Brilliance is often born out of simplicity. It takes a certain level of awareness coupled with courage and tenacity to take an idea and make it a reality. Luckily, Maya Kaminsky embodies each of these characteristics. She took the steps to fill a gap in the fitness and Maya went from being a masters student, part-time nanny and aerobics instructor to a charitable entrepreneur and owner of W8Fit Activewear.
While teaching an aerobics class, Maya recognized that her students’ movement was limited when weights were added to the workout. Maya saw a problem and set out to create a solution. Maya’s answer to the problem was simple, stylish, and functional. She added hidden weights into workout garments, et voila, W8Fit Activewear was born. Maya’s mission is not only to create beneficial workout gear, but a healthy lifestyle brand built upon strong moral values. A strong, charitable, and healthy entrepreneur is our favorite kind of woman!
Name: Maya Kaminsky
Educational background: Bachelor of Science Degree Kent State University (Major: Fashion Merchandising, Minor: Business Administration), Master of Arts in Teaching, National Louis University
Current title/company: Owner / W8FIT Activewear
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
International Allocation Analyst for Claire’s Stores Inc. I was teaching over 12 fitness classes a week and also knew I wanted to be a part of the fashion industry. I had a friend who worked there and recommended I apply.
What were you doing when you decided to start W8Fit?
I was finishing my masters in education and working as a part time nanny and aerobic instructor. I was a busy girl. The idea came to me when I was teaching an abs class and some of my students asked me if I could make the class more challenging. So I told them all to get a set of weights and hold one with their hands and one with their feet. Turns out they were limited in movement because they were holding on to weights. That’s when I was inspired to design weighted workout clothes for women and came up with W8FIT.
How do you feel your life as an aerobic instructor helped you in creating your business model. Any ways in which it held you back?
I’ve been teaching for 12 years and in that time, I have tested every kind of active wear on the market. Having that experience helped me to understand what I was looking for in style, construction, and quality for W8FIT.
No hold back here. Being an aerobic instructor is part of who I am and is the perfect compliment to my business model.
What advice do you have for someone going about starting their own business?
You can always figure out what you need. I knew absolutely nothing about product development, manufacturing, marketing, website development, social media, how to patent a new product, and much more. That didn’t stop me. I googled everything, hired out what I couldn’t do, and talked to everybody to see if I can make any helpful connections. Don’t stop yourself from pursuing an idea because there are road blocks. If there is a will inside you, you can find a way to achieve your business goals.
To begin your business, how did you go about ascertaining a loan? What advice would you give to someone starting a business needing that same type of funding? Did you have any difficulties in the area?
I just finished my masters when I started my company so I had about $1,000 in my bank account and over $40,000 of student loans to repay. I researched Illinois small business guidance and found the Ilinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Duman Entrepreneurship Center in Illinois. We put together a business plan that was presented to a team of investors. In only a few short weeks, I obtained a $15,000 start up loan. You don’t have to be rich to move forward with your fabulous new idea, you just have to try. I ran out of money quick because manufacturers have minimums and in order to reach those amounts I had to start with large inventories. I was short about $15,000. To raise the remaining amount needed, I put W8FIT on Kickstarter, an online funding platform used to raise money for creative projects. I surpassed my goal and launched my website a week after.
Tell us about the process of designing your products.
I have a very creative mind but I knew that I had to start with basic pieces so women would understand the weighted concept behind the clothing. First I drew the samples on paper and eventually put the images into photoshop so I could play with details and colors. Next I sewed my first sample. This was a learning experience and I quickly found how important attention to detail is. It took me 6 months to get the samples right and to assemble my production team. I finally achieved my goal of mass production. WOOHOO! I am proud of the finished product which is made in Chicago and available to purchase worldwide.
How did you go about making W8Fit stand out from other workout gear?
W8FIT is the only activewear on the market that has hidden pockets designed to hold weights. The weights are also completely revolutionary from what is out there today. They are small, thin, bendable, and easily concealable.
All W8Fit gear is available online. W8Fit’s online presence also includes a blog with living well tips. Why did you think this was a necessary feature to include?
W8FIT is not only a clothing line, it is a lifestyle. I am an experienced aerobic instructor and personal trainer with a plethora of fitness tips. I created the blog to give women a place to go to get exposed to new ideas about fitness and nutrition.
Tell us about the W8Fit Foundation. Why did you think it was important to donate some of your profit to charity, especially when your business just recently took off?
A company built on strong moral values is important to me. I knew I would always want to donate to charity as my business grows, so why not give people the opportunity now.
You recently moved to Florida and have most of your inventory with your parents in Chicago. How important is it for you and for your business to have this kind of support? Where else have you received help for your business? How important is it to actively seek out this kind of support when starting a new venture?
My family is incredibly supportive and will do anything in their power to help me succeed. My mom fills the orders and takes special care of each package with a personalized note for each customer. I also received help from The Duman Center who gave me the tools and financial support to help start my business.
All you have to do is ask, people are very helpful if you give them the chance. The biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make is try to do everything themselves.
You’ve had great success with W8Fit thus far. What’s been the best moment you’ve had with the business?
June 11, the day I launched my website, Daily candy included W8FIT in their 2012 health and wellness guide and that lit a fire. Later that day, Bobbie Thomas, the style expert from The Today Show called me and asked to feature W8FIT on the Today Show that Friday. It was the day before my 29th Birthday. What a great surprise!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from building a business from the ground up?
There are many obstacles in manufacturing but each one is a learning opportunity. Put faith in the people around you and most importantly yourself.
How would you like to see W8Fit grow as a brand?
I would love to see W8FIT become the next Lululemon or Under Armour. I want women to come to W8FIT because of the amazing quality of the clothes and the added benefits of resistance training. On top of growing the brand, I would love to give back. My dream would be to see every woman walking in the Susan G Komen 3 day walk wearing the hot pink wrist cuffs. And know that 50% of the sales went to charity.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Live life to the fullest, say yes, and work out, but when you are presented with a chance or opportunity, take full advantage and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.