Through the Love of Golf, Fashion & Family, a Father-Daughter Team Creates Amazing Golf Brand
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
So how about this a for a cool story?
There is a father-daughter duo in Central Florida that decided to start a golf apparel brand based off their shared passion for not only the game, but for each other, and of family. Through my youth golf journey, I have had the opportunity to get to know Mike Mitra just a little bit over the years. It wasn’t until the last two years however, that I learned of what he, and his now, 8-year-old daughter, Lennon, have created with their company, Afire Golf. And what I thought I knew about this cool idea of a father-daughter combo starting a hip boutique golf apparel business was only scratching the surface.
After chatting with Mike recently and getting the full story of this venture with his daughter, I was simply blown away. I have always loved their designs, and even collaborated with them for some hats for my youth golf organization a year or so ago, but after learning more about Afire, and the journey that he and Lennon have been on with this, I have become a massive fan. Read on, and I’m sure you will become a fan as well!
“Some things I’ve learned through golf and business are…Making good business choices; Learning more golf terms; How to deal with problems and Thinking outside the box.“~ Lennon Mitra, now age 8, was the Co-Founder of Afire Golf Co. at age 6
What was the inspiration behind starting Afire Golf?
Afire Golf (AG): Afire Golf was sparked by the spirit of youth golf, the beauty of discovering the game for the first time, and the memories we create every time we play. Beyond the competitive side of the game, there’s something to be said about the journey that parents and children embark on each time they pick up a club. There’s a spirit that lingers, especially off the course. It’s the kind of spirit that stays with you. It’s what gives you that nervous excitement when you’re standing on the first tee or rehearsing your swing in your living room. A fire sparks within you that doesn’t seem to burn out. That’s what golf means to us. And it’s all the reason why Lennon and I decided to build Afire together.
What gear do you guys offer?
Afire Golf (AG): When Lennon first started playing the game, we headed out to try and find her some golf gear (hats, apparel, etc.). At the time we couldn’t really find anything that celebrated the youthful spirit of the game. After a family road trip and in the waiting room of an auto repair shop, our Learning Curve design aka “Read. Write. Draw. Fade.” was born. There’s an element within youth golf that sets the tone for how junior golfers initially perceive the game. That perspective is key. We want to thrive in that atmosphere. We want to play in that sandbox and bring that spirit to the tee box.
So, we initially started with hats and have since added inspirational golf bracelets, t-shirts, hoodies, golf belts, sunglasses, and bag tags. All these products encapsulate Lennon’s unique take on youth golf fashion. At the same time, we can’t forget about us big kids at heart too. So, most of our designs are sized for adults as well.
The design process...how does that work for both you and Lennon and what are the inspirations behind your designs?
Afire Golf (AG): Our designs usually start with Lennon’s sketch pad and a brainstorm. We try and identify unique aspects of her golf journey as a player, as a student, and as a dreamer. We focus on highlighting the accomplishments, lessons learned, all of the intangible feelings and emotions associated with learning how to play what is arguably one of the hardest sports in the world to play. I encourage her to be persistent in sharing her 8-year-old perspective. Some of our designs are straightforward and some are a bit of a head scratcher. I just want her to leave everything out on the table when it comes to her ideas and creativity. It’s priceless when she sees her designs brought to life.
After an idea is sketched out, we present it to our graphic designer who fine tunes everything for us. Once a digital file is created we discuss what type of products would best communicate the message within our design. Lennon has a hand in and makes final decisions on colors, fabrics, and vendors we partner with. We live with the consequences both good and bad because I want her to see and learn from the reality of conducting “business.”
Lennon has also been able to partner with several other companies whose products echo the same spirit as Afire Golf. She has met with each of these companies face to face and has hand selected unique products that fit her fashion profile and the type of vibe she wants her Afire Golf Shop to maintain. Some of these companies have even worked with Lennon directly on creating Afire Golf exclusives. She really enjoys that aspect of the design and creation process.
How has golf brought your family closer and how has this venture strengthened that even more? What lessons have been learned?
Afire Golf (AG): When Lennon was a baby, I used to daydream about starting a lemonade stand with her. We would come up with our own recipe, build a stand, make a sign, and set up shop at the end of our driveway. Somehow along the way we found golf and in turn we found us. We make it a point to move at her pace. Each win and loss in the game and in business is an imaginary nugget that she puts into a bag that she carries. We never want that bag to be too heavy. We want her to get stronger with each step forward so she can carry the bag as far as she can over time.
The playing side of the game has always kept us father & daughter. The business side of the game through Afire Golf has kept us partners. The ups and the downs are different depending on what hat we’re wearing. As a dad, I can pick her up and try to lift her spirits after a bad shot or bad round. As a business partner, she lifts my spirits in the same way. Much like the symbiotic relationship between a player and their caddie, except sometimes I’m on the bag and sometimes she’s on the bag. We’ve learned to trust each other. That’s been the underlying goal really. Trust. I know there may come a day when she may not want to do this anymore. And if it all goes away tomorrow, at least we'll always have that trust. But until then, we live with and learn from each shot we take…together.
Beyond your company, what is hot in youth apparel right now and what might some trends be going forward?
Afire Golf (AG): It’s really beautiful to see junior golfers expressing their individuality through fashion just as much as they do through their swing. Junior golfers don’t just turn on their game when they get to the course. The spirit of golf is within them. The mental aspects of the game are always with them. So being able to express their love for this game off the course through fashion is a movement that we see evolving and one we’re trying to stay connected with.
Oh, and shoes. Some of these junior golfers displaying mighty powerful swings being just barely out of diapers would need a decent golf shoe. Or for the petite players with smaller feet. Lennon’s feet aren’t big enough yet for the kid’s golf shoes we see available at the big box stores. So, for now she rocks the sneaks that have the best traction we can find.
How are both of your golf games currently?
Afire Golf (AG): Not going to lie, it’s been tough trying to balance the business, range time, golf lessons, and running it on the course. Our swings aren’t perfect. Our business isn’t perfect. Our family isn’t perfect. But the timing of this venture was perfect. And we couldn’t ask for more.