Silvestrini is becoming old hand at staring new businesses
Former WHO-TV sports director Ric Silvestrini is once again working in a sports-related career. Still the owner and operator of 8-year-old Silvestrini’s Pizza in Des Moines, he launched the Iowa Golf Tour this spring as a way to give average golfers an opportunity to compete for cash and prizes. Now halfway through his six-tournament schedule for 2005, Silvestrini is learning how to balance his responsibilities to both businesses and making plans for expanding the Iowa Golf Tour next year.
When you were studying telecommunications at Michigan State University, did you intend to be a business owner someday?
It was always in the back of my mind, but I liked broadcasting so much that I put that on the back burner. But my father, especially, always encouraged me to keep that door open all the time, and that’s eventually what happened. I got into retail originally (owned the Storage Station in Clive from 1994 to 1999), and from there, got into the restaurant business, which is what I grew up doing at my parents’ pizza parlor in Iron River, Mich.
Were you a little hesitant to return to your roots in the restaurant business when you started Silvestrini’s Pizza in 1998?
It was one of those things where I tried to wait for the right opportunity. When I decided to go into it, I ran into my old manager at the station and told him that I had something new going. He knew right away that it must be a restaurant.
What made you want to launch another business?
I don’t know. It almost seems like every five years I try to do something different. It’s almost scary, this five-year pattern.
How did you find out about the golf tournament business?
I was talking with a friend one day at the gym and heard from him that he had a friend in Minneapolis, Kevin Unterreiner, who wanted to take his golf tour nationwide. I contacted Kevin and that’s how this all started.
What sold you on the idea of the Iowa Golf Tour?
Kevin, who is a chiropractor by trade, has been doing this same concept in the Twin Cities for several years, and it has exploded there. He thought that it seemed like something that could be done in other cities, so he took the concept to Golf Galaxy and they agreed to sponsor the tournaments nationally in the markets where they have stores. When I sat down with Kevin to talk about this, I thought that this was another good business opportunity, potentially, with some fairly low investment. And it was in an area that I like: golf. I signed a deal with him about a week later and had the business up and running in March.
How were you able to put the Iowa Golf Tour together so quickly?
I think one of the reasons I could start it so quickly is because of what I had learned over the past 10 years about getting a corporation set up and all the formalities of getting a business off the ground. I have that knowledge built in because I’ve done it so many times.
Who participates in your tournaments?
We have everything from golfers who golf near par to the middle-of-the-range golfers. It’s been a nice mix. Our only requirement is that you be able, bon average, to shoot 95 or less per 18 holes. We don’t want players who are beginners. We want to keep the pace of play up because this is a tournament.
What makes these tournaments different from other amateur or charity events?
There are a lot of people I know who are avid golfers who look all over the state trying to find tournaments to play in. The nice thing about these events is that they are on Saturdays, which are typically a day of the week where most people are available to play.
Also, you don’t find many two-person team events around, which makes it fun, especially if you have a buddy or a friend who likes to play.
How has the turnout been so far?
So far we’ve averaging right around 36 players for our events. I’ve been told that’s right around the national average for all this company’s tours across the country. Of course, we would like to see that number a lot higher. My first goal would be to hit the 50 mark and have 25 teams out there on a Saturday, and then go beyond that and try to get up to 75. I’d love to have a tournament maxed out where we have 100 players. I think we will eventually get there. It just takes time to get the word out and build these up.
How do you expect the Iowa Golf Tour to grow in the future?
I think we’ll grow to about eight events next summer. They have a total of 16 events now in the Twin Cities, and I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point, but we will definitely add to the schedule next year. Also, this company is set up with another offshoot, Web site design for golf-related industries. That’s a whole other area that I hope to get into in the off-season.
Do you have the kind of schedule now that you anticipated when you became a business owner?
Obviously, there are times when if you’re the owner/operator of a business, especially a restaurant, it can be very time consuming. But I’m still pretty flexible. As the tournaments get closer, it’s a little bit more hectic. I’m fortunate enough that I don’t go to work 8 to 5, so I have the time, often in the morning, to do the bookwork and take care of the tournament entries and post results on the Web site, www.iowagolftour.com.