’s very easy to scale that. The plan is just to go right down the Gulf coast all the way to for. We’ll start expanding, we may go a little west in Texas. I think most of our market is probably towards that direction in the East. We’ll look for the right areas that have the appropriate laws that really allow for golf cart usage. We’ll invest in those areas and put these design centers. We’ll still build … We’re going to keep Frisco home. We’re still going to build these golf carts right here in Frisco. We will ship them all over the country.
Scott Ellis: We love having you here and we love watching Frisco businesses grow and expand. Especially when they start off as small locally owned businesses and they grow from there. It’s just been a lot of fun to see the evolution of Epic. You mentioned the laws and finding places that are friendly to golf carts. For people that are just maybe thinking about a cart or planning to buy one. What do they need to know in terms of driving your cart around Frisco? I haven’t seen a ton of them on the streets, but I can imagine the way you guys are going we might see them everywhere before too long.
Blair Bardwell: Right. The Evolution product which is our new golf carts that we customize for folks comes ready right out of the gate. It’s going to have turn signals, blinkers, horn. It will have your rear-view mirror kits et cetera. We also sell the orange triangles and the slow moving vehicle signs that are required in Frisco on the rear of the vehicle.
Scott Ellis: This is a street legal golf cart?
Blair Bardwell: It is.
Scott Ellis: Is that what I’m hearing.
Blair Bardwell: It’s a street legal vehicle as long as you’re driving on roads that are less than 35 miles per hour.
Scott Ellis: That’s a good point. You can drive it on the road, but it’s got to be less that 35 miles an hour speed limit on that road.
Blair Bardwell: That’s right.
Scott Ellis: I’m not going to be driving it up and down Legacy?
Blair Bardwell: I would not suggest that.
Scott Ellis: These golf carts can go pretty fast right?
Blair Bardwell: Yeah. Our golf carts are a little bit different. We have quite a bit more horsepower and the controllers, which is basically the brain of the vehicle is significantly more volts and amps than your traditional golf course cart. Our carts typically run 26 to 28 miles per hour.
Scott Ellis: Wow. That’s pretty fast in a golf cart.
Blair Bardwell: Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: When you’re that open and low to the ground you really feel it.
Blair Bardwell: It’s fun but, again safety is still a priority number 1.
Scott Ellis: Of course. Of course. Going back to the laws we’re talking streets 35 miles an hour or less. What about sidewalks and in neighborhoods and things like that.
Blair Bardwell: Sidewalks are off limits, period.
Scott Ellis: Don’t take your cart on the sidewalk.
Blair Bardwell: Don’t take your carts on the sidewalks, the police do not like that. Honestly it’s really for the safety of the people who are walking on those sidewalks as well. We ask folks to stay off the sidewalks and let the pedestrians use that.
Scott Ellis: Inside of neighborhoods and things, that’s fine?
Blair Bardwell: There’s certain neighborhoods that have a wider sidewalk that says use for golf cart path.
Scott Ellis: I was thinking on the roads and in the neighborhoods, not necessarily on the sidewalks.
Blair Bardwell: Absolutely. Even in neighborhood that are gated, you don’t even have to have the slow moving vehicle sign because that’s considered private property.
Scott Ellis: Good to know, good to know. There’s somebody in my neighborhood that has a pretty nicely customized golf cart, I’ve got to believe it’s an Epic Cart. I see them over at Market Street all the time and I never see who’s getting in or out of it, but one of these days I’m going to find out who it is because I’m usually walking over there.
Blair Bardwell: That’s great.
Scott Ellis: Maybe we need to get a lifestyle Frisco cart before too long.
Blair Bardwell: That’s what good about these carts is that if you live in a neighborhood, and you can cross a main intersection even if the speed limit’s higher than 35, you just can’t drive on that road down the main traffic area. What these things are great for is to go to the grocery store. It’s good just to run out and grab a bite to eat at the local sandwich shop or whatever it might be. That’s what makes it fun is it’s something that it’s wide open. You get to just get out there, you don’t have to have a convertible car anymore. This is actually probably more fun and the kids enjoy it more.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, I’ll bet they do. Let’s talk a little bit about price points because I know for people that don’t already own a cart one of the big questions is how much does it cost for a golf cart? I have no idea, even just for a plain, non customized golf cart, getting into something like this, what should somebody expect. What is the entry level starting point? I’m sure we can go crazy from there, but-
Blair Bardwell: Just your entry level golf cart, we call it the 3 inch lift cart we really start right in the $5,000 price point. Most people aren’t stopping there, though. They’re adding onto it from there. The 6 inch lifted golf cats start in the $7,000 range, just depends on again what accessories you want to add to it. What’s great with an Evolution, they come with some pretty nice features right out of the gate. Speedometer, the blinker system as I mentioned, the seat belts are all included, so you’re getting some nice features right out of the gate that other car companies or guys that are re-manufacturing are going to charge you for.
Scott Ellis: What is the advantage of a 6 inch over a 3 inch lift?
Blair Bardwell: It’s just funner. It’s more fun, funner’s not a word.
Scott Ellis: I use it sometimes, it’s okay.
Blair Bardwell: No, I think it comes down to there’s multiple applications for these. You might just like the way it looks, you might have a lake house you want to trailer it to to where ground clearance is an issue. The hunting carts are getting more and more popular. We’ve just taken the first Evolution golf cart and turned it into a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
Scott Ellis: Wow.
