By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
It’s a good thing Annie Margulis couldn’t find golf shorts that fit. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have needed to design her own – and her company might not have been born.
Margulis, 55, is the founder of Girls Golf, a women’s golf clothing line sold in about 150 resorts, private clubs and boutiques throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. With its bold colors and designs that are both functional and stylish, Girls Golf attracts a clientele that includes pros and non-golfers who just like the look.
While she doesn’t disclose revenue figures, Margulis says her Michigan-based company, launched in 2004 when she was 46, is profitable and continues to grow. Canadian-based retailer Golf Town, for example, recently decided to carry the Girls Golf line in five stores just opened in Massachusetts.
Reasons for Success
Margulis points to good fortune as a reason for her clothing line’s success. “A lot of things just came together,” she says.
The driving force, however, is Margulis herself, who doesn’t fit the mold for a sports fashion entrepreneur. For 25 years, she was a registered nurse at a Detroit-area hospital. She didn’t start playing golf until she was 38 years old.
Still, her strong work ethic and determination, two essential traits for successful entrepreneurship, were evident at a young age. By the time Margulis was a junior in high school, she had enough credits to graduate and a scholarship to nursing school
– an opportunity that her parents, who had modest economic means, encouraged her
“I had dreams early on of a career in fashion, but it wasn’t a practical choice at the time,” she says.
When Margulis retired from nursing in 2000, her two children were almost grown — and she found herself wondering what to do next. “I didn’t see myself playing Bridge and going out to lunch,” she says.
It was during a brief work stint at Saks Fifth Avenue in Troy, Michigan when her interest in fashion was rekindled. “I saw them bringing in all the clothing lines and thought: I’ve always worked for someone else. I want to have my own business,” says Margulis.
Turning a Problem into an Opportunity
As a golfer, Margulis had problems finding shorts that fit properly due to her long legs. She went to work on a pair for herself, striving for a design that would appeal to other women golfers and could sell at fair price.
When her prototype was finished, Margulis turned to Paul Dundas, a friend and an established women’s clothing designer, who agreed to help. Soon, their collaboration yielded the first designs for the nascent clothing line.
During her nursing days, Margulis had spent time in research and understood its importance. She did a pilot study of sorts by selling the Girls Golf line on consignment at a local boutique owned by a friend, Lori Karbal.
After Karbal sold several thousand dollars of the clothes, Margulis took them to the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. When every piece sold there, she figured she was on to something.
A big break came when Margulis sent a brochure, along with a brief handwritten note, to an editor at Golf for Women magazine. Within a couple of weeks, the magazine
requested samples (in size two) of the entire Girls Golf line. It ended up featuring the clothes in several issues, providing national exposure for the brand.
In 2005, Girls Golf expanded into Europe when Margulis formed a partnership with Chris Endrich and Rike Vormwald. Girls Golf Europe, which has a slightly different product line than its U.S. counterpart, now has a presence in around 60 outlets in eight countries.
Margulis has had some challenges, like occasional payment disputes with commercial clients and lower-end retailers who copy her designs. Her favorite part of it all, she says, is “seeing someone wearing one of my outfits.”
Along the way, she’s had to learn about customs, taxes and a host of other business operations. In addition to enlisting the services of an attorney, accountant, graphic designer and Web professional, she’s received help from her family. Her husband, a retired doctor who’s also an entrepreneur, provided startup advice. Her son encouraged her to have a memorable, trademarked logo.
She’s embraced social media, describing Girls Golf’s Facebook page as “a great tool” that allows her to communicate with customers all over the world. “Technology is only as scary as you let it be,” she says.
What’s also worked for Margulis is abiding by core principles. Among them: Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Have a good work ethic, patience and a thick skin.
Would she have been as successful if she started her business 20 years earlier? Margulis doesn’t think so.
“Back then, I didn’t have the financial resources and I didn’t have the focus,” she says. “I was busy raising children and putting in long hours at the hospital.
“Also, I don’t think I would have been as open to as many ideas – and wouldn’t have been able to take the ups and downs. It takes experience and maturity.”
It also took time to realize her dreams, but Margulis says she’s happy and “really pleased.” Follow through, she notes, is another critical element for business success.
“A lot of people have ideas,” she says, “but they don’t implement them. You have to stick with it.”