Warning: This story contains some suggestive “play on word” language. But if you know Kris Dehnert, that won’t surprise you.
Dehnert, partner and chief executive officer of Dugout Mugs, based in Lakeland, is a serial entrepreneur who is known in the Tampa area for being a maverick with a golden touch when it comes to business.
Admittedly, he likes to do things “faster, better and sexier” to ensure his profitable business ventures leave a lasting impression on the industries they disrupt.
Previously, Tampa Bay Business and Wealth featured Dehnert, and his partner Randall Thompson as the duo behind Dugout Mugs, on its cover, in June 2021. The company is a maker of one-of-a-kind gifts for baseball fans with products that are featured in more than 500 retail locations, nationally, including all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.
“We built the company and we built it to sell. I’ve never been private about that. We’ve structured Dugout Mugs so we don’t have to sell if we don’t want to but, inevitably, someone is going to come along that wants it more than we do,” Dehnert says. “They are going to look at our 500,000 customers, our international distribution, eight figures in annual revenue and our products being displayed in retail [locations] across the United States and they are going to want Dugout Mugs to be a part of their portfolio and buy us out. But until that point, we are going to do business as usual.”
This includes rolling out Dugout Mugs’ NCAA Licensing and two new products (in development now), which includes MLB licensed cork coasters and half baseball bottle openers.
“It’s an exciting time right now. We have growth capital available since we’ve been profitable since six months into the business,” Dehnert says.
While Dehnert is excited about his vision for Dugout Mugs, ever the “hustler,” he’s diversifying his entrepreneurial portfolio with a new passion project, Bigg Golf.
With an appreciation for the golf industry, Dehnert says he saw the new venture as an opportunity to take a traditional sport and build a fun, tongue-in-cheek, golf brand with Bigg Golf. For example, one of Bigg Golf’s products is a golf ball that is hollowed out and turned into a cigar holder, called the “Hole-In-One.”
More than a cool, fun, novelty gift idea, the cigar holder is practical for golfers who can forgo throwing their cigars on the ground where it soaks up pesticides during a round of golf, he says.
In addition to selling Bigg golf balls, Bigg Golf has a cigar line appropriately named “The Bigg Stick” which Dehnert collaborated with Epic Cigars to create. In golf, “the big stick” is slang for the driver and a cigar is often called a “stick,” and just like that, “The Bigg Stick” was created.
Bigg Golf is a company that wants to infuse fun into golf with its line of quality novelty products. Dehnert is constantly playing with ideas for new products such as the “Bigg Ball Bag,” a little sheath that hangs on the side of your bag that holds two golf balls to compliment “Bigg Balls” and “The Bigg Stick.”
As a company, Bigg Golf is starting to get traction with recognition from golf influencers and placement in celebrity golf leagues, as well as celebrity athlete tournaments.
Since a young age, Dehnert says he has had a sophisticated killer instinct for the deal that has matured with age and experience. He reflects on his entrepreneurial journey and the advice that he would give to the next generation of entrepreneurs through a lens of authenticity. He says, “I’ve spent a lot of time understanding and reflecting on who I am. And a lot of time reflecting and understanding who I am not. So, for me, when opportunities come my way, it’s not a lot of decision-making on my part. It either fits who I am and it goes in the same direction I’m going or it doesn’t. My metrics are a little different.”
As far as his metrics for taking on a new business venture, he continues, “Can I have fun with my friends? Can I quickly leverage my network to impact this deal? Does it take away time from my family? As long as these boxes are checked, it’s usually a pretty easy decision.”♦