The Problem With Female Workout Gear That This Woman Wants to Fix

workout clothes for women
Micki Krimmel of Los Angeles, Calif., launched a body-positive clothing line for athletes of all sizes. Photo by Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

Micki Krimmel never thought of herself as an athlete. Growing up, she always had her nose in a book.

Then 10 years ago, a friend took her to a roller derby match, and she became hooked —  on roller derby and on fitness. She didn’t get hooked on fitness as a way to get thin, but as a way to build self-confidence and strength.

Eventually, she launched a line of workout clothes for women based on her newfound passion and beliefs. In one year, it brought in $200,000.

Here’s her story.

The Problem With the Fitness Industry

Over the past decade, Krimmel’s life changed dramatically. She not only joined that roller derby team — Angel City, which ranks fourth in the world — but she became a trainer and started doing Crossfit.

Fitness “has been so transformative for me in just improving my confidence and making me the person I am,” she says.

So when the serial entrepreneur needed a new project in 2015, she knew it’d be in fitness.

“The messaging around fitness [for women] is almost universally about losing weight and being smaller and taking up less space,” she explains. “I wanted to build a company that talks about the positive side of fitness. That sort of turned that messaging around and made it more about empowering women.”

After some research, Krimmel soon discovered a huge gap in the market: None of the major fitness brands offered performance-oriented clothing above a size 12.

“I just felt like that was insane,” she explains, “because the average American woman is bigger than that.”

“They’re literally excluding the average American woman from fitness.”

workout clothes for women

Superfit Hero/Facebook

How She Turned Superfit Hero Into Reality

Determined to change that, Krimmel dove into the world of high-performance athletic gear.

“I just asked everyone I knew, in a huge range of sizes, ‘What do you want in a pair of leggings?’ ‘Which are your favorite?’ ‘Which are your least favorites, and why?’” she says.

Then, after creating a list of requirements, she started working with factories in her hometown of Los Angeles.

Luckily, her lack of experience in the fashion industry didn’t matter: “As long as you have an idea and you know what you’re looking for, they’ll translate that into patterns for you,” she explains.

Her background in tech actually proved to be quite useful: Throughout the design process, she asked athletes in a range of sizes to try the samples in real life. This constant feedback model, which tech firms often use, is rare in fashion — because “they’re not thinking about the performance,” according to Krimmel.

Her athletes tested the leggings during Crossfit, roller derby, weightlifting, yoga, running and even medieval combat training.

“My real test was like OK, if the leggings don’t fall down when women of all sizes are running, then I feel like I’ve nailed it,” she explains.

But all that testing didn’t come cheap or easy.

It took four months and $20,000 of savings Krimmel had earned from the 2013 sale of her first company, NeighborGoods.net — a platform for borrowing, renting and sharing household items with your neighbors.

She also raised $50,000 from friends and family, which covered all her other business expenses like legal fees and marketing.

Yes, these numbers sound huge and unattainable for most of us, but that doesn’t detract from the main point: Krimmel saw a problem — a problem she was passionate about solving — and created a company that provided an answer.

When she finally felt like her leggings were ready for the general public, she launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. It raised $55,000, which was enough to fund the first round of production for Superfit Hero.

In the year since, the company has grossed approximately $200,000. Krimmel still hasn’t paid herself a salary, but now that she’s finally found reliable production partners in LA, she believes she will soon.

“I’m going to get on a more regular schedule where I’m putting out small batches of new styles, every other month or so,” she says. “That’s going to get me on a much more regular, more predictable income.”

workout clothes for women

Micki Krimmel, a member of the roller derby team, Angel City, holds a pair of her skates. Photo by Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

Letting Superfit Hero Fly

Looking forward, Krimmel’s next goal is to expand her line of workout clothes for women beyond the small (but supportive) roller derby community. She appeared on Project Runway’s “Fashion Startup” and has been advertising online through Google and Facebook.

She’s also sponsored athletes who “don’t look like traditional athletes” — including roller derby superstar Lo Betancourt and weightlifting bronze medalist Sara Robles.

By creating athletic apparel in sizes for everyone, Krimmel wants to show “everybody has an athlete in there… and you don’t have to look a certain way or be competitive to gain access to those benefits.”

Everyone who tries Superfit Hero leggings falls in love, says Krimmel. “They’re like, ‘I’m never going back; I don’t want to wear any of my other leggings anymore.’”

And not only do they love the leggings, but perhaps, the leggings make them love themselves a little more.

Body positivity is really just about loving and respecting your own body and yourself for what it can do — and how it looks right now,” she explains. “You’re not constantly trying to change it.”

“It’s time to normalize what the female body looks like.”

Your Turn: What does body positivity mean to you? Do you like the look of Superfit Hero’s athletic apparel?

Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.