Elizabeth Goodwin Welborn is used to discovering new ideas and jumping out of her comfort zone. She considers herself a nomad, as she continues to establish her career while traveling. After her graduation at Spring Hill College in Alabama, she worked on developing the South American and Southeast Asian markets of a telecom company for six years and eventually moved to Manila, Philippines from 1997 to 1998, then to San Francisco in 1999.
Elizabeth was thrust into the wine industry in the early 2000s. After settling in the Bay Area, she attended the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust in Napa Valley while working at Mondavi Winery.
In 2002, her friends started a polo club in Petaluma, California, just 30 miles north of San Francisco. Even though Elizabeth was a stranger to the sport, she fell in love with it right away. One of her motivators in the field is her girlfriend, Lauren Dickinson, who was the only woman she knew who plays polo. She says, “Lauren was my inspiration. Without her playing, I didn’t think women were involved in the sport!”
Her professional career in polo began in 2011. “A friend referred me to polo pro Lucas di Paula. He leased two horses for my girlfriend and me, taught us how to swing, and left us to play chukkers! I don’t think he took us seriously as clients and thought it would be a one day deal,” she narrates.
As she rode, Elizabeth realized that it’s really something that she wanted to do. She cancelled all of her meetings that week and came back everyday to learn. By the end of the week, she was playing chukkers—holding onto her dear life, trying to not fall off, as other players present were pros from Argentina and Columbia.
Fast forward to present and the polo player has thrived as a pro herself. However, her ride to success was not easy at all. The sport has taught Elizabeth to put aside her fears and believe that anything is possible. “Polo is simply the most incredible sport,” Elizabeth muses. She shares how she had gone from not knowing that women can be a professional polo player to later meeting Sunny Hale, who played with the best of the best in the world.
Venturing Into Polo Fashion
A philanthropist by nature, Elizabeth found herself volunteering to organize Cerro Pampa Polo Club’s annual charity events. She gives away ponchos to the VIP ticket holders because it gets so cold at night in the area. Every year, attendees clamored for the Mexican-inspired ponchos. “I realized there was really no fashion brand out there that represented the true style of polo—a much more casual and Latin American chic style that I loved. So I started the brand with a more refined poncho of alpaca and began handmaking my own leather belts. I would sell the products in my little pop-up shop on the side of the polo field,” she recounts.
The birth of Stick & Ball in the fall of 2011 began a fusion of love for polo and fashion imbued with her life experiences throughout her journey around the world.
Truth be told, obstacles in putting up a business are always there. In her case, she had to deal with marital problems. “Beginning a divorce and a business at the same time on top of being a mother made for very challenging times. In addition, I really didn’t have a business mentor or investors,” Elizabeth shares.
Luckily, she had the support system that gave her a multitude of reasons to keep Stick & Ball running. Wendy Johnstone, her college bestfriend, had helped her battle the roadblock of having a shoestring budget and joined her in her pop-up shops. It was not all glamour, especially behind the scenes, but Wendy is determined to offer as much help that she can lend to her.
Stick & Ball’s pieces are easy-to-wear clothing meant to stay relevant in all seasons. The brand doesn’t sacrifice on quality, as their signature ponchos are made luxurious, hand-knitted and -woven, and can be worn anywhere.
Poised with a vision for a globally-inspired brand, Elizabeth shares three vital things that future entrepreneurs need to figure out: To make sure that you are passionate about what you do, figure out a financial model to stay afloat, and find a mentor to help guide you along the way.