Vessel Bags

Beyond the Green

Vessel Bags finds new horizons off the golf course

Posted on September 24, 2018

Ron Shaw didn’t think he’d  be creating premium golf bags for a living. He was originally on a path toward electrical engineering — until his college graduation, when his father informed Shaw he’d be coming to work at his golf bag company. Living on-site with a three-second commute and 18-hour workdays (“I have no problem with traffic,” he laughs), Shaw received an immersive education in work ethic and the family business. “I fell in love with product-making, designing, and looking at the quality of the product,” he says. During his tenure, he made a key observation. “[My dad] was doing a lot of custom bags for the top athletes of the world like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson through Callaway and through Nike, and eventually he was getting a lot of [direct] custom bag requests,” Shaw remembers. “I said, ‘There might be opportunity in this space that people never explored.’”

That realization brought forth the 2012 creation of Shaw’s own company, Vessel, in the heart of the global golf industry: Carlsbad. At the core of the business was an online customizer that Shaw created where purchasers can design their own golf bags. Within three months, Vessel was Google’s top search result for custom golf bags. But the company’s big break was still to come.

Trying to expand into the golf category, athletic brand Under Armour signed a young amateur, Jordan Spieth, and reached out to Shaw to create a bag for him in 2013. “I had no idea who he was,” chuckles Shaw. “I don’t watch amateur golf, so I Googled ‘Jordan Spieth’ — and he’s good. So, we made a bag for him. I think about a week after he got our bag, he won the John Deere Classic with our bag next to him.” Once he turned pro, Spieth’s sponsors provided him with new bags, but it was the Vessel bag that Spieth remembered. “One day, I got a call from his agent, and he said, ‘Jordan wants a Vessel bag,’ and I almost fell off my chair. A week from the day that we delivered his brand-new bag, he won the Masters. We’ve been making his bag ever since.”

Vessel Bags

Caddy Michael Greller and golfer Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters

While the company has experienced almost incomprehensible growth, doubling every year of its existence, Shaw isn’t one to rest on his laurels. Recognizing that consumers would appreciate the company’s quality both on and off the course, Vessel introduced a line of lifestyle accessories three years ago, which includes backpacks, travel bags, and handbags. All of the products feature the company’s signature microfiber synthetic material, and Shaw’s inner engineer comes through in the innovative detail in the brand’s designs. “We compare it to leather but the performance is much better than leather, so it’s lighter weight, it’s more breathable and easier to clean, and also lasts longer than leather.”

Another leap for the company came on Black Friday 2017, when Vessel’s flagship store opened at Westfield UTC. Not originally in Shaw’s master plan, the store has proven to be an exciting way to broaden the company’s exposure. “The fact that we got to open our first brick-and-mortar in our backyard is amazing,” he says. “When people can touch and feel the bag, it makes a whole lot of difference.”

Commercial success isn’t everything for Shaw, however. “When we first started the company, we knew that at the center, there has to be a give-back component,” he says. They modeled a charitable element after the popular TOMS “One for One” program, pledging to donate one school backpack for a needy child for every bag they sell. “It’s not just a backpack,” says Shaw. “It brings them hope.”

Though he’s had six years to adjust to the rocket ship ride that is Vessel, Shaw remains astounded by its success. “I’m still in a dream,” he says. “It’s kind of surreal.” vesselbags.com   Deanna Murphy

Vessel Bags

Vessel Bags: Photography courtesy of Vessel Bags      Jordan Spieth: Photo by Donald Miralle