You have probably heard the phrase, “the early bird gets the worm.” You may know it so well that you’ve adopted the saying or you live by it.
It’s endearing and quite simple. The bird wakes up early and gets what it wants – the worm. It reminds us that those who persevere get what they want out of life.
But what happens when life throws you a curveball? Better yet, a basketball?
Avalon Green, a junior from Salt Lake City, Utah studying entrepreneurship and innovation at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, broke her nose in the ninth grade while playing basketball. Her parents asked if she wanted a nose guard or a set of golf clubs – a game she could enjoy for fun over the summer. She chose golf clubs.
She admits she dabbled with the game her freshman year of high school in 2017 and then made the team her sophomore year. After all, practice makes perfect. Or, in this case, Green had heard a new phrase – if you do 10,000 hours of something, you’re an expert.
Day after day, she practiced hitting golf balls. She quickly fell in love with golf and its atmosphere. It was just her out on the green putting in the time and hard work. It was her wins and her losses.
But, as life would have it, Green broke both her wrists from over-practicing.
Instead of giving up, she healed and kept going – becoming a collegiate golfer.
Green works hard for what she wants. She shares that when roadblocks are put in front of her, she finds a new route – or designs her own.
Q: After graduating high school in 2020, why did you stay with golf and what brought you to West Virginia?
A: I love the game of golf and the self-improvement aspect of it. It’s not even a challenge against your opponents – it’s a battle with yourself. You have to be the best mentally and physically to play golf and play it well.
I honestly didn’t think I was a good enough golfer. I figured after I graduated high school I may want to take a gap year and travel. However, I played in a tournament and won. The coach from Southern Virginia University happened to be at that exact tournament because he’s from Utah and he saw me play. He came up to me and asked if I would want to come to Virginia and play on his team. I had never been to Virginia before, I hadn’t even been on the East Coast, but I thought why not.
Q: As a young woman, what was the support like around you playing a male-dominated sport?
A: I’m the youngest of six kids and my parents could not have been more supportive. They would drop me off at the golf course before I had my license and the course itself felt like family in a lot of ways. However, there were times I left the course feeling really defeated or even in tears because total strangers would come up to me, take my golf clubs and try to give me lessons. There was no sense of boundaries. It really made me grow up fast because I had to learn to say ‘no’ and have more situational awareness since I was on the course alone a lot of the time while practicing. Going into it, I knew the statistics and I knew I would be alone, but I was so focused on getting better. I dropped everything. I spent less time hanging out with friends after school and I deleted social media because I didn’t want the distraction. I knew I would rather be at the golf course.
Q: So how did you go from golfing at Southern Virginia University to being at WVU?
A: I played my heart out at Southern Virginia University and one day we played Glenville State University in a match and their coach approached me with the idea of moving to West Virginia and playing for his team. I met the team and they were so nice and, again, I thought why not. Plus, it was an opportunity to see what attending and playing for a bigger school would be like.
Q: When did you first come up with the idea of designing women’s golf apparel?
A: It was actually while I was attending and playing for Southern Virginia University. I had been playing at Vista Links golf course. I sat down on a picnic bench there on the 18 th green and was overlooking the beautiful course, and I thought to myself, what do I want as a female golfer? I had just spent the whole round tugging on my clothes and being so frustrated. I knew then and there that there had to be something better.
My family was really supportive. Growing up, my dad owned his own balloon business and he really taught what hard work is. When your family has a business, you start working and learning the ins and outs of running a business early on. The coaches I had prior to going to college were also great and showed me tough love. They gave me that confidence to believe in myself because when you play golf, you’re the one who scores and you’re the one who makes the mistakes. You can’t blame your teammate.
I always had my business idea in the back of my head, but when I was at Glenville State University, I heard about the West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition and entered in 2021. I met so many people and when I found out I'd made it through the first round, I knew I had something worth sharing with others. I was a top finalist in the competition, earning $16,000 for my business idea, Avalon Green Apparel.
Q: Not only do you love the game of golf, but now you’ve created something specifically for female golfers and you had a winning idea. What did that experience feel like?
A: It was amazing! I met business professionals and students from across the state who were all very supportive of my business idea. I returned to school and I had so many people connecting with me from the competition, including individuals at WVU who were checking in on me and my business and asking how they could help. One thing led to another, and I transferred blindly once again to West Virginia University this past fall.
Q: Was it difficult changing course or did it feel like the right thing to do in that moment?
A: It was a really exciting moment for me. Coming to WVU was a big deal for me because I had never been a part of a big school like this before with so many connections and so much school pride. I went from being an athlete to being an entrepreneur. I was awarded the Chambers Fellowship scholarship, an initiative through John Chambers himself, to study business. I truly believe I would not be here if it wasn’t for John Chambers, and his willingness to continually support and grow the business community in the state. I went from thinking I wanted to be an athletic training when I was studying at Southern Virginia University, to finally discovering my passion for business when I entered the competition as a Glenville student, and now I have the opportunity to continue following that passion through my entrepreneurship and innovation major here at WVU.
