Nadia & Colin O'Connor interview

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CEO and Founder & Co-Founder of Coconads, women's golf clothing that blends fashion with function.
Posted on
February 3, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Nadia O’Connor

Her journey began in New Jersey, where her passions for leadership, competitive cheerleading, and the arts ignited, but she had always been California dreaming from a young age. As a proud alumna of Rutgers University, Nadia drove across the country post-graduation to start her next chapter on the West Coast and spent most of her early adulthood in San Francisco (where she later met her now husband Colin).

She has built a career as a high-functioning, operational executive within the investment banking and technology industries; however, she has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and has wanted to build her own mission-driven company. Now as Founder of Coconads, she oversees Product Design & Development, Marketing, Community, and Supply Chain. In her free time, Nadia enjoys all things beauty & relaxation, playing golf, gardening, traveling, and watching any series of The Real Housewives!

Nadia & Colin O'Connor interview

Colin O’Connor

Born and raised on Long Island, NY with a penchant for track & field. After graduating Johns Hopkins University, Colin honed his craft as a seasoned sales executive in the technology industry. At Coconads, he oversees all Sales, Finance and Legal matters.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Colin finds joy in supporting aspiring scholars through AlumniNetwork.ai, exploring local eateries to uncover simple pleasures like the finest complimentary bread, and cherishing quality moments with his beloved wife and co-founder, Nadia, alongside their treasured feline companion, Milkshake.

 

Nadia's Story

From the early age of 10, painting became my sanctuary. I was inspired by the way you could create anything from your mind and the power to turn darkness into beauty. Amidst the common challenges of adolescence and self-esteem, I sought solace in my art, often painting scenes of butterflies and their transformative journey—a reflection of my own desire for metamorphosis and self-acceptance.

As I became a young adult, another passion blossomed—playing golf. Introduced to the sport by my partner and now husband, Colin, we took trips to the most picturesque courses where I learned how to play. Yet, amidst the luxuriousness of the resorts, and the breathtaking landscapes, I encountered a stark reminder of the barriers women still face in traditionally male-dominated spaces.

I’ll never forget an incident that happened on a resort course, where a male golfer (total stranger) attempted to dictate which tees I should play from based on my gender, and instead of listening to him, I proceeded to the tee box and totally crushed the ball right in front of him from the back tees. Although I managed to continue to play well and enjoy my vacation, this encounter reignited familiar feelings of exclusion and sexism that I’ve experienced throughout my life. Rather than feeling defeated, it fueled me and motivated me to turn my pain into power by fostering confidence through unapologetically feminine fashion on the fairway, and hence Coconads was born.

Driven by a belief that every woman deserves to feel empowered and embraced on the golf course and beyond, I embarked on a mission with Coconads—to design a collection and build a brand that celebrates a woman’s individuality and ignites a sense of belonging on the course. At Coconads, we're not just designing apparel; we're crafting a narrative of authentic confidence, one swing at a time, that is truly special.

Colin's Story

Our journey into golf began with the GetGolfReady Program in San Francisco, a pivotal moment where I made the decision to gift Nadia her very first set of clubs. As we delved deeper into the sport together, I found immense joy in our shared experiences on the course. The thought of teeing off without Nadia by my side became inconceivable; her presence enriched every moment, transforming mundane rounds into cherished memories.

In the midst of building Coconads, my purpose crystallized—to champion Nadia and women like her as they navigate the world of golf. While female empowerment remains paramount, I also recognize the importance of male solidarity in uplifting one another. Too often, I've witnessed well-intentioned friends inadvertently undermine Nadia's confidence with their unsolicited feedback, highlighting the need for a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.

Standing beside Nadia, my commitment is unwavering. I am her steadfast ally, dedicated to nurturing her artistic talents and empowering her as a beacon of leadership for women worldwide. Together, surrounded by a community of strong, inspiring women, we will continue to forge ahead, breaking barriers and reshaping perceptions one swing at a time.

***

You wake up in the morning, what's the driving passion?

Nadia: Every morning, my driving passion is to radiate positivity and empowerment, particularly towards women. I strive to create an inclusive space where every woman feels cherished and embraced, enabling them to embrace their true selves without the burden of conformity.

In the realm of golf, my aim is to pave a brighter, more equitable path for the female experience. Authenticity guides my actions, as I am committed to crafting a life of beauty and fulfillment for my family. Above all, I am fueled by a deep desire to honor the memory of my deceased mom and defying all odds to make both my parents and myself proud.

What was the genesis for Coconads?

Colin: The journey of Coconads began with a spark of creativity ignited at my sister-in-law’s kitchen table during the holiday season. Collaborating closely with Nadia, we leveraged our connections within the industry, including executives from Chubbies, who provided invaluable inspiration and introduced us to our founding product development team.

From that pivotal moment, momentum swiftly built, marked by a commitment that soon saw us investing significant sums monthly. With each investment came a deeper sense of dedication and the inevitable sacrifices that accompany chasing a dream.

 

How was the name of the company determined?

