Many of you know that I have collaborated with Borah Teamwear on a new line of triathlon gear. It’s been a dream come true.
In Mexico, much of my Miami Herald paycheck went to buying fabric and taking ideas scribbled on loose leaf paper to my sastre, Sergio, by the Toro Valenzuela off of Avenida Lopez Portillo in Cancun. He would take my visions and sew them into creations I would wear.
I hadn’t ever thought it was something I could actually do for a career or living. I can’t sew very well, I just recently learned what a croquis is and I never took a class on design or anything similar. I don’t even have a subscription to Vogue or any trendy fashion magazines.
So, how did this happen? How did I go from doing triathlons and training as a hobby to designing triathlon togs for a big name company?
While sitting in the conference room at Borah Teamwear recently, it suddenly hit me how it all began – cake.
I am having this wonderful “I can’t believe this is happening” experience all because of cake.
Rewind several years. Back when I was just staying at home with Isabella, I decided I wanted to do some cake decorating for fun, maybe even start a cake decorating business. I would make elaborate and fun cakes for family and friends and took some decorating classes locally. I even did two weddings – both were white cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream. I remember them well.
But here’s the problem. I love cake. I mean I really, really love cake. So, whenever I would make a cake, I would eat a lot of it, too.
At one of my doctor visits, my physician point blank told me I had to get healthier. My blood work was trending toward many not so good things like high cholesterol and diabetes. And, I honestly felt like crap in my own skin. I had added probably 40 or 50 pounds on my small frame and just doing daily things were exhausting.
Her talk with me scared me so much that I joined a gym and hired a trainer. That’s where I saw, hanging on the gym wall, a poster that Lara Beranek had put up, advertising her fundraising triathlon in a nearby city. I am not sure why, but triathlons have always intrigued me. I liked to swim, wasn’t a biker (but had a bike) and could barely run an eighth of a mile without wanting to throw up. But I wanted to do a triathlon.
I had also met Gina Arndt (AKA Gina #2) at the gym and we embarked on Couch 2 5K and began training for the sprint triathlon together.
We pretty much knew nothing about doing a triathlon. Our fuel on race day was a bag full of mini Snickers scarfed down in the locker room pre-swim. We also had no clue what to wear, so we all picked up matching pink yoga tops from TJMAXX a few days before the race.
The sprint wasn’t pretty and I finished dead last with the pace car behind me for the entire 5 km run. But, we finished.
And just like that, we were hooked.
While I had dropped some weight and was getting healthier, it was still hard to find cute tri gear that would fit me properly. There are some super adorable things on the market, but they are typically geared toward smaller folks.
My first SheRox triathlon in Pleasant Prairie I wore a men’s large plain black tri top. I later saw the pics from the race and immediately Kevin, my husband, inherited the top.
I tried many brands, but, still, my tops would ride up, exposing my belly. In aero, the race pics would be unflattering and a bit revealing. The skin under my arm would rub on my chest. My thighs would chafe. The list goes on. Even at my smallest race size, a six (in Old Navy shorts), I was still having these issues.
I found it interesting that somebody hadn’t addressed these kit problems.
So, I decided, if others can make a tri company and launch successful tri lines, why can’t I?
I sketched out some ideas, started investigating how to actually start and began telling my friends my plan.
One of my friends, Brian Kowalski, had just done a story on the Marathon County Entrepreneurial Resource Center. The center offers free help and mentoring to people thinking of starting a business. I have friends who have started very successful businesses through the center. Brian told me I should just go visit. What did I have to lose, he said.
So, I sat down with Romey Wagner, director of the center, told him my ideas and showed him my plans and why I thought this would make a good business.
He loved it.
So much so that he introduced me to a business in town who works with Bob Jacquart of the famed Stormy Kromer company in Ironwood, Michigan. Bob is an icon in the business world and I would soon find out, one of the nicest, smartest people you could ever hope to meet.
What makes this story a sort of “meant to be” tale is that my mom’s side of the family is from Ironwood. I love that area in the Upper Peninsula. My aunt and uncle also live a few blocks from the Stormy Kromer factory. Bob and Uncle John even raced track against each other in high school. It truly is a small world.
Bob generously offered to become my mentor and over the several times we met for coffee at Panera, some new ideas started to take shape. Instead of starting from scratch, Bob offered the thought that it might be worth investigating a collaboration with an already established and reputable company in the tri world. I hadn’t thought of that.
Bob knew just who to talk to – Chris Jackson at Borah Teamwear in Coon Valley, Wisconsin.
When I had hatched this idea, I needed a name for the line. I thought long and hard and came up with “Venganza”, which in Spanish means “revenge”. And, yes, it’s a strong word with a strong meaning behind it. Everybody knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.
I looked at it that it could mean to get revenge on the naysayers who said you couldn’t or shouldn’t do a triathlon, or revenge on a race, a distance, even on your own self doubt. That word, I think, digs deep into some primal thoughts and emotions.
Plus, saying it in Spanish, just sounds cool.
I was now in really uncharted territory. I was going to visit a company and pitch an idea. The only reference point I had was from watching Shark Tank. Again, what did I have to lose? The worst thing that I could hear would be, “Thank you but we aren’t interested.” But, what IF? What IF…”
So, I traveled the three hours west to Coon Valley, near LaCrosse.
I was immediately blown away by the gorgeous vistas of Coon Valley, the pristine and airy Borah factory (which by the way, is solar powered) and the down-to-earth genuine friendliness of the Borah staff.
After talking kits and what I had been thinking, Chris brought in his pattern developer and we started sketching and formulating ideas and thoughts.
And, just like that the Borah Teamwear Venganza line was born.
I left Borah that day and after driving a few miles down the road. I had to pull over on one of Vernon County’s quiet, winding back highways to capture all the emotions I was feeling.
Not only did Chris and his staff like my ideas, they understood the importance of making a kit that is comfortable and flattering for every athlete.
Since that day, the process has become more and more fun and interesting and I’ve loved every step of the way – from tweaking the prototypes to collaborating with Daniel, one of Borah’s talented artists, on the actual print designs, to talking marketing strategies with Ben, Tad and Chris.
But, the best day of all was when my first finished Veganza kit came by UPS. Borah’s products are 100% made in the USA. Their packages all arrive proudly with a bold US flag sticker on them.
I carefully opened the white package and pulled out the Venganza Cozumel Sol kit. I tried it on and honestly couldn’t have been any happier than I was at that moment. It was gorgeous. I had met all the staff at Borah and as I looked down, admiring, I could feel the love and care that went into the entire process making that kit for me.
And, in that instant I knew, I had my Venganza.
Written by Gina Cornell, brand ambassador and Venganza inspiration.
Original blog post from www.ironginsanity.wordpress.com