Q: Let’s talk about that passion for a little bit. Going back to your idea for women’s golf apparel, how did you create your prototype?
A: I had the idea and when I was home during summer break, I met up with my mom’s friend who lived down the street from us in Utah who is amazing on the sewing machine. I went to her, showed her my designs I had sketched on notebook paper and asked for her help. She was happy to help, so we jumped right into taking down my measurements for the prototype and running to Jo-Ann Fabrics to see and touch different materials. With her help, I had two different outfits to start. It was then that I also came up with the idea of what my logo would look like using my first and last name initials. Then when I found out I made it to the finals, I flew back home to Utah and made two more outfits in hopes of wowing the judges. I went into the finals with four different looks.
Avalon Green Apparel is the first women’s golf line that is made for the player, by the player.- Avalon Green
Q: Explain to me your vision. What makes your outfits the first of their kind for women who play golf?
A: I wanted to give female golfers clothes that they felt comfortable and confident in. Many clothes, shirts especially, can be restricting. I knew what I experienced on the golf course, but I conducted customer research to find out what other female golfers wanted and how they felt in their clothes. I wanted to know what they loved and what they disliked. Some women told me that their current golf apparel made them feel older than they really were. The design was the most important, but I also wanted fun and trendy patterns that showed off one’s personality instead of being plain back or navy.
Being an athlete, you have more muscle and movement than the average shirt allows for. I wanted a golf shirt that would be comfortable and stretch with any size arm to give her that perfect swing – full movement on the course. With my original outfit, the pockets on the skirt zip up and become invisible to give women that sleek look while also keeping everything in their pockets in place, such as golf balls and score cards. The mesh inlays balance both feminine and athletic beauty. Then, the design on the shoulders of the sleeves and the front part of the skirt, is something I call the Avalon overlay. Most shirts stretch but only to a specific point and then they’re tight and constricting your arm, or they may even rip. With the Avalon overlay, it breaks open that constriction point to allow for full mobility. The same concept is copied onto the skirt, too. I also designed bou-tee – spelled like a golf tee – shorts that are worn under the skirt that are similar to the idea of Spanx. They’re made to stay in place and not ride up, and prevent chafing. They also have the pockets and mesh design.
Q: You had your pitch down for what and why you created your golf apparel. Were you nervous while going through the different stages of the competition?
A: The competition is free to enter and I immediately wanted to do it once I knew about it and had my first prototypes. I went to Glenville’s auditorium every night and practiced my pitch for hours and hours. I had this super long introduction demonstrating how female golfers are restricted in their clothes on the course which, in turn, leaves them distracted and nervous. Golf is such a mental game. If you feel good, you’re going to do well. If you’re tugging and pulling at your clothes, it takes your mind off of the game and every second of every shot counts. I was nervous going into the competition because it was the first time I had introduced my business, my prototypes, to anyone in a professional setting. The athlete in me just kept saying, let’s go, it’s game time.
Those involved in the competition really help you get the basis of your business down because even though you may have the idea, they help you figure out how to get those first next steps. When you’re in the business plan competition, the WVU Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab does a great job of helping you narrow down your ideas and focus on what your product or business has to offer. In fact, they helped me cut down my demonstration in half and it helped me sell my business to the judges.
Q: Have you participated in any additional competitions or workshops? What’s next for Avalon Green Apparel?
A: In October (2022), I entered my business into the LaunchLab’s ZinnStarter Pitch Competition and won an additional $5,000. Now, Avalon Green Apparel has a great amount of funding to carry my business into the next stage. I’m so thankful for everything – the people I’ve met and the funding I’ve received – because it reminds me that this dream is now a reality. I can really do this. Although I had my prototypes, the manufacturers needed tech packs – a digital blueprint of my designs. I’ve been working with local freelancers and tech designers to create these tech packs for a while, but I recently found a manufacturer and I am estimated to have product in time for a Spring 2023 launch.
I’ve learned so much about the fashion industry, as well as how to budget everything down to paying freelancers and what I should price my clothing items at. I’ve been able to use the LaunchLab to gain marketing help, such as a website and future social media accounts for the business.
For me, and my business, it’s not just about the clothing line. No matter what comes next, I want to give female golfers the connection that they’ve never had before. I really want to focus on building that community.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I have fallen in love with West Virginia and I would be happy to stay here for the rest of my life. Right now, I am focusing on these three pieces and growing that community of female golfers. I really hope to throw down some roots here and then travel and grow my business with tournaments and launch parties, as a way to introduce me and my brand as a community or, better yet, a family. Golf has made me exactly who I am today. I give all of my character traits, positive and negative, to loving this game. I have the desire and the love for the game, so I want women’s golf to grow and others to find that same joy.