Ratu Muda Princess Karen Cantrell of the Royal House of Kupang is a tireless advocate for domestic and international causes, a philanthropist, and the owner of a 25-year-old retail enterprise, Lady Golf – The Fashion House. The business offers women’s golf, equestrian, and yoga apparel, athletic and leisure shoes, jewelry, luggage, golf equipment, and more. Worldwide shipping is offered online at ladygolf.com, and Her Excellency also operates a 6,000-square-foot store in Palm Desert, California. In an exclusive interview with Life Entertainment, she shared advice for current and budding entrepreneurs, and discussed some of the challenges of today’s retail climate.
LIFE ENTERTAINMENT: What are some of the drivers of your company’s success?
PRINCESS KAREN CANTRELL: Keeping your plan. It’s a simple thing– you have a plan, you work your plan, and you really, deeply care about what you believe in. If it’s customer service, [then] you really believe in it, you want to be exemplary in that. My whole thing was starting an all-women’s golf store 25 years ago because women had been discriminated against so much. Not only in golf and other sports, but also just in general. I have worked my whole life trying to promote women and the value of women. You have to be consistent in what you do. Not everybody’s going to believe in you and your dream; not everybody’s going to give you a pat on the back. It’s lonely when you’re an entrepreneur, and you have invested your life savings. You have to find a way to keep your own self motivated as well.
LE: What is the common thread that unites Lady Golf products?
PKC: Quality, quality, and quality. It’s like if you’re in real estate, it’s location, location, location. The items that we have are superior products with value, such [having] sunscreen woven in them. They can be not only utilized for the sport of golf, but they can be transitional sportswear as well. I traveled the world to find interesting and beautiful clothing lines, accessories, and shoes for my clientele.
LE: Do you foresee continued expansion? And into what other product lines or verticals?
PKC: Yes, of course. I’m receiving from a lot of the vendors… we have some beautiful Asian goods in the store. With the 25 percent tariff on products, what you have to do as an entrepreneur is that you have to move quickly. You have to be able to mobilize yourself and move. If something happens here, prices go up here. You have to shift over here and find other products that will be similar to those that will take care of your clientele. You have to always believe in yourself and don’t be afraid because things are going to go wrong, or things are going to change– because we live in a changing world– but you have to have the ability to change with it.
You never know what you can achieve until you really get in some sticky situations and it forces you to become creative. I always have focus groups with my staff; we’re always listening to what they have to say and suggestions. We always want to make the right decisions, but if you fail at one thing, it will spur you on to be successful in something else.
LE: Are you able to give us an idea of the verticals that you’re pursuing in the future?
PKC: I am investigating several avenues. I’ll be going to Germany in October, and I am meeting with quite a few companies there. I will tell you this, what I have done after being in business 25 years with perfect credit and longevity with clients is I have opened shop-in-shop concept in my stores. Basically, they put the goods in, we sell them, and we pay for them in Net 45 days. I came up with this when I worked with Saks Fifth Avenue because that’s their concept. It’s called “member merchandise.” The companies that have done that with us, the sales have increased significantly because we actually partner with them.
They provide the goods, we provide the real estate in store for a certain amount of square footage. We provide the hangers, the fixtures, the staff, we provide insurance on their products, and then they come or send a representative to actually train our employees and staff on what is so fabulous about their product. If it has SPF, if it’s washable, if it travels well, and so on and so forth. All the qualities that they can pass on to the consumer while the person is in the store. We take all of those facts and incorporate that into verbiage on our website, ladygolf.com. This has been a magnificent working relationship. It’s great for consumers as well, because we are in a resort area– we have people that come and go. If we have full stock of the vendor’s item and size runs, we are able to quickly satisfy the client and reorder and just keep the ball rolling the entire time. This has been a really good thing that we’ve done.
LE: What inspires you as an entrepreneur?
PKC: Questioning myself over, and over, and over again. I’m always questioning whether I made the right decision. I know it takes a village, and I have a village that works with me through my vendors, through my staff, through my wonderful clientele. It’s not always easy– I have seen such a trend in people who do not want to be responsible for their actions. We have very strict return policies because we are working with vendors, and I have an obligation to perform and keep our contracts with them. For instance, we have a return policy on our website [that says] we must have the goods back within 10 days so that you can get a refund on your credit card. I have seen recently, probably in the past two years, a trend to people that order and return a month later. And they have the audacity to say to me, “That [return policy] really doesn’t apply to me. I’m going to do a chargeback and I will win.” I’ve seen this happening more and more. They go, “I can buy from Amazon, I can return it to Amazon. It doesn’t matter, they give my money back.”
You try to be as cordial as possible and explain to the client, “We’re not Amazon, we’re specialty. If you can find these products on Amazon, then you should have bought them on Amazon.” If you really don’t want to buy from specialty stores, then don’t buy from a specialty store, because we have customer service. You can actually walk in a 6,000-square-foot store, touch, feel, and have someone take care of you. We can ship goods worldwide for you. We can gift wrap for you, we can personally shop for you, we can take pictures of things for you if you’re looking for something specific. We offer services that really other stores do not offer, but there is a certain percentage of people that feel entitled and this is one thing that really bothers me.
To be in retail in the 21st century, you have to really be patient. You have to have great people skills, you have to know also not to take abuse from clients. There has to be a line drawn. I will not allow anyone to abuse my staff in any fashion. We never get out of control; we lower our voices. A lot of times, I found that clients are frustrated over other things that you as a retailer don’t think about. You don’t know what has happened to them that day. You don’t know if they’re in an abusive situation. You don’t know if they had someone pass away that day. You don’t know if it’s a medical situation. The first thing that we do is let them talk, make notes, and then try to backtrack and figure it out… try to be helpful. It takes a philosopher, it takes people with great people skills, and psychology. It takes a very special individual to work in retail.
LE: Is there anything else that you’re working on?
PKC: Well, we try to promote the business through different avenues. We work with the Royal Society of St. George – California, which is under the auspices of Her Majesty the Queen. I am the chairman of that. We work through local charities like Guide Dogs Of The Desert, and we support and have supported Animal Samaritans. We’re heavily involved in a lot of animal activism and animal rights organization, and particularly we did many years working for the blind– providing harnesses and leashes and collars for guide dogs. We also do a lot of work with the LGBTQ community. We’re always trying to help in our local communities.
Our project last July was for the Idyllwild fire victims. We created inside our 6,000 square-foot store a food bank and drop-off for the fire victims. They had a horrendous fire and they were cut off. I talked to my congressman and he was very supportive. I have a ranch in that area as well; it just touched me personally a great deal. With the wonderful village team effort of the people of the Coachella Valley, we brought in over $55,000 worth of food, clothing, furniture, dog food, cat food, baby diapers, all kinds of sustainable goods for Idyllwild and those wonderful people there who were suffering tremendously. The people of the Coachella Valley were unbelievable in their donations. Talk about community effort. We just did another one for them now that the roads have been knocked down, not because of fire because of water. They are in need again, so we just did another relief for them with KMIR-TV. We called the radio stations and we said, “Look, this is the drop-off point from nine to five. We’re here. Let’s get these people taken care of.” The community was amazing.
For more information on Ratu Muda Princess Karen Cantrell, please visit KarenCantrell.com. Lady Golf products and events can be found on ladygolf.com, or in-store at 73608 Highway 111, Suite 1, Palm Desert, CA 92260. Follow Lady Golf on social media: Twitter at @LadyGolfFashion, Instagram at @LadyGolftheFashionHouse, or on Facebook.