Annie Margulis

Founder, Girls Golf

The setting: Prestigious country club with spectacular golf course.

The question: What on God’s green Earth do you wear? Do you play it safe with long shorts and collared shirt? Or can you have some fun and sport a patterned skirt with a funky tee?

The answer probably depends on whether you can find stylish clothes that will perform well and won’t get you kicked off the course. Annie Margulis couldn’t find clothes that worked for her, so she started Girls Golf. Her Michigan-based company has attracted major attention… Girls Golf clothing has been featured several times in the Condé Nast magazine Golf for Women.

Meet Annie and many other women entrepreneurs at Ladies Who Launch LIVE Detroit
and discover below how she launched with no experience in the fashion world.

From Nursing to Fashion? Why Not?

“I went to nursing school when I was really young. I was a junior in high school with all my credits to graduate and received a scholarship to nursing school. I was from a fairly modest background. My parents said, ‘This is a great opportunity – you’ve got to go.’

“It was a really good career. I worked at Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit area for 20 years. You learn a lot of different things working in intensive care and coronary care. You deal with people in crisis situations and learn how to deal with people from all different walks of life.

“But I always wanted to do something in fashion. I was a person who drew pictures of clothes and made clothes for dolls… fashion has always been a passion of mine, as a hobby.”

Perfect Solution for Empty Nest Syndrome

“I retired as a nurse in 2000. My children were getting older… my son is going to be a freshman at the University of Michigan and my daughter is going to be a junior there.
I’m the type of person needs to have a focus, direction, goals and things to do. A few years ago, I decided if I could start the business, I could really plunge into it when the kids went off to college.”

‘You Can’t Wear Those’

“I play a lot of golf and enjoy the game, but the shorts never fit me right. I have really long legs and whenever I would try on shorts at the country club store, the manager would say, ‘You can’t wear those – they’re too short on you.’”

Her Way Into the Fashion World

“I have a friend (Paul Dundas) who made a couple of dresses for me – one to go to a fundraising event. He worked in New York with various couture houses designing gowns. So I told him, ‘I have this idea of starting a company that designs and sells women’s golf clothing,’ and he agreed to help me. We looked at a lot of different golf clothing lines… Escada and Gucci and Moschino. We liked the look of a lot of their things, but a lot of the price points were pretty high.”

First Major Sales Win

“I went to New York with Paul… we went to the garment district. I remember we were afraid to buy 20 yards of fabric because we thought we wouldn’t be able to use it all. Now 20 yards is nothing. We made four different pieces and had a trunk show here in my home. We sold $15,000 worth of clothes in one day.”

Another Sign that She’s Onto Something

“My girlfriend (Lori Karbal) owns a boutique in Birmingham, and she heard about the clothes and said, ‘Let me try to sell them here.’ I thought my friends might have been being nice to me by buying the clothes in my home. She sold like $10,000 worth of the clothes right away.”

Do-It-Herself Marketing

“Then I decided I wanted to make a little brochure of the clothing, and I took it to the Oakland Hills Country Club (in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) and met with the buyer there. She bought four different outfits, three of each size, and every piece of it sold.”

Do-It-Herself PR

“I thought, ‘I’ll send the brochure to the editor-in-chief of Golf for Women magazine… she’ll probably throw it away.’ I sent it to her with (about) three lines in the letter. All I said was… ‘This is a new line of women’s golf clothing that I’ve started in Michigan. Let me know what you think.’

“I got a call about two weeks later from the fashion editor. She said, ‘We’d like to see your whole line.’ Basically I didn’t have a whole line, but I got one together and sent it to her. A month later, I got a call and she said, ‘We’re going to use a pair of your shorts in a shoot in Palm Beach,’ and I just about died. We’ve been since then featured in five issues and they only do six issues a year.”

Who She Hired and Who She Didn’t

“I didn’t go out and hire a big PR person or marketing firm. I did hire someone to help us with our graphics and a Web developer to help me with our Web site. I’m hiring sales reps in five or six different states – we’re in go-all-out mode now.”

Source of Funding

“I’m fortunate that I have my husband – he’s my bank. My husband was an entrepreneur as well, so he gets it. He was a physician and he started a home intravenous therapy company. About 13 years ago, he joint ventured with Baxter Travenol (now Baxter) and then Caremark bought his company. He had the right idea at the right time. They gave him a very nice multiple. He started the company with $300.

“I try to be conservative on how I spend my dollars. I do a small amount of advertising in Golf for Women – that’s pretty much my target. My goal… I seriously don’t want to be in every place in America or the world. I want to establish Girls Golf as a good boutique brand and get a following of people who want the brand and seek it out.”

Sources of Inspiration

“I look at every single possible magazine there is, every store window. I go to antique shows… I try to be observant of everything around me. There are a lot of style icons I look at like Coco Chanel and Marilyn Monroe. I read “The Devil Wears Prada” and like watching “Project Runway.” The fashion industry is a tough industry, very fickle. You always have to be coming up with something new.”

Greatest Challenge

“I think the hardest thing is distribution… which is why I’m hiring a sales force. A lot of people e-mail me and say, ‘It’s hard for me to get (the clothing),’ so that’s the thing I’m working on the most right now.”

Words of Advice

“When you start up a business, a lot of people don’t take you seriously. You have to be prepared for that.

“One lesson you have to learn… you have to pick what you’re going to do and realize it’s OK that not everyone likes it. (Don’t) try to change it to meet every single person’s needs. You don’t have to sell to every single person. Find your niche, stick to what you want to do and do it. If you try to be all things to all people, you can’t do it.”

Favorite Three Places to Play 18

“We belong to a beautiful club in Florida called Jupiter Hills – the hills course is gorgeous. I was in Kohler, Wisconsin, named after the guy who founded Kohler, and they have four golf courses. The course along Lake Michigan, Whistling Straits, is a gorgeous golf course. Also Arcadia Bluffs (in Michigan)… every hole has a view of Lake Michigan. There’s a lot of great golf in Michigan.”