Grace and grit are at the core of local foundation supporting female college athletes
Kate Nowlan is the president of the Graced By Grit Foundation, an apparel company-turned-nonprofit that provides scholarships to young women pursuing athletics in college
Kate Nowlan is an experienced athlete, coach and business owner who’s passionate about empowering others to find and develop their strength and courage. When she launched her apparel company-turned-nonprofit foundation, Graced By Grit, she recalls feeling strong and powerful during the process of creating it and finding a partnership with a larger company.
“When you give your all to something with preparation, hard work, sweat, tears, wins and losses, you realize that the journey is incredibly fulfilling,” she says. “No one could take away what we had created … and I knew my team and brand had a lot to offer to another company.”
What started as an athletic apparel brand for women was acquired by another apparel brand and turned into a foundation offering scholarships to female college athletes. (The acquiring company, Hylete, donates 1 percent of its women’s apparel sales to the Graced By Grit Foundation.)
Nowlan, 41, lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea with her fiancé, her two daughters, and their dog. Today, she’s the vice president of strategic initiatives and community at Hylete and president of the Graced By Grit Foundation. She took some time to talk about her organization and their commitment to supporting young women.
Q: What made a partnership between Graced By Grit and Hylete feel like the right fit?
A: The partnership has been serendipitous. One of the most important factors of the partnership was the commitment that Hylete made in being the main sponsor of the Graced By Grit scholarship fund by dedicating 1 percent of all Hylete women’s product sales back to the our foundation. ... In addition, the recognition of the importance that the longer girls stay in athletics, the greater their chance of professional success speaks volumes on how both organizations are committed to being the change we wish to see in the world. That means supporting women’s rights, standing up for what we believe in and doing the right thing, always.
Q: Your bio talks about empowering people “to cultivate their grit and find their grace.” How do you define “empowerment”?
A: Empowerment is a word I struggle with. By definition, it means you are giving someone power, almost as if they didn’t have it. For me, I like to encourage people to find or cultivate their power within themselves. By discovering your own power, you essentially discover your grit, your strength. How you deal with your grit will help you to find your grace.
Q: From your perspective, what would you hope this empowerment would ideally look like for the female athletes you work with through your foundation?
A: I hope that these young women recognize that by participating in athletics, they have a greater chance of success professionally and personally. The majority of women in the C-suite today were collegiate athletes, and that speaks volumes to the lessons and values learned while participating in sports: confidence, team work, navigating tough moments, learning how to fail, and learning how to win with grace are just some of the things you learn by being involved in sports. I hope that these young women that are applying for the scholarship thrive with one less financial burden as an obstacle.
Q: How have you cultivated your own grit in your life?
A: I discovered my grit when I had my oldest daughter as a senior in college. It was hard to be at that point in my life and become a parent. But I found out that I was tougher than I thought, and with every obstacle that has come my way since, I have reflected back on that time as a source of strength and as a reminder to focus on what matters most. I’m reminded to prioritize, to remember that this too shall pass, and that it is not the end result that matters, it is how you get there that matters more.
Q: And how have you found your own grace?
A: My daughters are my grace. They remind me that the next generation of women has a better chance of equality because of the hard work of my generation and the generations before me. They also remind me that I’m not that funny, I chew too loud, I ask them to clean their rooms too often, and I’m “so annoying.” They humble me, to say the least.
Q: What’s been challenging about your work?
A: Building a business is hard and each day is met with new challenges and learning how to shift priorities. The toughest part was raising capital. Women are socialized to not talk about money, so asking for money is extremely hard. If I could go back in time and repeat that part, I would do things differently, but that is the part of “living and learning.”
Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?
A: The people I have been lucky enough to meet along the way and work alongside with. At both organizations, I have been blessed to be surrounded by incredibly talented people that think progressively, function with empathy, and choose to do the right thing. I am incredibly proud to stand alongside these people everyday.
Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?
A: That when you stand up for what you believe in, you find support in ways you never imagined.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Listen to your gut.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I love sailing at my family’s lakehouse in upstate New York. I take out our sunfish on a really windy day and try to get as close to tipping the boat over as possible. I guess you could say I’m a risk-taker!
What I love about Cardiff ...
Cardiff has been my home for the past nine years, and my daughters and I love it here. I can run the coast every day, my daughters can walk to the beach to meet friends and surf, and I love that this community shares the same love for this North County San Diego lifestyle.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: Sleeping in past 7 a.m., long walks with our dog on the coast, food from Seaside Market to throw on the grill, a long run with friends, spending time with my family playing cribbage or euchre, and catching a sunset every night.
-- Lisa Deaderick is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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