Kristi Wozniak, mother of 3 children aged 4, 7 and 14, founded Keylime Athletic Wear 5 years ago this October. She juggles her responsibilities of being a parent and owning and maintaining a business with learned ease. It seems that after 5 years, she has struck the right balance.
While her original intent for Keylime was for it to become a wholesaler of Canadian-made yoga wear, the company shifted into manufacturing almost immediately after Kristi was confronted with the simple, usually unspoken reality of athletic wear: It can be damn hard to find if you fit larger than a medium, and near impossible if you’re a size large or higher. Even harder was it to find options that are trendy, well made and up to the standard demanded by the entrepreneur. Seeking to fill that need, Keylime provides stylish work out wear options for women between sizes XS and XL, children and is slowly growing its line for men.
Kristi speaks passionately of the customers with whom she has a chance to interact with on the floor of the flagship retail location in her home town of Sherwood Park, Alberta. She credits much of her personal success and that of the company to the fact that they are constantly receiving feedback from their customers, and the reactions to the wider range of sizes available has been inspiring. It is a radical concept for many women to be able to walk into a store sans judgement and buy a pair of yoga pants that fit and look great. She is exhilarated by their stories and their determination to maintain active lifestyles and participate in the activities that they enjoy even in a cultural climate that seems, ridiculously, to expect people (women in particular) to be a certain size before they dare to jog, do yoga or to dance.
“The customers come in and tell us their stories, their journeys of becoming active, and clothing is a big part of that. It’s really emotional. We can help them to feel more comfortable, more motivated to become healthy and active,” says Kristi. “It’s more than just clothing with Keylime; we want to help our customers look good and feel good about themselves.”
Most of the pieces are made of a Supplex blend or bamboo fabric. Supplex is a traditional sweat-wicking, quick-drying athletic material. They have chosen to use bamboo for its exceptional softness and wearability. It’s also great for travelling, in that it doesn’t hold wrinkles as much as cotton or linen.
Keylime’s range of sizes and fabric choices aren’t the only thing that sets the store apart – everything they carry is manufactured in Canada and, as such, any customer can be assured that it was made under ethical and safe working conditions.
Kristi herself is involved in the design process from start to finish. While at the beginning there was a long period of trial and error, she has settled into a routine and learned some valuable lessons along the way. The founder reflects on being burned by handshake deals in the past and says that she has trained herself to see each contract from all sides, and to determine how everyone involved stands to benefit. While she says she has not become less trusting in her personal life, she has certainly learned some business savvy the hard way.
When asked what her advice for young female entrepreneurs would be, she recommends taking a un-idealistic and pragmatic approach. In her experience, many do not understand just how much work it takes to run a business successfully enough to pay the bills, let alone to pay yourself a salary. Kristi recommends crunching the numbers and taking special care to make sure your plan is realistic.
She laughs as she describes how difficult it was to also learn how to delegate. Understandably, she’s protective of every aspect of her business, from marketing to the sales floor, but she has come to understand that she can’t do it all herself.
“I wanted to do everything, but I couldn’t, so one of the biggest challenges was learning who you can delegate to, teaching them how things should be done, and setting them up for success with proper practice in place,” she says.
Their rep program is an example of how Kristi’s putting this worthwhile lesson to use. This project was initiated last year. The rep program now boasts 65 Keylime representatives across Canada. Each rep hosts parties and trunk sales and attends trade shows to show off the goods and build relationships with current and future customers. While their products are available in a few other retail stores, it is important to Kristi that the clothing is not lost on a shelf and that anyone responsible for selling the product is fluent in the corporate language of body positivity and not only knowledgeable, but excited about what sets Keylime apart from the crowd. A rep program was a logical choice and seeing it grow is a major goal of the company’s creator, who plans on expanding with more reps across the country and eventually the United States.
As Keylime turns 5 years old, Kristi seems to be looking forward to everything that the next 5 years bring. While there are no plans on the horizon for her to open a second retail location, she hopes that the rep program continues to grow and eventually to offer franchise options for interested entrepreneurs who want to run their own store.
The work-out wear company is slowly becoming a regional staple and it is easy to see why. Exercise is an important part of many of our lives, and deciding on a locally, ethically made and owned product that is also stylish and affordable seems an obvious choice.
For more information on Keylime Canada, their products or their rep program, visit their website here.