Tee For Two

Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the July 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Women entrepreneurs continue to chip away at the notion that golfing is just for guys. According to the Executive Women's Golf Association, more than 450,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 took up golf in 1994.

"Women realize their male counterparts are doing much of their business on the golf course, and to maintain an edge, they need to be able to participate as well," says Nancy Oliver, founder of the West Palm Beach, Florida-based association, which boasts 15,000 members. "Now it's politically incorrect not to invite a woman business owner to participate in a golf outing, and if women haven't learned the game, they feel they have to decline the invitation. It only takes a few of those declines before women realize they should probably learn to play."

The association offers a clinic for beginners that covers "not just how to swing the club but how to conduct yourself in a golf environment so you don't embarrass yourself," Oliver says. "Women haven't come out to play sooner because they've felt intimidated by the sport or the men or the attitudes. We're trying to break down some of those barriers."

At the group's monthly outings, which focus more on camaraderie and networking than on competition, Oliver has noticed women are definitely getting into the swing of things. "They're out there for four or five hours, bonding in beautiful weather, in a beautiful setting," she says. "And they're realizing 'So this is what this old boys' network is all about.' "

Women also seem to be learning to play the game in more ways than one. Says Oliver, "All of a sudden, they're developing a golf network of their own."

Opposites React

You say tomato, men say tomahto. A recent survey commissioned by American Express reveals several notable work-related differences between men and women, including:

Dining. Men considered lunch meetings more productive for conducting business, while women preferred dinner meetings.

Travel. While most women said they prefer to network in flight, men generally choose to relax.

Though women may make the most of flying the friendly skies, they're not as likely to take off: Most men reported traveling more than 50 days for business in 1995, while the majority of women reported traveling for business 10 days or less.

Availability. More than 31 percent of women said they were "always" available to their offices, compared with 22.4 percent of men. Considering these responses, women may want to remember what they say about all work and no play.

Heart And Soul

While barbies are plastic and aloof, Little Souls dolls are whimsical, lovable and, for many, even life-altering. They certainly were for doll maker Gretchen Wilson, who started sewing dolls for her three children because she was too poor to buy them. The dolls caught the eye of a children's retailer, who ordered some for her store.

Twenty-five years later, Wilson, 50, and partner Colleen Charleston, 43, are selling some 25,000 Little Souls dolls each year-and changing lives across the globe. Their collaborations with women worldwide have not only resulted in the Bobita line of dolls from Romania and Kumasi Kids from Ghana but have also taught women in those countries income-earning skills and even provided funds for needy children.

Wilson and Charleston also provide doll-making demonstrations at schools and shelters in the United States, where they find their dolls are often a window to the soul. At a workshop for crack-addicted women, "the two women who were the most visibly damaged made the most precious little dolls," says Wilson. "I was so moved because I realized inside everyone there's a sense of hope, an idea of beauty."

The Ardmore, Pennsylvania, entrepreneurs never expected their dolls would have as profound an effect on those who make them as on those who buy them. "We didn't plan the company this way," says Wilson. "I guess it's just kind of who we are."

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