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An Unexpected $70K Order Put Golftini On The Map

I just got off the phone catching up with an old acquaintance — Susan Hess.  She’s the founder of Golftini, a stylish line women’s golf apparel founded in 2004.

I discovered Golftini in 2006, just after Susan founded her company.  I was in search of cute golf apparel which she and I agreed then was largely non-existent, basically an after-thought for most companies.  I was thrilled to find golf clothing that was acceptable for the golf course yet flattering.  

Susan innocently began her company when she was unable to find an attractive golf skort.  She located a pattern maker in Manhattan’s garment district and showed him what she wanted.  He made one out of her desired solid black stretch cotton and adorned it with what has become Golftini’s signature grosgrain ribbon trim. Her friends noticed, asked for the same, and so Hess obliged by creating more skorts in a variety of prints and colors.  Pretty soon, she was making 20 skorts at a time for all her friends, who were buying them up as quick as she could make them.  She realized that this wasn’t just her friends being nice or an anomaly.  She had found a niche.

In 2004, a golf pro suggested she take her skorts to the annual PGA Show in Orlando.  There she got a 10’x10’ booth in what she now recalls was one of the worst spots available in the mile-long Orange County Convention Center.  She went with her rolling rack of samples, a banner, her best friend and her niece.  On the show’s first day, she got a $70,000 order from the PGA Superstore, which was about to open its first location.  Susan says that order put her on the map with only six weeks to make delivery. 

Stunned, she retreated to the ladies room, contemplating her next move.  There she ran into a friend and shared her concerns.  As luck would have it, the woman’s husband was a manufacturer in New York, and she volunteered his professional guidance.  He helped Hess get started and literally “set up shop,” becoming her business mentor.  They continue to work together today and she still manufactures some of her products in NY.  

The company’s name was born on a cocktail napkin at a martini bar where she and a friend were reading names on a drink menu.  The Golftini logo is a martini glass with a golf club for the stirrer and a golf ball as the ice.

Today, besides her now well-recognized skorts, her line includes shorts, tech fabric tops and bottoms, cotton and Spandex polo shirts, pullovers, tunics, dresses, sweaters, ponchos, accessories, and a Golftini Girls line for golfers aged 5 to 10.

“My skorts are mostly printed and patterned, but we do offer solids with fun accents,” Hess noted.  “All my tops are solid upside down from most lines.  We have added products as we learn what we and our customers need.  For instance, I went to Scotland without pants and froze my rear off.  Now we have pants.” 

The company is currently moving into the burgeoning “athleisure” genre, and has added tops with woven in sun protection.  Hess said that most women’s golf apparel brands have eliminated classic cotton, carrying primarily tech/performance wear.  Golftini customers, she said, frequently thank her for continuing to carry cotton.

“Everyone is running from one event to the next, so we want our golf clothes to transition from the course to the baseball field to dinner,” Hess said.  “Clothes should give you confidence; you do better when you feel good. Comfort and fashion are the two determining factors we keep in mind. Women who wear Golftini should feel fierce and empowered.”  The company is headquartered in her home, with a warehouse nearby, and has four “self motivated and positive” employees and 13 sales reps.

Creating her own designs helped distinguish her garments.   She’s “inspired by whatever catches her eye, including carpets or wallpaper”.   A colleague helps her design patterns on a computer, then the pattern is transferred to her choice of fabrics.

“I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 14, and some of my best friends are survivors,” she said.  “Before Golftini, I walked in five three-day Breast Cancer walks in four different cities and raised a lot of money and awareness.  Now I can raise awareness through all the country clubs I’m in.  I offer a free pink skort to be raffled off in over 400 clubs.”  She also puts a pink label on all pink Golftini products.

Golftini is pretty much my life; it makes me happy to wake up every day,” Hess said.  “If I can do this from scratch, anyone can. You have to go for it.  I credit a lot of my success to the people who’ve helped me along the way.  My whole premise is that people helped me, and now I get to help others.  If someone saved me a mistake, I want to save the next person three mistakes.”

Use code THEWOMANGOLFER to receive 15% off your order.

Use code THEWOMANGOLFER to receive 15% off your order.

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