Lindsay Knowlton wants more women to say yes to golf
Running a business

Lindsay Knowlton wants more women to say yes to golf

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias.

Name: Lindsay Knowlton

Location: Toronto, Canada 

Business: Iron Lady Golf

What does your business do?

It’s a community for women where they can learn, play and connect through golf.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I played golf really competitively (Ohio State on a golf scholarship and on the Canadian National Team), and once I was finished with competition, I got a real job. While working there, I realized this ongoing issue with women that wanted to learn to play golf, or had to play for work, or wanted to spend time with their spouse or family playing golf. All of these women were too intimidated to get out there on the course. 

So 10 years ago in a Starbucks, things changed. Someone overheard a conversation between me saying to a friend, “I want to help more women feel comfortable saying yes to a golf invitation.” That stranger leaned over and said “Sorry for eavesdropping, but I love this. Call me.” (Turned out that the stranger was a VP at a very large bank). That next week I was giving a lunch-and-learn talk at the bank on how to say yes to situations that felt intimidating. Which then led to that group of women asking to learn how to play golf. And that was the start of our community. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

That you can try to plan things perfectly but there will always be change and evolution in your business—so just go for it! Get started and take that first step and you will figure it out along the way. You can get paralyzed by analysis and waiting for things to be perfect.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

How much you realize that owning a business is a big life lesson! Owning your own business really shows the cracks of things that I needed to work on (both personally and professionally), it has pushed me in ways I never thought possible, scared me, and helped me grow. It is also really amazing how it's made me feel so purposeful and proud at the same time. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

The finances! The hard part about owning a business (especially at first) is that you do everything. You are the salesperson, marketing, finance, teacher, customer service, and so on. Although this was hard, it has been the best possible experience because it has forced me to learn all aspects of running a business. It has also helped me realize where I needed to hire people who are experts in those areas to help the business grow.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

Empowered and purposeful! I truly wake up every morning loving what I do and excited to keep growing our community. There was no blueprint or guidebook for this business—it is an entirely new concept so with that came a lot of doubt at times but all of our growth has been from listening to the customer and always going back to the focus of our community. When I see Iron Lady’s impact in women’s lives I know for sure that I am doing the right thing.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

For a long time, Iron Lady was a side business for me. I was scared to go “all in” on myself. Not sure if I would be able to do it, make enough money, or work “alone.” Once I finally said yes to myself, my business grew rapidly. My advice to anyone out there is laser in your focus and go for it. Great things come when you put your energy towards something you are passionate about. 

What are your proudest moments? 

For me it is an email, text, or call from a client of mine once they have joined our community. When I hear about their experience and how it changed their lives—those are the proudest moments for me. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

Our plan is to keep building and welcome more people to our community! Expanding our travel side of the business, more leagues, and an online member community where you can learn and connect with each other. 

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

Being resilient. There are a lot of things that don’t work or go wrong, so finding solutions when there are issues is key. Being passionate about community—I love helping people feel empowered and a part of something bigger. Everyday that drives me to think of what we can be doing to continue to build our community. And drive and follow-through. It is very easy to come up with ideas but it’s a lot harder to execute and keep going. A long time ago one of my bosses gave me the advice to “just keep going,” so that is what I remind myself every day. 

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

I am not sure I can speak for everyone, but for me, it was really believing in myself and that I could grow this company into a full-fledged business. I am now starting to believe “Wow, this actually is working,” which is so exciting. I would also say not trying to do everything myself. It was really hard to let go of doing it all, but now I have people working on our team that are helping to take Iron Lady to the next level.

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

So much! Golf has always been a traditionally male-dominated sport which makes me even more excited to help more women say “yes” to trying it. One of the best moments for me was running a golf retreat with 15 women last year at a resort where there were a lot of men’s golf groups. They all saw us having fun, learning, playing, laughing, and dancing. They kept coming up to us and asking who the group was and how they could get their wives, sisters, and daughters involved. 

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry? 

We need more women working in the golf industry in a coaching and leadership capacity. Iron Lady Golf is changing the way that women can participate in this sport—both from a coaching and participant perspective. We would love to connect with more women and see if there are ways we can help. Please reach out!

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So much of this journey is trial and error and that’s part of the fun.

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

Just keep going! Find people that believe in you, support you, and want to help you grow. As much as I feel like I am helping to build community, I have been so fortunate to have those believers around me that have helped me feel like I have a community that believes in what I am trying to do. That is what has kept me going. 

Also, so much of this journey is trial and error and that’s part of the fun. Seek out help from people you trust, find mentors, but most of all—don't give up, just keep going.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

There are for sure many tough moments or days. Once I get around our Iron Ladies and see our community come to life, I know that I am on the right path and doing the right thing. 

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

It has been so helpful to connect with other female business owners to bounce ideas off of them and navigate the hard moments. Find a community of people you trust and can share things with.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

Right now it’s “Dancing Feet” by Kygo. It gets me fired up, happy, and dancing in the morning! 

To learn more about Iron Lady Golf and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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