Q&A: Lija Golf founder Linda Hipp
Success is not something that happens overnight. But if there is a golf apparel company that has come close – Lija Golf and Linda Hipp are the ones.
I was fortunate enough to catch Hipp – Lija’s founder, president and designer – this week to chat about the company and her past 13 wild years in the apparel industry.
Hi Linda, tell us a little bit about yourself and how this brand came to be.
Well, in 1997 I started a company called Hyp Golf - which is a fun spin on my name. I created Hyp because I wanted to bring something a little edgier and hip to the fairways. So, I selfishly started the brand out of necessity. And I came to find out that there were so many other women in the same predicament that I was in - not being able to find anything to wear. The only hurdle was breaking into an ultra-conservative market and it wasn’t an easy task for the first three years.
However, I truly believe this is why we are where we are today. We were ahead of the curve and people caught on. It was the perfect time to bring fashion to ladies golf wear!
Tell me about going from Hyp to Lija and when this all came about.
In 2005 we decided that we had something going but we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves strictly as a ladies brand. We needed a change and a name that had no boundaries - something that could appeal to men, women and children. So we did a survey and mixed and matched words. We randomly came up with Lija and everyone loved it and it looked particularly good as a logo. Not to mention that it was a unique name that flowed and was sporty at the same time.
Besides being at the right place at the right time. What other steps did you take to grow the brand?
Well at the time we unfortunately had no money for advertising or reps. So we did all we could to build important relationships through trade/merchandise shows. We developed many great relationships with media and buyers, which helped a great deal.
Another thing that I have ingrained into the Lija team is customer service. I think this is one of the most important things a company can do. I want to make each customer feel special and taken care of. No matter how large we grow, I want to maintain a small business mindset with my employees.
When did you finally kick up your feet and say, ‘I’ve made it!’
They always say in the fashion industry that five years is the make-or-break mark. I would have to say that in 2003 I felt liked we had made it. We were doing really well and the next step was to branch out. That is why in 2005 we decided to adopt the name Lija and start to make the company versatile.
Because you’re a Canadian company did you find it hard breaking into the U.S. market?
With the PGA Merchandise show and a few other trade shows I didn’t find it hard breaking into the U.S. market at all.
Eventually, we slowly built up the rep force across North America and things started to heat up even more.
Who do you have wearing your gear on tour?
We have Leta Lindley and Sarah Jane Smith wearing the Lija brand both on and off the course. They are great ambassadors to the brand and we look forward to being a part of their success and making them look good while doing so.
Any new plans that you would like to share with us?
Well, if you didn’t know already, in 2008 we expanded into a lifestyle/leisure brand. We realized that if all our customers were buying our brand on the golf course they must have an array of other extra-curricular activities as well. So, you not only can you purchase Lija for golf, but tennis, yoga and any other sporty activities, too. But don’t fret because golf will always be our foundation.
And lastly, of course, where can we purchase Lija apparel?
The easiest and most convenient way is going to be on our Web site, www.lijastyle.com, and at most major golf retailers across North America. Also, if your golf shop isn’t carrying it you may want to ask them if they could order it for you.
We have also expanded to the U.K., South Africa, Dubai and Spain.