March 15, 2007
Cathy Le ('05) Teeing Off in Women's Golf Attire
Fashions carried in country clubs and upscale stores
By Paul Feinberg
Cathy Le (’05) received a full scholarship to UCLA when she was only sixteen years old, then earned a degree in bio-chemistry, intending to become a doctor. Though she ultimately wavered from that lifelong goal, she continues to have something in common with her surgeon-side: A keen interest in golf.
Le’s since made that interest her business. As CEO and founder of PinkCaddi, she and her company offer woman golfers fashionable apparel with far greater appeal than plaid and argyle. PinkCaddi’s creations (designed by Le) are aimed at one of the fastest growing demographics in the sport, women under the age of 45. Le believes it’s a niche that demands exploitation.
“Most apparel companies target the current market. At a country club most members’ average age is forty-five-plus,” Le said, referencing stats she picked up from visiting clubs in places like Del Mar and Pebble Beach. “Just on the available current marketplace where most players are older, present day economics suggest that what sells today are styles that appeal to that group.”
The PinkCaddi collections sport whimsical names that reflect a youthful style. There’s the Backswing Betty line (“for the earthy, on-the-go, grown up tomboy”), the Flirty Birdie (for “the fun loving, fashion forward, golf gal who wants something that exemplifies her flirty, fun-loving nature and bold fashion sense”) the signature Prepped for Par collection and the 19th Hole (which features soy fabric in “feminine colors” like pink, mist and while, with “contrast piping details, button loops and baby pockets”).
Le says she is placing a bet that her target demographic in the golf industry will grow and hopes that, as one of the first movers in this space, PinkCaddi will connect with they younger golfers. “There are several issues,” she said. “but as the sport increases in commercial popularity, it will also increase with younger folks and in different ethnic groups.”
At this point, PinkCaddi is growing, but only at a pace that the company can handle. The marketing has focused on trade shows and meetings with direct buyers at exclusive country clubs across the country. The company’s fact sheet lists about a dozen stores (in addition to their website at pinkcaddi.com) that currently carry the lines. Le admits that they’ve avoided a more aggressive marketing and public relations approach, noting that until PinkCaddi is ready to do high-volume business, they can’t move production overseas. With production done in the United States, costs are double. Her plan is to build interest and awareness, then make the necessary investment to move production abroad.
Building interest and awareness requires the right marketing plan. For that, Le's turned to MC-Squared, which happens to be the marketing firm where she became primary principal after graduating from Anderson. MC-Squared has worked with prominent businesses like Lennar, KB Homes and Coldwell Banker Previews. As it’s currently set up, MC-Squared treats PinkCaddi as a client.
After college, Le worked on marketing and development campaigns for Princess Cruises and with several Fortune 500 companies. After a time, she realized that an MBA was in order.
“For me, it wasn’t a hard decision,” she said. “It was more of an exclusionary process. I realized my life goal was not to become a doctor after prepping hard to get into the best medical school. I decided to test other fields and didn’t realize I needed an MBA until two-and-a-half years later. That sparked an interest in the Riordan Programs (she was a Riordan Fellow at UCLA Anderson) and that helped me understand the benefit of the Anderson program.”
Le began working at MC-Squared while still a student at UCLA Anderson and wrote the business plan for PinkCaddi while still attending Anderson as well. She says that her analytical background as a scientist was well-complemented by the entrepreneurial path she studied. “Business school taught me to understand free thinking and maintain a certain flexibility,” Le said. “You have to plan and do models, but there must be viability in your plans and as you move forward to operate a business you sometimes must find solutions that are not right in front of your face.”
As of now, the plan is to continue both companies, continuing to add clients to the marketing and advertising company, while PinkCaddi seeks new distribution deals.