Nadia: The name Coconads originated as a playful and unofficial “celebrity” nickname during the early days of Colin and my relationship, which eventually became our WiFi network name.

When we decided to start our company, we sought advice from an IP lawyer who recommended a distinct and fanciful name.

Inspired by the special bond of our partnership, we chose Coconads to symbolize our collaborative spirit and mutual support. Aside from the name Coconads, our logo is a “C” and an “N” that are joint together to form a heart and/or a diamond.

We like to say that diamonds are made forever, and as such, we decided to forego a glamorous wedding to Coconads company and eloped in Las Vegas in March 2022 on St. Patrick's Day - the luckiest day of the year!

What differentiates Coconads from your competition?

Colin: At Coconads, our distinctive edge lies in our unique team dynamic—a husband and wife alliance dedicated to fostering an environment where women can authentically be themselves both on and off the course. Our commitment to respect and dignity sets us apart, ensuring every woman feels valued and empowered.

Our impact goes beyond the fairways; we proudly champion femininity in golf, boldly paving the way for women to embrace their unique identities without reservation. As an unapologetically feminine brand, we redefine standards and inspire confidence in every swing.

When it comes to our products, we spare no expense in delivering unparalleled quality. Handcrafted in America, our garments boast 100% washable silk—the epitome of luxury and sophistication. Utilizing custom lab-dipped colors, we eschew stock fabrics to offer a truly bespoke experience, elevating the golfing wardrobe to new heights of elegance and comfort.

 

Who is your customer?

Nadia: Our customer embodies a vibrant spirit and a zest for life, forever seeking out the extraordinary and the undiscovered. A true fashion aficionado, she delights in uncovering hidden gems that set her apart from the crowd. Yet, beyond her impeccable taste, she radiates positivity and kindness, infusing every interaction with warmth and grace. With an ageless charm and an insatiable appetite for excellence, she embodies the essence of the Coconads brand.

In approximate percentage terms what is the sales effort via online, green grass shops and other brick and mortar outlets?

Nadia: Our sales efforts are strategically distributed across different channels to cater to our diverse customer base. Approximately 30% of our sales volume comes from online channels, where we utilize our own website to showcase our latest collections and connect with customers who prefer the convenience of shopping online.

In addition, around 50% of our sales are generated through traditional brick-and-mortar outlets, including green grass shops and specialty golf stores. These physical locations provide an opportunity for golf enthusiasts to touch and feel our high-quality fabrics and stylish designs, fostering a personalized shopping experience.

Lastly, the remaining 20% of our sales come from other avenues like special, events-based partnerships within both golf and women’s communities where we will meet customers in-person ourselves. We absolutely love meeting our customers - in my opinion, it is the coolest thing a designer gets to experience.

Nadia & Colin O'Connor interview

Companies always talk about the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed at Coconads?

Colin: Customer service is not just a department at Coconads—it's a personal commitment from the founders themselves. As the faces behind the brand, we handle every customer interaction, ensuring that our values of respect, trust, transparency, and excellence shine through in every exchange.

Being a husband-and-wife team, we bring a unique perspective to customer service, prioritizing direct engagement with our customers to cultivate genuine connections. With every interaction, we aim to provide a personalized experience that reflects our dedication to delivering high-quality products and exceptional service.

As a new brand, timely delivery and product quality are paramount. With all Coconads products proudly Made in America, we maintain strict control over quality and timelines, allowing us to meet and exceed our customers' expectations consistently. In our pursuit of excellence, we go above and beyond, sometimes even hand-delivering orders—even if it means traveling across the country to do so.

 

What role does customer feedback play and in what specific ways do you seek it out?

Nadia: We exist to serve our fancy, fun, and fabulous customers while maintaining our authenticity as a brand.

We value our customer's feedback and use it to help inform us on the types of products we create next, like a long sleeve top and accessories which are currently in development!

Nadia & Colin O'Connor interview

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally – what would it be and why?

Nadia: I would focus on increasing female participation in golf. Embracing the mission of the LPGA Foundation, I'm passionate about empowering more girls to discover the joys of the sport.

By striving to add 1,000,000 more girls to the golfing community by 2030 through initiatives like #OneMillionMORE, we can create a more inclusive and vibrant future for the game.

 

The biggest challenges facing the company – short and long term – are what? And what specific responses are you implementing to deal with each?

Colin: In the short term, our biggest challenge revolves around being self-funded, which has required significant personal sacrifices, including forgoing a dream wedding to fuel our business endeavors.

This constraint has necessitated a strategic approach, forcing us to carefully select our priorities and allocate resources judiciously. As a result, we've embraced a mindset of sustainable organic growth and resourcefulness, maximizing the impact of every investment.

Looking ahead to the long term, a key challenge we anticipate is the limitation of our own bandwidth as founders. Recognizing our presence can only extend so far, we're focused on building a community of like-minded individuals who share our values and vision.

By bringing others into our fold and empowering them as ambassadors of our brand, we aim to amplify our impact exponentially, reaching women far and wide with our message of empowerment and inclusivity.

***

For more information:

www.coconads.com

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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