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Jefferson Hennessy is a Webmaster and feature article journalist with a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Jefferson is available for feature and profile story writing assignments. He is willing to travel. Click on the "view my complete profile" link to send Jefferson an email message.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tom Cox: E-commerce Visionary and CEO of

In 1995, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate in Political Science named Tom Cox, recognized the future economic potential for small businesses in a vast new digital frontier called the Internet, and after conducting extensive research on the business of “selling used golf balls” he was certain he had found a terrific niche product to market in cyberspace.

Four years later, in 1999, Cox’s online business generated over $1 million in sales. And this year, Cox’s online golf ball business is expected to generate $6 million in sales.

But the transition from only selling used golf balls to his current business that sells “personalized” new golf balls, monogrammed clothing and golf equipment, required a few years of business model adjustments, mixed with Cox’s determined entrepreneurial foresight.

Back in 1996, Cox’s belief in the potential for success online selling used golf balls wasn’t as obvious to his current business partners.

Business partner and Vice President of Operations for, Chuck Nuzum, says, “At first I thought this golf ball business was a wild thing to do. Tom is the idea guy. We would never have gotten into this business if not for Tom.”

The story of begins during the time that Cox was an employee of Lafayette’s Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club from 1987 to 1998, where he became familiar with the sport of golfing and it’s commercial potential. In 1996, while working with a website consulting company that was hired to create Le Triomphe’s website, Cox says he had a brainstorm of an idea.

Cox’s brainstorm was to “marry two ideas.”

His first idea was to enlist the help of scuba divers who recover lost golf balls at the bottom of golf course ponds and lakes throughout the south and have the divers sort, grade and ship the golf balls to Cox’s online customers.

His second idea was to build a website, using the online address, and he would manage and pay for all aspects of the site maintenance, marketing and advertising. According to Cox, “That’s how got started.”

Before Cox could launch his online venture he had to convince a bank to loan him $9500 to buy the domain name Having accomplished that task, not long after his business venture was launched he realized he had a significant problem that needed to be resolved. Cox explains, “We learned very quickly that you don’t want the divers to be your best connection to your customers. Guys that spend a lot of time underwater – and I’m not knocking diving as an occupation - but the guys who dive in the lakes didn’t care a whole lot about fast turn around on orders, satisfying customers, quality control, and shipping an order out on the same day it’s placed.”

In 1996, Cox’s brand new business venture generated only $17,000 in sales - minus the domain name purchase. But in 1997, increased it’s annual sales a bit to $75,000.

Not only did the divers slow things down, but also the used golf ball market became practically obsolete overnight when international companies introduced inexpensive “new” golf balls to the huge United States golfing market. Cox knew he had to reassess his initial business model if he wanted his business to survive.

The solution that Cox settled on was to go into the “personalized” – or laser imprinted - golf ball business. This meant the purchase of lasers that would burn images on golf balls, and the purchase of warehouse space to house a large collection of new inexpensive golf balls. Cox’s business now offers a full selection of golf equipment, including clubs, shoes, bags, apparel, putters, hats, and of course, golf balls.

For the past six years, Tom Cox has been very active in civic service to the business community as an appointed member of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Cox is the current Chair of the Commission.

Appointed by the Governor of Louisiana to the Commission, Cox’s states his main objective as Commission Chair this way, “I’m trying to champion entrepreneurship in workforce training and development.”

According to Chris Weaver, Executive Director of the Workforce Commission, Cox is “a very busy entrepreneur holding down an important state appointment.”

Six years ago the Workforce Commission was in search of an Information Technology business owner to join the group, and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority nominated Cox for the appointment. Weaver says, “Tom is universally liked and respected.”

Recently Cox relocated his rapidly growing golf balls business to Arnould Boulevard where Cox’s small online business idea he named has become known in the golfing community as “the largest selection of golf balls available in the world.”