Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Golf Apparel Startup Beldrie Taps Into Rising Tide In Women’s Sports

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When middle school boys invoke ‘Caitlin Clark’ with the same verve once reserved for saying ‘Kobe’ when they splash a three-point shot it signals not a mere moment but a movement in Women’s sports.

In golf, Nelly Korda, the No. 1 golfer in the world, recently matched an LPGA record for most consecutive wins, topping the leaderboard for the fifth time in a row this season.

“I’ve been following and admiring Nelly Korda for a long time and she continues to absolutely crush it and be and be an incredible example for women in this sport,” Blair Roemer, a former program manager at Meta, said.

Roemer caught the golf bug during the dregs of the Covid outbreak. While she was cooped up inside, her fiancé, already a dye-in-the wool player, was often out hitting balls with buddies, when she had an epiphany that he had ‘hacked the pandemic.’

“I was sitting on the couch watching Netflix
, not hanging out with friends and he was out and being social. So, I decided to see what this is all about, picked up golf and started really liking it,” Roemer said.

Once Roemer, who is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, got into the game, she needed a new wardrobe. When the exercise of hunting down looks that matched her tastes proved surprisingly taxing, the seed of Beldrie was born.

There were of course the super heavyweight brands like Nike
or Adidas that were creating golf apparel for women but she felt like it was a an afterthought for them.

“I had a vision in my head that there was a male designer who got a call from a marketing exec saying ‘women are playing golf now, let’s make this colored top fit a woman—you think you could do that’” Roemer explained.

Then there were the existing women led brands, but she felt most of these were catering to a more traditional demographic, think ‘Lily Pulitzer’ with big bright floral patterns.

“Not really my vibe either. I saw an opportunity for a brand that catered to a more modern golfer, looking for something minimal and functional but also very high quality.”

She started-up Beldrie, with modus operandi is to make golf more approachable to women like herself, rocking a light and playful aesthetic.

“When I started playing I was intimidated and I hated that. I’ve been playing sports my entire life and I’d never felt intimidated every time I picked up a sport and I hated the way that made me feel and I didn’t want anybody else to feel that way either.”

At the time, this was strictly a nights-and-weekends startup ideation side project, exploring how to build an apparel brand from scratch. Without a background in fashion design or manufacturing, her early due diligence consisted of watching YouTube videos and reaching out to people in the industry to gauge if it was an endeavor worth undertaking.

Imposter syndrome crept in and put the idea on hold for a year, but then career malaise reignited Roemer’s entrepreneurial fire. She began to feeling dissatisfied with her day job at Meta while finding fulfillment when working on Beldrie.

“I’d get super inspired and get into this flow state with all of these ideas coming to me and loving what I was doing,” Roemer explained.

Last June, during the final round of a spate of Facebook layoffs, Roemer’s position was made redundant, so she went all-in on Beldrie, using a generous severance package from Meta to bootstrap it.

“It’s an entrepreneur’s dream to build a business while getting paid so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

While Meta wasn’t the right fit in the end, her experience there was invaluable in realizing she had the wherewithal to pursue her ideas. Despite the company’s size, a startup spirit pervaded, with employees encouraged to run with concepts in their free time, provided their manager saw merit.

“There was no bureaucracy or red tape. That taught me that the world is my oyster and I can go after what I want as long as I put together a well thought out plan. A lot of that I leveraged for Beldrie,” Roemer said.

Her confidence in learning a new industry was built during her prior role at KPMG as a management consultant. There, she helped a client in telecommunications build a lease implementation accounting tool, despite having zero background in accounting. Roemer wasn’t afraid to ask questions and sift through dense, challenging information to become a subject expert.

Data-driven, Roemer’s first move once full-time with Beldrie was to collaborate with a class at Northwestern’s MBA school. They agreed to fund a research study on where the greatest opportunity lay in starting a women’s golf brand to help her lay the groundwork for a business plan. She reached out to professors, pitched the idea, and hit paydirt.

“That created some very valuable research that kicked off the business. I was so surprised by the number of women still unhappy with golf apparel. 30% of the women we studied were unhappy with the current selection,” Roemer explained.

Currently, Beldire is taking pre-orders, with plans is to hard launch later this summer. Roemer’s debut line aims to make athleisure that is golf functional, minimal and extremely flattering to women.

By focusing grouping women to determine what matters most, Roemer found this meant designing garments that fit and flare in the right places and skirts that aren’t too conservative but also not so short that wearers feel out of place on the golf course.

“Sure, I could take a skirt from Lululemon or Athleta and wear it on the golf course but it didn’t have pockets, it didn’t have a place for tees, it didn’t have a place for golf balls or my glove so blending those two key factors are what makes my product stand out from others.”

Monochromatic sets, which have been a hit in athleisure, are another Beldrie differentiator.

“In golf, sometimes you have one golf shirt from one brand and a skirt from another but they oddly don’t look good together. The goal is that you can mix and match. You don’t have to wear all one color if that’s not your style but everything fits together.

A one-woman operation, Roemer credits Shopify’s merchant solutions, specifically the website builder, for making it a snap to set up her D2C brand and can see herself tapping into the company’s B2b product and their Markets cross-border management to facilitate international shipping as she expands.

“I had this vision of the brand in my head and in my gut. I knew I could hire someone, pay them a couple thousand dollars to build something but I didn’t feel I was at a point where I could explain it to them and be confident that I would show up correctly on the website.”

“Shopify enabled me to bring that vision to life on my own. I don’t think anyone else could have done that and that translated into the rest of my brand—my packaging, my social media and generally the way I think of my brand’s narrative.”

Jessica Williams, Shopify’s Director of Brand Partnerships, reflected, “We’ve seen so much growth in the game from new and younger demographics, women and people of color and that has opened up a window for entrepreneurs to come in and be building for those new demos and we’ve seen so much growth in the golf category.”

Williams is heartened by the recent surge of golf women focused golf brands. She is encouraged to see the industry move beyond the dismissive ‘shrink-it and pink-it’ mentality of yore and bring in more participants who might have been excluded before.

Roemer does note one quibble with Shopify’s vast app ecosystem—there are over 8,000 offered in their store—which she finds can sometimes feel disjointed.

“It’s a different experience with every one. If I add one to my site, I feel it’s going to slow my site down. In a perfect world I feel Shopify should invest more to bring those in-house, create them themselves and make sure they are seamless with Shopify sites so I don’t have issues.”

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