Blair Bardwell: We have 4 wheel drive systems available now. There’s multiple uses for it. Obviously if you’re going to have a 6 inch lift and you’re going to have 4 wheel drive you’re going to want to be able to take it places that won’t bottom out.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, understood. If I’m taking my cart off road, assuming I’ve got the life, and the right tires, and all that kind of thing, how does that effect the performance in terms of battery life and things like that. I would think grinding through the mud and everything would wind it down a little faster.
Blair Bardwell: It really hasn’t and I was shocked at that as well as we put this stuff through research and development which means Blair got to go play in the mud. We’ve had great success with it. We get on average depending on your driving style if you’re going full blow floor to the ground you’re going to get between 20 and 25 miles out of a charge on these batteries.
Scott Ellis: That’s pretty good.
Blair Bardwell: We also have a new battery that’s coming out later this year that’s a lithium ion and so it gets measured a little bit differently. You don’t measure it with volts, it’s more of an oms type of measurement system. The test that we’re seeing are showing at 80 miles plus.
Scott Ellis: Wow, in a golf cart.
Blair Bardwell: Yes, in a golf cart. That’s a lifted vehicle with 4 wheel drive full time. It’s pretty amazing the new battery technology.
Scott Ellis: That’s pretty impressive just for getting around town, that would make a good second car.
Blair Bardwell: Yeah, and that’s been a lot of the concern for people to is what if I get somewhere and I run out of battery, how do I get home? That’s going to totally take the guesswork out of it.
Scott Ellis: You could run around Frisco all day with an 80 mile range.
Blair Bardwell: You wouldn’t want to be in a golf cart for 80 miles I don’t think. That application’s probably better for the guy that’s got a hunting lease and he’s going to be there all weekend and doesn’t have electricity to recharge it.
Scott Ellis: That makes sense, that actually brings us to a good question though and that is charging them up, do you need a special charger for this? Do you just plug it into a 110 or do you have to have a 220, what do you guys recommend?
Blair Bardwell: Yeah, the Evolution Carts are really great, we use a lesser charging system which is a smart charger and so we build it into the cart. From the cart there’s just a simple little extension cord, it’s about 10 feet long that plugs right into the wall.
Scott Ellis: Wow.
Blair Bardwell: With gel batteries they don’t have a memory so to speak like some of the other older type of batteries did. Really it’s just a matter of when you get done just plug it back in the wall, the charger charges it until it sees it’s full and then it turns itself off and you’re done.
Scott Ellis: You don’t have the issue of the battery’s memory limiting or I guess reducing the life of the battery or anything.
Blair Bardwell: No. Not at all, not at all.
Scott Ellis: That’s good to know. How long does it take to charge up from empty?
Blair Bardwell: You probably need about 8 hours.
Scott Ellis: About 8 hours.
Blair Bardwell: Typically if you’re going to drive it heavy all weekend, you run it down during the day, it’s good just to plug it in, let it charge overnight, and it’ll be ready to go in the morning.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, easy enough though. That’s fantastic. We’re looking forward to the grand opening, you guys are already in the Fieldhouse, the design center is there. If you want to go design a golf cart go into the Fieldhouse, go visit these guys, or give them a shout on Facebook, or give them a call, set an appointment. Grand opening for that is planned for probably the end of August.
Blair Bardwell: End of August and in the meantime we will be rolling out the what we call the cart crafter, online cart crafter.
Scott Ellis: This just keeps getting better.
Blair Bardwell: It gets better and there’s more to come. If you just want to go out and play and say oh we’re not ready right now, but we want to start playing with design work we’ll have that all available online. There’ll be 3 different views of the cart that you could pick from. You can change colors, you can change wheels and tires, you can change seats. That will all part of the design experience as well when you go in to meet with the consultant.
Scott Ellis: When does the car crafter come out on the website?
Blair Bardwell: We’re hoping to get it out there next week.
Scott Ellis: Oh wow, so by the time people hear this it’ll probably be there.
Blair Bardwell: It’ll probably be there, yep.
Scott Ellis: Just for everyone’s benefit what is the URL for your website?
Blair Bardwell: It is www.epiccarts.com.
Scott Ellis: Doesn’t get any easier than that. All right guys, go on out, check out Epic Carts, they are really building some fun stuff. Even if you just want to go poke around on the website and see what they’ve got going on, stop into the Fieldhouse and say hi. You’re going to be seeing more and more of these around town. I think there’s a few interesting things coming down the road that I’m not going to mention here, but keep your eyes ope that I’ve heard about. What can I say? Epic Carts here in Frisco-
Blair Bardwell: Follow us on Facebook.
Scott Ellis: Making the best golf carts anywhere. What is the Facebook, is it just slash Epic Carts.
Blair Bardwell: That’s it.
Scott Ellis: I think if you Google Epic Carts you’re going to find them everywhere. There you go guys, thank you very much, Blair. Thank you for joining me today, this has been fun to catch up and it really is very exciting for us to see you guys growing and things expanding the way that they are so congratulations.
Blair Bardwell: Thank you very much and really appreciate the opportunity.
Scott Ellis: You bet, you bet. All right guys, thank you very much and we will talk to you next week on the Frisco Podcast.