The Coast News Group
Kate Nowlan stands on beach wearing purple coat with sun behind head
Kate Nowlan is the Cardiff resident behind the GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at empowering young, female athletes. Courtesy photo

Cardiff business transforms into nonprofit offering scholarships

ENCINITAS — What began as a women’s athletic apparel company in North County has transformed into a national nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower young, female athletes.

Kate Nowlan is the woman behind the GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation, a nonprofit that plans to award its first scholarship recipient $5,000 this spring. The foundation is a spinoff of the GRACEDBYGRIT business that once sold women’s athletic apparel for five years before being sold to HYLETE, a similar company based in Solana Beach.

Nowlan, the mother of two girls who lives in Cardiff, said she was inspired by her children to form a group that helped other young women.

“The GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation recognizes young women who participate in athletics as an opportunity to discover and develop their grit while embracing their grace through the GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation Scholarship Fund,” Nowlan said. “We hope to inspire young women to stick with athletics as long as possible with the understanding that they will build valuable life skills such as confidence, teamwork, learning how to win and lose, and become confident, self-reliant women.”

Nowlan said the new foundation has fundraised thousands of dollars with the support of the community. HYLETE is also contributing 1% of all of the women’s product sales to the foundation to support the scholarship fund, she said.

A committee will evaluate all the applicants with a winner selected and announced on April 15. She said she hopes the funds will alleviate the financial burden many students face.

“The purpose of the scholarship is that we know that the financial burden of continuing your education can be difficult especially if you are participating in athletics,” said Nowlan, who currently serves as the vice president of strategic initiatives and community for HYLETE. “We want to help alleviate that obstacle. We decided on athletes because statistically we know that women who participate in collegiate athletics have a greater chance of professional success.”

Sarah Andersen, director of the foundation, said the group is vital as it provides support for aspiring student-athletes.

“The GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation is necessary because it provides scholarship opportunities for aspiring collegiate athletes,” said Anderson, who has worked with Nowlan since 2015. “We believe our focus on grit is essential for creating the future generation of confident women.”

But, the GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation isn’t just offering a yearly scholarship. The group also plans to host events for San Diego’s young athletes.

“We hope to host events called ‘Get Gritty’ events where teens spend a day workshopping, hearing inspirational speakers and learning about the grit they have inside of themselves to empower them to use it,” Nowlan said. “We hosted a Get Gritty Cleveland event and sold out with 180 girls attending. The biggest takeaway for the young women who attended this event is that they learned that failure can be the best lesson in life, and it is what you do with that failure that can build your strength and confidence.”

Active in the community, Nowlan has worked for the Boys & Girls Club in Solana Beach and volunteered for San Diego Sport Innovators and Junior League, prior to launching GRACEDBYGRIT. Through it all, she’s been motivated by her two daughters, 17-year-old Gwen and 19-year-old Maggi.

“They have absolutely influenced every decision I have made the last 19 years and in particular, starting the foundation,” Nowlan said. “I am on a mission for young women to become strong and independent women and hope that when they join the workforce, they never face a glass ceiling and are treated equally.”

For more information about the GRACEDBYGRIT Foundation or to apply for the scholarship, go to