Two Teens KickStart “Wotter”–A Girls’ Swim Parka

 

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  Becca and Niki, swim entrepreneurs

If you’re not a swimmer or a swim parent, you may not know about the swim parka. It’s a big, warm comfy thing that swimmers wear when it’s cold outside. In the swimming world, swimmers wear parkas to meets and practice so that when they jump out of the pool they can be covered up from head to ankle.

I spoke with two high school girls, Niki and Becca who entered a school entrepreneurial competition and won $250 with their girl’s empowerment parka. The idea behind the parka is that it’s more fashionable than the current unisex parka, it’s lightweight and has special details that girls will like. Here’s a photo:WotterSwimParka

 

The girls were smart, articulate and have a KickStarter campaign to get their project off the ground. They attend a private school in North Carolina called the Cary Academy and swim for the school’s team. I was very impressed with both girls and how far they’ve taken this project. To date, they have raised close to $12,000 and have endorsements from three Olympic swimmers, Kara Lynn Joyce, Annamay Pierse and JR DeSouza.

The name of their company is Wotter, based on the sleek and fast otter, plus water. Nicki’s mom is CEO of their company and they thanked her for all her hard work. Her background is in marketing, and she’s been instrumental in getting a prototype developed and getting the word out through newspapers, blogs and TV.

On their KickStarter page, you’ll find their motto: “Designed BY girl swimmers FOR girl swimmers Wotter Girl’s Swim Parka is a cloak of confidence and comfort for the female swim athlete.”

“We set out to create Wotter to empower girls like us (and you!) to stay in swimming AND to raise awareness that more female swim coaches are needed to create strong role models for young girls. Hopefully, we will also inspire more girl entrepreneurs to make their ideas a reality – creating this company and going through the KickStarter process has been an AMAZING experience for both of us!”

I hope they succeed, but I do have a couple questions after talking to several D1 scholarship swimmers about the girl empowerment parka. First, swim parkas are a small niche market and no one I talked with had a problem with the existing parkas. Then, by targeting only women, the parka market is sliced in half.

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My daughter and friends in their team parkas.

 

According to Becca and Niki, their parka has the following features:

“We added things that the current models don’t have:

  • Oversized hood for ponies and top knots
  • Big zipper pulls easier for smaller, wet hands to grab
  • Less bulk, easier to wear
  • A wrap and snap feature to make it easy to put into a swimbag
  • Feminine lines and styling
  • Lots of other considerations, like secret pockets for iphones and headphones, big, deep pockets to warm your hands, venting and breathable fabrics…”Parka

Niki and Becca mentioned Jolyn to me and how that swimsuit company took off and became literally an overnight success. The difference I see with Jolyn, is that it solved a problem, namely it’s a So Cal company and it addressed the need to have a suit that stayed on in ocean waves. Traditional bikinis have bottoms or tops that can come off, and the crotch fills up with sand. Jolyn came up with a product that was attractive, comfortable and secure. Also, in Southern California, most pools are outside and swimmers practice in one piece suits. They are embarrassed about their suit tans and “white tummies” when they put on a bikini and head to the beach. Jolyn suits are worn at practice so swimmers can tan at practice.

Here’s the Jolyn motto:

WHO WE ARE

At Jolyn we specialize in making good lookin’ athletic gear for the things we like to do. We like the water, we like being active, and we like having fun! Each and every product we create is brought to life with those ideas at their core. Oh and one more big one… We make stuff for the women who inspire us.

Whether you’re an Olympian or an Olympic caliber sunbather, our stuff is the stuff for you.

The Wotter parka is attractive and I especially like that it is lighter weight and can fit into a swim bag. I don’t know what coaches will think about the parka, though. Most parkas are purchased in team colors with the team’s name displayed. It’s a one-time, more than $100 purchase, which lasts literally forever. We still have the swim parkas my kids wore when they were in elementary school and now I wear them to practice. My kids never outgrew them and now my daughter wears her college-provided parka. Will parents buy an optional parka for their girls, because they’re cute? I think they will if their daughters want them enough and they become popular. I also see adult women wanting the parkas because of the style. They wouldn’t be restricted with team colors or a coach telling them what to wear. Niki and Becca said the parka is the first product they’re introducing and they hope to add more athletic wear targeted to girls.

