BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: MEET LOVEVELL HIGGS OF PINK TEE FOUNDATION
For LoveVell Higgs business really is done on the golf course. She is the founder of the Pink Tee Foundation, a nonprofit organization that instills girls with life and social skills, while teaching them about the game of golf. Historically, the golf course has been reserved for the “good ol’ boys’ network”. A place where women–definitely Black women–have been overtly left out. Through the Pink Tee Foundation, Higgs is on a mission to change that.
As a senior marketing and advertising professional, Higgs learned early on that in business not everyone plays fair. Unless you learned the game, you’d end up playing blind–and as cliché as it may be, some of the biggest deals do take place on the green. Just as learning to play golf paid off for her in business, Higgs is well aware of the opportunities that golf can offer young girls. However, many girls are not aware of the benefits of learning the game due to cultural stigmas that prevent them from being exposed at an early enough age–if at all. Especially in the Black community, golf is deemed as a sport for the rich or elite. Though in recent years, that has slowly started to change. Unfortunately, this thinking has created many disparities in the game. Visit any HBCU (Historically Black College or University) and if they have a women’s team at all, you will find only one or two Black women on the team. In 2009, 200 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) women’s golf scholarships went unused. Meanwhile, Black girls are missing out on scholarship opportunities for a sport the Higgs says is much less physically demanding than other sports, yet teaches many valuable life lessons.
Starting a nonprofit is not the same a starting a traditional for-profit business. The mission, the driving force, the reason… they all come from within, but as the founder you have to want to impact someone else’s life in a much greater fashion than your own. “I just wanted to teach little Black girls how to play,” admits Higgs. She never realized the impact that Pink Tee would have. Though it has just reached its second year, the foundation has been an extremely strong influence in the lives of the participants. “Girls have to find their own identities,” says Higgs. That can be difficult for many of the inner city girls that the foundation caters to. However, Higgs shares that she has had the privilege of witnessing young girls come into their own [identity] during these first seasons. Including one little girl who had finally found something to identify with, other than having lost her father at such a young age.
Like many ventures, Pink Tee started off as sort of a “gee whiz” for Higgs. “It all started off as a conversation,” she says. “I began playing with logos and researching the nonprofit process.” However, it wasn’t until she was laid off in 2012 that she really began to consider the possibility of teaching girls the game of golf. “I stepped out on a prayer and a passion,” exclaims Higgs. As she talks about her journey so far, it is obvious that she is indeed passionate about her foundation–especially her girls.
Her journey began in 2009 when she learned to play golf. Although she had been exposed to the game as a child, she first thought it was boring. As an adult she decided to give the game a second chance and was soon hooked. She began playing as often as she could and continued learning from anyone who was willing to teach her. She noticed early on that women, especially Black women, golfers were far and few between. She wanted to somehow encourage them to join the sport, but realized that the 30 to 40-somethings were more interested in keeping up their appearance, than learning about a birdie. So, it was at that point that she decided that any integration into the game would need to start with a younger audience. Ultimately, she would target inner city girls ages 8 to 18–those least likely to have an opportunity to play the game.
Eventually, Higgs wants expand into more areas, so that she can expose more girls to the game. However, like a regular business, starting a nonprofit carries with it its own share of adversities. Since she is not purveying a specific product or service, cash in-flows is a constant issue. While, she has received some support, if the organization is to survive and hopefully expand, more money is needed. However, she is not ignorant to the process, by any means. She realizes that before people will start throwing money at her organization, they first have to see the value in the vision. “In the beginning I was just trying to get everybody to drink the Kool-Aid,” she muses. Thankfully, people are starting to finally catch on to what she is doing and the support is picking up–including acknowledgements and encouragement from Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “That makes me feel good,” shares Higgs.
Having survived these first two years has been a major coup for her. To do it right, the annual cost per site is easily $200,000. However, with the help of family, friends and supporters she has been able to keep the program intact for much less. Though, that has meant forgoing a salary until the funding is there. For now, Higgs is fueled by her passion and the girls. “They really are amazing little girls, and they astonish me weekly,” she gushes. “They are committed, totally. Just seeing them I know that I’m doing the right thing.”
Her own experience with the game has not been without a few stumbling blocks. Higgs learned early on that isms are still very much alive and well. At one point she had a white male say to her, “You do know that you are a Black female?”, in response to her deeply obvious affinity for the game. Ironically, she is thankful for such explicit opposition. Having dealt with such experiences gives her the needed fuel and wisdom to help her girls who are dealing with typical adolescent issues compounded by the issues of race or gender equality that are unique to the Black community. She parables the game to life–using her golf lessons to teach the girls life lessons, such as how to succeed (both on the green and in life), despite how the world perceives them. “Life is a daily challenge. It’s about how you handle it when it comes to you.”
When it comes to Minding Your Black Business, like the game of golf, Higgs says that it is a must that we teach our children about the importance of entrepreneurship while they are young. “There is no passion to do anything else other than going to work,” she opines. She continues that we must also be willing to share our knowledge. “If people say they want to learn to play golf I’ll teach them. If someone says that want to start a nonprofit, I share my own paperwork with them,” she declares. The question she poses is, “How can we help and teach one another?”
To learn more about Higgs and the Pink Tee Foundation visit the website.
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