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Meet Tami Fujii and Dianne Celuch of Kinona in Pacific Palisades

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tami Fujii and Dianne Celuch.

Tami and Dianne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Dianne and I met (cough, cough) 25+ years ago where we were product managers at Eddie Bauer. We traveled the world together for business and while it sounds glamorous, it was anything but. We both ended up leaving Eddie Bauer and I pursued my career going down the marketing path while Dianne continued to stay in apparel on the supply chain and operations side. We maintained our friendship through career transitions, kids, divorce, dating and ultimately, we both re-married within two years of each other. We were always the only women golfers at corporate golf events. We talked for years how much we hated our golf clothes and vowed to do something about it. Fast forward to 2016 when we were on a golf vacation with our spouses. I was ready to either go into semi-retirement or pick up another consulting gig. Dianne had just left her role at Speedo as Sr. VP of global supply chain. We decided it was now or never. After collectively spending several decades working in the apparel and technology industry, we knew we had the knowledge to design, produce, and launch a brand.

The problem was we (and most women we spoke with) were spending all this money on clothes that we needed, but really didn’t like. Women’s golf apparel was unflattering and masculine, and why so many boxy polos? Finding stylish golf clothes was pretty much impossible – and dressing for the rules of the game, a necessary evil. Once we got talking with other women, it was clear that we weren’t alone. No one actually liked their golf clothes. That’s because an evolving (and let’s be real, outdated) dress code was backing women’s golf apparel into a corner. Sleeveless shirts had to have a collar. Skirts couldn’t be too short. Racerback tops? Don’t even think about it. The course-compliant clothes that we needed to feel and play our best just weren’t out there. But as active, involved women, we require more than an afterthought. Because we aren’t just golfing. We’re golfing, then grabbing lunch. Golfing, then running errands. Golfing, then heading into a status meeting. That is the motivation and premise behind KINONA.

After a year of planning, hiring a designer (our former colleague) and learning about the golf industry and talking to customers (both consumers and wholesale customers), we launched KINONA in January 2018. Our first customer trunk show was in front of 150 women at a member-guest event at Mission Hills Country Club. Before we knew it, we were being asked to come back and be inside the merchandise tent at the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s LPGA major of the year. Today, we have a robust e-commerce and wholesale business as well as a thriving trunk show channel which enables us to continually talk to the consumer and evolve the product. We hired a sportswear designer to design the line. (not a golf designer) and have taken a more sportswear approach to design while still integrating true functionality into each product. Our “looooong” history in the apparel industry has truly paid off. We have tapped into relationships and our network has bent over backward to help us be successful. Today, KINONA is in over 100 green grass pro shops across the country and has a robust e-commerce business. That said, we are just getting started.

Has it been a smooth road?
We are a startup. Dianne and I have bootstrapped the launch of the business and have had to learn the “art” of fundraising. This is not a skill set that either of us brought to the business but we have learned quickly and have successfully completed two rounds of fundraising.

The changing digital landscape and the fact that neither Dianne or I came out of the ecommerce industry was and still is a huge challenge for us. Let’s say the learning curve has been steep!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Kinona story. Tell us more about the business.
KINONA is a women’s golf apparel brand. Our focus is on women golfers who are 30+, active and are comfortable in their own skin. We love our customers who may be 50 but look and act like they are 40. We are known for our amazing product design using Italian fabric. It is our calling card. We have amazing partnerships throughout our supply chain which sets us apart from other newer apparel companies. We “punch above our weight” because of the amazing relationships we have built in the past and our knowledge of the apparel industry. However, it is our team that truly sets our company apart. Everyone at KINONA is completely committed to our goal of creating something different for women. We are so happy that many of our sales people are women who have had successful careers and are looking for more flexibility and fun. KINONA offers a great place to work for women who are still driven and want to still hang around a network of other “kick ass” people.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Golf overall has faced a lot of challenges and in some cases is still going through a bit of a correction. For women, especially, many of us simply don’t have 4.5 hours to spend on a golf course. Fortunately, many golf clubs are recognizing this and establishing programs to encourage more women to come out for nine holes and are providing a more family-friendly atmosphere to help get both women as well as junior golfers into the game. Also, the advent of “off-course” options such as Top Golf have been a huge boom to women golfers who are flocking to these venues. While women make up 24% of all golfers, the number of women participating in these “off course” options make up 41% of golf participants.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ben Morrison, Kaylee Garrett

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