A bright red 1973 Volkswagen. That was the used car 16-year-old Jane Spicer had her eye on growing up in Phoenix, Ariz. But the money she made from selling handmade puppets at the time did not match the asking price.
So her mother, Daphne, knowing her daughter was very goal-oriented (and still is), offered her a deal: Sell a certain amount of golf club headcovers, a product suggestion from one of her puppet-buying customers, and Daphne would buy the car for her. Spicer met that goal and earned more than just a car; she found a career and created a company.
Almost half a century later, Daphne’s Headcovers has produced millions of mostly animal-themed headcovers. More than 200 models – from black Labs to a bloody mary, a tiger to a taco – have been sold in 75 countries around the world.
“The goal has always been to be the best company, not the biggest,” Spicer said. “But one of the things that has helped us grow is consistent quality. We’re the only headcover company out there that has a lifetime guarantee. If you come back 10 years from now and an eye fell out or something happened, we’ll repair it.”
That commitment has resulted in generations of families buying the colorful products.
“When my mom passed away in 1996, I put her signature on the headcovers to make sure she was always with us,” Spicer said. “People say to me all the time, ‘How can you put a lifetime guarantee on a product that’s a fabric and will wear out?’ Well, it has my mom’s name on it. The other aspect is doing what we say. Basically, we’ve done what our moms have taught us: Tell the truth if you make a mistake. Apologize if you do something wrong, just own it. We get accolades all the time for that, which shocks me. We’re just doing what we were all raised to do.”
Since making her first headcover sales 45 years ago to Pete Robbeloth, then the director of golf at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix (the two keep in touch to this day), Spicer has constantly adapted her business to the changing nature of golf equipment. Driver heads kept growing in size, and then hybrids gained new popularity. Her sourcing for materials has also taken her far from Arizona.
“I’m constantly looking for a better thread, or a fur with a better feel,” she said. “That search is worldwide now. I can’t find any of that here in the U.S. For years I had all my eyes made in Italy. Now it rotates where the manufacturers are. We produce the products in Phoenix, China and Indonesia, and do most of the shipping from our Phoenix warehouse.”
A defining moment came at the 1997 Masters Tournament when Tiger Woods won his first major with a Daphne’s tiger headcover, purchased by his own mother, Kultida, atop his driver. The company grew 400 percent in one quarter after that, thanks in part to an order of 30,000 for the headcover that became known as “Frank.”
“We were just getting ready to move into our current headquarters (in north Phoenix) and got that order,” Spicer recalled. “I thought they were joking. They wanted premium service and would pay more than the asking price. Making stuffed toys, you get a lot of lulus who call. I thought this was one of those. So I said, ‘We will do it, but send a check for 50 percent up front.’ And they did the next day. That was remarkable. It helped in so many ways. It was an incredible gift after my mom had passed and I was frozen in grief. Then I got so busy and knew she would have been thrilled.”
Spicer gives back in multiple ways. She avidly supports animal rescue programs, donating countless headcovers for charity golf outings. Sales of a giraffe headcover have gone to a group that builds wells in Africa, where Spicer will travel to in June. She has mentored dozens of women, up to five at time, and also speaks to entrepreneur classes at Arizona State University, where she pulls no punches.
“As an entrepreneur, you make it up as you go,” Spicer said. “People will say, ‘That’s great,’ or, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Animal headcovers?’ So you have to make your way. If you’re lucky enough to bump into people who can guide you, that’s great. But I think the idea of being an entrepreneur scares so many people. It’s the unknown. People project their fear onto you. You have to be brave, unwavering and have tenacity. Not everybody is cut out for it. You have to take the risk.”
Spicer has hopes that her family members (her son directs the company’s website and advises on social media efforts; her daughter currently studies psychology in college) might take the CEO reins of the company someday. But right now, the job is no longer all-consuming for her. Well, almost.
“I have gotten some balance,” she admitted. “I take most weekends off and travel quite a bit. But I incorporate Daphne’s wherever I go. It’s nice not to be grinding 24/7, and I have surrounded myself with really good people. So that certainly helps.”
She is encouraged by what she sees in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“Instead of going out together to drink mimosas at lunch, now groups of women are going out to play golf. That just delights me. It’s such a great sport.” – Jane Spicer
“What I love about this generation is they’re more accepting. They also have a broader view, and you have to have that as an entrepreneur,” she said. “You have to focus on your product, but things are changing all the time. It’s like sailing. You set a waypoint but the wind is changing, the ocean is moving, there’s a current. That’s being an entrepreneur. There’s so much behind the scenes that no one sees, and that’s not sexy. It’s the person who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking of different ways to make things better, who goes in on weekends and misses birthday parties and weddings, who makes it.”
After almost half a century in the golf industry, she’s also thrilled by a particular demographic development.
“There are so many more women playing golf now, and I’m seeing groups of women of all ages golfing,” Spicer said. “I really like that. Instead of going out together to drink mimosas at lunch, now groups of women are going out to play golf. That just delights me. It’s such a great sport.”
The business side has changed as well, according to Spicer.
“When I entered the industry, most of the women were wives of the pros, with a few exceptions,” she said. “Now there are many women who run companies, golf shops, etc. Also, there are now great organizations like Women in the Golf Industry (formed in 2001) where women can come together to grow and learn about our industry.”
As for that Volkswagen? She kept it through her time at Northern Arizona University but then broke the front axle while driving around a golf course under construction. These days she drives a Porsche and has no intention of slowing down.
“I love this,” she said of her role at Daphne’s. “I plan to live until I’m 103. Even if they have me up front answering the phone, I would delight in that.”
Top: Jane Spicer had a simple goal: sell enough headcovers to buy a used car. She met that goal and earned more than just a second-hand vehicle. She found a career and created a company. Photo: Courtesy Daphne’s Headcovers
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