Subpar Miniature Golf is an indoor miniature golf course and arcade founded by Michael Taft and David Abernathy. They opened their original location in Alameda in August 2012. Since then, they closed that location and opened a new one at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco in June 2018.
At Subpar, mini golf is the focus of the business. “We aim to make a good game of golf by making sure that it is fun to play and that there is skill involved. It’s a player’s game,” Michael said.
“Mini golf was always a part of my childhood. I played it on the weekends, often with my swim team. The joy of opening a mini golf course is all about providing a fun place for families to be and for community to grow,” Michael said.
“When I moved to Oakland eight years ago there was almost no miniature golf available,” Michael recalled. “I used to manage an arts nonprofit called F3 at the Cotton Wall. The idea for a mini golf course was originally conceived of as part of an art show event, but we quickly realized how bad of an idea that was,” Michael remembered. Once they realized the costs associated with opening a mini golf course, they realized that it was not feasible to only set it up a few times a year. From there, the mini golf course morphed into its own business idea.
Michael had to overcome some financial challenges in the course of starting his business. “We had financial trouble all through the build because we did a bad job of planning the costs. We signed our lease in Alameda without realizing how much work the space needed. We were paying rent during the buildout, and were behind on rent for a year after opening,” explained Michael.
When asked what he would do differently next time, Michael said that he would have hired an architect to estimate the renovation costs: “It’s important to learn early on what you don’t know and hire towards your weaknesses.”
In order to launch their business, Michael and his business partners applied for a loan with some banks, but he found that they were only interested in financials. “US Bank could not extend us credit because we did not have a track record as a business, but they put us in touch with Youth Business America who gave us our first loan,” recalled Michael. Youth Business America (YBA) later merged with Main Street Launch, who now administers that loan fund.
Michael found that Main Street Launch’s services were business-specific and had a personal touch. “Main Street Launch cared about what was happening with the business. They made sure we were informed about all the important financial decisions, and that we were well attended to,” Michael said. After their first loan they returned for a second loan, which enabled them to open their second location. “We couldn’t have been able to launch our second location without Main Street Launch,” said Michael.
Check out their website by clicking here, and plan your trip to Ghirardelli Square for a round of mini golf!