Swim ParkaGood luck to Nicki and Becca! It will be fun to track their progress and see how far Wotter goes.

What’s your opinion of swim parkas designed by girls for girls?

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Supporting your kids’ entrepreneurial spirit

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I believe these kids can do anything if they work hard and believe.

In an article by Melody Hahm from Yahoo Finance called “Parents want their teens to be entrepreneurs — but teens don’t want to” a majority of parents are ready to support their kids’ starting their own businesses. With our own kids, my husband and I express the same view. We encouraged our kids’ entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Our son had interesting ideas and although he didn’t come up with a multi-million dollar start-up or app in high school like we’d hoped so he could buy us a beach house, he did work through high school as a tutor and website developer.

During a recent weekend together, we were brainstorming with him about start-ups. We had an enjoyable time playing “shark-tank” during a drive up to the mountains, coming up with a dozen practical as well as ridiculous ideas. I’m doubtful he’ll be starting a business anytime soon, but we hope someday he might.

We’re also encouraging our daughter to consider starting up a business after she’s gained some work experience. She’s creative and creates handmade gifts for her friends and family like mosaic picture frames, hand-painted gift boxes and wall hangings. 

She reminds me of a friend, who’s a fellow parent and introduced our kids to mosaics during their elementary school years. This friend has a business called Hippy Sister Soap Company, LLC and her gorgeous products can be found in catalogues, on line and in stores across the country.

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Gorgeous soaps from the Happy Sister Soap Company, LLC website.

 

Here are some interesting facts from the Yahoo Finance article with a survey from Junior Achievement:

Eighty-eight percent of parents would be extremely or very likely to support their teens becoming entrepreneurs when they grow up. In contrast, a mere 30% of teens say they want to start a business, according to a new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) and EY.

They surveyed 1,007 parents of children ages 13-17 and 1,005 13- to 17-year-olds. 

“Parents are seeing entrepreneurship as an exciting opportunity, especially because it’s embraced by society. While kids aren’t showing as much interest, this may change as parents encourage them to take risks,” said Ed Grocholski, Senior Vice President, Junior Achievement.

In 2013, startup activity was at its lowest point in the last 20 years. It has gone up for three consecutive years, nearly reaching the peak before the drop during the Great Recession, according to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship.

Plus, hit shows like “Silicon Valley” and “Shark Tank” make the idea of starting a company accessible and entertaining, at least for parents. And young founders like Facebook’s (FB) Mark Zuckerberg and Snap’s (SNAP) Evan Spiegel have hatched small ideas into publicly traded companies.

Thirty-one percent of teens said their primary concern is that starting a business is “too risky.” Twenty-one percent said that there’s “not enough money in it.” Only 16 percent of teens indicate they have no concerns about trying.

Conversely, 53% of parents have no concerns about their teen starting a business as an adult.

“I do think there’s something to be said about being a risk taker and trying new things. Employers hire people with entrepreneurial mindsets. It’s not just about starting a business,” said Grocholski.

JA is trying to help young students make smart economic choices and realize the breadth of opportunities they have. The nonprofit reaches nearly 5 million students every year in 109 markets across the US. Grocholski said it’s his mission to support teens and continue to encourage parents to take the road less traveled.

We as parents see the world as wide open and believe that our kids can do anything. However, if we’ve been helicopter parents and made a practice of doing too much for our kids, they may lack the interest or belief in themselves as a consequence of our actions.

Also, there are so many studies and stories out there that the millennial generation is not doing the adventurous and often risk-taking things we did as kids. It will be interesting to see where they end up.

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We’ll support our kids in whatever they decide to do.

Why do you think that kids today aren’t interested in being an entrepreneur?