This month, KINONA celebrates turning 5!
For fifth wedding anniversaries, the traditional gift is wood, symbolizing strong roots and promise of longevity. We find this fitting because our journey in business has been a labor of love and, at the root, is a solid and lasting friendship. It’s been a wild ride and we’ve learned a lot. Along the way we’ve gotten to have fun with our favorite people, do the work that brings us joy, and prove that you can look great while doing it all.
Here’s 5 lessons we’ve learned in the last 5 years in women’s golf fashion:
1. Don't settle.
We started this business because we love golfing, but didn’t like the limited clothing options for women in the sport. Of course, there are dress codes in golf, but that doesn’t mean a lady golfer's only option should be conservative, uncomfortable clothing that lacks style and shape. We didn’t want to settle for golf clothing and other women shouldn’t have to either.
This belief gave us the drive to found KINONA in 2017, and it keeps us going still today.
Whether it’s a question of the functionality of our designs, or our support of more inclusion in the game, we have never settled. That’s a big part of why we’re still standing where we are today when 32% of small businesses fail within the first two years and over half close shop within the first five years, according to Fundera.
2. Innovation can be uncomfortable.
When you set out to bring change to an established industry, it’s expected to encounter resistance. We’re here to change the sport for the better and allow that to be our guidepost, especially on days when it’s tough to embrace the uncomfortable and have hard conversations.
Golf can feel like a boys’ club. There are still men’s only country clubs and men’s only dining rooms in the US. And, of course, there are often strict dress codes on courses. We often encounter conservative critics who maintain that loosening golf dress codes is a slippery slope, and we get it. As a company we’ll abide by the rules and traditions of the sport, but we’re also gonna push the limits. That’s part of the reason that, instead of hiring a designer who had worked in the golf industry, we hired a former colleague, Jarlath Mellett, who came from the fashion industry.
If you launch an innovative brand and receive no negative feedback, you've launched too late. Meaning we would rather be at the forefront, fielding criticism but knowing that our work is worthwhile and filling a need than to be behind the curve in the safe zone.
3. Stick to your vision and be sustainable.
A lot of small businesses, especially in the fashion world think “When I get to a certain milestone, then we’ll be able to shift towards being more sustainable.” But the fact is, that target is always shifting as you grow, and it's not an excuse to hide behind. If it's really a part of your vision and a core value, then it should be part of your business from day one.
At KINONA, that has meant focusing on sustainability from the onset, developing apparel with meticulous intention and a commitment to earth-friendly practices. We select suppliers that adhere to rigorous sustainability standards sourcing most of our Italian fabrics from the women-owned company, Carvico. Their materials combine Econyl recycled-nylon yarns, targeting apparel waste, the biggest culprit in overflowing landfills.
Plus their fabrics carry the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label, certifying that both fabric and dyes are non-harmful to humans so our collections are produced in a way that keeps our planet and her people safe.
We also aren’t afraid to take a stand on issues that align with our vision for a more inclusive, kind world. For example our Tee It Up For Ukraine Initiative, featured on Oprah Daily, raised over $4000 for UNICEF and NOVAUkraine.
4. Poke the Bear.
Challenging norms is not for the faint of heart, and to be honest, we might not have been up to the task in our early careers. Starting a business is hard, full stop. But in an industry where there’s a lot of adversity, and you’re having conversations that are met with puzzled looks, it can be easy to want to throw in the towel.
It takes experience to be able to trust your own voice and stand firm in the belief that your work has value. Often women overdo consensus building in an effort to gain alignment rather than challenging the status quo and advocating for change. With our combined experience, we came to the table ready to upset an industry and with the courage and resolve to fight for it. Our goal is to empower women golfers to feel like they belong on the golf course. Because they do! Along the way, we’ve been vocal about changes we want to see in both the golf and fashion industries including inclusive sizing, increased diversity, looser dress codes, and viewing golfers as athletes. It’s not always easy to stand by your belief in the face of criticism but we have persevered and we are not giving up.
5. Authenticity is what wins.
At the end of the day, it's not about KINONA as a brand or business, but about our community, our team, and our loyal customers. Our founders continue to be on the front line, selling the brand to our customers. They are hands-on in this process because it connects our brand directly to consumers. We still do trunk shows as a way to get feedback, witness first-hand how the product fits, and to hear customer stories about being women in golf.
Letting our authentic selves shine through and having vulnerable, real conversations with our customers can only improve our product and our service. Allowing your natural curiosity to shine through builds a better brand and ultimately elevates our company.
We read every customer review and publish all of them, even the negative ones. We take each piece of feedback as an opportunity to improve and grow. We truly believe that if we hadn’t been authentic, listened to our customers early on and truly poured our hearts into this business, we wouldn’t have gained trust and seen the growth we have.
One thing is for sure, if you can’t celebrate the wins together then what’s the point? This year, we’re getting our team together at the PGA Show in January and throwing a party. Sign up for our emails to stay in the know about future promotions and celebrations.
Without you, KINONA would still be a pipedream. We want to yell from the rooftops: WE DID IT! Whether you've been with us from the beginning or are just joining us, thank you for being part of this wild & fulfilling adventure with us!
KINONA is made by women golfers, for women golfers. Founded in 2017 by friends and corporate executives-turned-entrepreneurs, Dianne Celuch and Tami Fujii, KINONA is committed to making golf more accessible and fun for all women by bringing chic, contemporary, and functional fashion to the fairway. KINONA’s fun, course-tested styles made with Italian fabrics, sun protection, and signature features like tee holders and back pockets, shift the paradigm of “appropriate golf attire” and inspire women to play their game, their way.
Be part of the wave of change in women’s sports with category-redefining apparel from KINONA. Visit www.kinonasport.com for more information.