Bold women are a force to be reckoned with, declared Karah Jones, and they should never feel the need to hide who they are.
“Sometimes in this world it’s frowned upon for a female to be confident,” Jones, co-founder and CEO of Angel Competition Bikinis, said of her motivations for launching the Lenexa company — which produces high-end, custom-fit bikinis for fitness competitions — alongside her sister Lauren Beeves in 2013.
“We developed this company to make women feel confident on stage, not only on their show day — but in all the days leading up,” Jones said of the ultimate goal for the apparel startup.
Click here to shop the company’s custom bikini selection, which range in price from $140 to $475.
Angel Competition Bikinis has grown rapidly, the sisters said, noting they now manufacture about 5,000 custom bikinis a year with their small team. And it all began with one of Jones’ own personal experiences ordering a piece from an online retailer, she said.
“I’d done a competition and ordered [a bikini] online and realized it did not make me feel confident on stage. It did not fit, it was not custom made to my body and [the company] lacked customer service,” she said, detailing pain points Angel Competition Bikinis works to solve.
Quickly remedied by the startup: a lack of communication between designers, sellers and customers, Jones said.
At Angel Competition Bikinis, every customer receives a photo or video “update” regarding the status of their orders through every stage of production.
“Some of these women are in the gym three hours a day. It’s super motivating for them when they’re having kind of a disappointing day to get this message from us and see, physically, the suit that they’re going to be putting on,” she said, noting many competitors on strict diets have called the updates their “treat.”
“If you hit ‘Control F’ on our reviews page and type in, ‘updates’ there’s a lot of love,” she said, laughing. “It costs us a lot of labor hours to send those updates when we look at it from the grand scheme of things, but it’s all worth it.”
After nearly seven years in business, customer response has been overwhelming, Jones and Beeves noted, seated in a 6,500-square-foot building they bought in the heart of Lenexa, Kansas.
But the average eye shouldn’t be fooled, Jones said, noting their success so far didn’t come without struggle. The startup launched operations in an apartment with only one employee — the pair’s mom, Laura Beeves.
“We’re very fortunate,” Jones said, recalling the days before closing on their current location, which saw such challenges as the Small Business Administration delaying a payout to the company by six months.
“Everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but it was a great learning experience,” she said, comparing the business growth to preparing for a fitness competition: the harder the work, the greater the payoff.
“It’s very intense for anyone who’s done it. It’s a stressful but very rewarding experience,” Jones said of the similarities between body and business building.
“[Now] I put all of my passion into this business,” she added, noting both sisters are (mostly) former competitors in the sport.
With more than 10,000 customers around the world, Angel Competition Bikinis has evolved into a company that gives back, Jones noted, referencing the startup’s Suits for a Cause program, which supports charities handpicked by customers.
Click here to read more about Suits for a Cause.
An additional act of community engagement includes the Angel Fashion Show which puts the company’s work on public display and promotes health and wellness.
“It brings the community together and really shows the community that a strong woman is beautiful,” Jones noted of how the company’s mission intersects with promoting fitness. “We’re hoping that through the Angel Fashion Show, we can inspire and motivate those women or men to get out and go to the gym and it provides a great, entertaining show.”
Click here to buy tickets to the Angel Fashion Show at Arvest Bank Theatre in July.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn