What does It Bandz do? Tell us about your entrepreneurial product or service.
ItBandz for Knees are patellar knee bands worn below the kneecap and were designed from the ground up for women and girls whose active lifestyles become impeded due to knee pain. ItBandz for Knees provide superior support, comfort and style while alleviating knee pain so that people can continue to do the exercises and activities they love. Three primary customer segments have emerged for ItBandz:
1) Active women from the ages of 35 to 55 who suffer from knee pain.
2) Seniors who suffer from arthritis in their knees.
3) Sporty youth who have Osgood-Schlatters, which is a growth syndrome that causes their bones to grow more quickly than the ligaments and tendons that leaves the knee unsupported.
What inspired you to launch It Bandz?
I decided to train for a sprint triathlon even though I didn’t run, cycle, or swim. It turns out that I love to run and bike but I am a terrible swimmer! I became an avid runner and soon completed my first half marathon. The downside was that I found that my knees really began to hurt as I increased my miles. I tried a lot of braces but none of them did what I wanted them to do. The idea for ItBandz emerged out of my own desire to wear a brace that was comfortable, stayed in place, and provided optimal support for my knees.
I was out on a rainy Seattle afternoon run when the patellar band that I was wearing fell off my leg and into a puddle on the road. I ran back to get it, thoroughly annoyed and getting wetter by the moment, picked it up off the ground and said to myself, “I can build a better band than this!!!” I stood there for a moment as I realized that yes, I could put my 20 years of product development experience to work and create a better band. I ran home at top speed, and after doing market and competitive research, realized that there was nothing in the market that was designed for women.
Women demand functionality, comfort and style – I knew I could deliver on all three. My next step was to get the product concept out of my head and into the real world. I signed up for sewing lessons, a skill set well outside my wheelhouse! I lucked out and took sewing lessons from a spunky, retired Microsoft program manager who introduced me to the women I worked with to turn my very rough prototypes into working prototypes and ultimately created the design and pattern for manufacturing.
The customer feedback from ItBandz is amazing and is what keeps me going. One Saturday last November, I took a break from selling ItBandz at local running races and instead ran a 10K with a friend. Nearing the end of the race we passed a woman who was wearing ItBandz. I gave her a shout out of encouragement along with a “Yay, ItBandz!” Her response was, “Thank you! ItBandz are a life changer!” It brings me tremendous personal satisfaction to be working on a product that delivers such value to women.
Every time I sell ItBandz at running events, I end up getting a sweaty hug or two from women who come back to thank me because they had their best race ever without any knee pain. Since my early twenties I have been passionate about business and supporting women. My first job out of university was a Small Business Advisor in the US Peace Corps where I worked with women’s groups who were creating income-generating projects in Kenya. In some ways, I have come full circle with ItBandz and once again I’m focused on providing value to women with a product that improves their lives.
What problem does It Bandz solve?
ItBandz provides the next generation of knee support for today’s active lifestyles. According to the Huffington Post, over 47% of Americans suffer from chronic knee pain, caused by patellar tendonitis, IT Band Syndrome, pronated feet, arthritis in the knee, Osgood-Schlatter’s Syndrome, prior injuries, and carrying excess weight. Women are more prone to knee pain than men, yet the current products in the marketplace are bulky, uncomfortable and unattractive.
What has been your biggest challenge starting It Bandz and how are you working to overcome it?
After spending twenty years building a career in the mobile industry, one of the biggest hurdles I’ve encountered with ItBandz is entering the sports/fitness industry. I’ve had to start from scratch when it comes to relationships and understanding the process of this industry. I have no reputation or connections to support me in identifying the right resources, or to assist with securing meetings with buyers and fitness industry influencers. It has been a humbling experience to have to call and email someone twenty or more times before getting any response. To overcome this, I’ve gotten extremely creative and have drawn deep from a reserve of perseverance that I didn’t know I had.
Give us one word that people might use to describe you.
What milestone do you hope It Bandz will have surpassed one year from now?
A year from now I hope that ItBandz will be partnering with a strong female fitness brand like Athleta or Lucy, so that we can reach even more women who suffer from knee pain.
How has Project Eve helped you and orIt Bandz?
Project Eve inspires me to keep believing that women can make a difference in communities and our chosen industries through our businesses. It’s encouraging to read the stories from other women who are struggling with the same things that I am: lack of resources, how to grow, how to provide our customers with the best solutions, how to compete as women in male dominated industries, and most importantly how to keep the faith.
Give us an insider tip that relates to your industry or the startup story for It Bandz
I call myself a Fitness Entrepreneur and am new to this industry. Therefore, my tip is related to product design and development, an area in which I have twenty years of experience.
My TIP: Always design to meet a customer need. If you are solving a problem for someone, then you will ultimately be successful with your product. On the flip side, even the hottest new idea will be very hard to take to market if you are not clearly meeting a customer need. It’s important to gather customer/user feedback as you develop your product so you don’t lose sight of who you’re creating it for.
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