Clothiers Denise Antoniadis and Lisa Podlipnik are making some racket at more than 50 U.S. stores by solving a sportswear conundrum for tennis-playing women: figure-flattering pants that have hidden pockets for tennis balls.
The idea for the pants came to Antoniadis on a nippy night in Granite Bay when she was playing a league match: “I looked up and down the court, and all these women were stuffing tennis balls in their bras. It was the funniest thing to see.”
The women were wearing pants, but they were the tapered variety that hugged curves and gave no quarter to pockets. Antoniadis discovered many women who were frustrated that their stylish apparel wasn’t very functional. It prompted her to team up with Podlipnik on a new apparel business, Passionit LLC, in early 2012.
By December of that year, they introduced their BPassionit pants in six local stores. They sold out quickly. Today, the BPassionit clothing line includes not only the pant but also camisoles, racerback tops, pullovers, leggings and sports shorts. At the request of junior tennis player Jillian Taggart, whom they sponsor, they also added a line of Jillian boy shorts.
All the shorts, leggings and pants have pockets. Indeed, last year, the original BPassionit pant added a hidden pocket in front to hold a cellphone or keys.
Antoniadis and Podlipnik began pushing to expand sales outside the Sacramento region in 2013. Their apparel is now sold in the Bay Area, Southern California, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, and on their website, www.bpassionit.com. So far, every dollar of profit is being poured into business growth. The duo have faced plenty of rejection, they said, but they also have learned that a “no” on the phone can turn into a “yes” in a store.
For instance, on a sales trip to Southern California, Podlipnik said, they called on a retailer who told them over the phone he was too busy to see them. They dropped by anyway, and he was jammed. They waited – and waited – and waited. When he was finally free, Antoniadis said, he told them firmly: “I’m not taking any new brands.” She pulled out the shorts and said: “If there’s one thing that will sell, it will be the shorts, and I tell you what, I’ll leave you a mailing envelope with our return address.”
He started stuffing the shorts in the envelope, Podlipnik said, but then he relented and told them he would give them a chance. That was a Saturday. The following Monday, he called Antoniadis and said: “You weren’t lying. My customers loved them.”
New CEO for iSnap
The Sacramento startup known as iSnap announced that technology industry veteran Bob Whitson will be its new chief executive officer and that it has raised slightly more than $1 million in its first round of venture capital financing.
“The funds from that will really build the sales and marketing team and continue growing the business,” Whitson said. With iSnap, people can share real-time experiences with their social network of friends online. Founders Alex Lowe and Dat Tau created a sleek photo station where individuals can snap a picture of themselves for free and then post it to Facebook or other sites.
Companies buy the photo stations, and then they can subscribe to a service that gives them email addresses, access to new Facebook followers or other data on people using their kiosk.
Investor Jim Schraith said: “We’re approaching having 500 systems installed worldwide. In the U.S. alone, we think there are probably 50,000 to 100,000 places that these things can go, so it’s a land grab.”
With Whitson’s hire, former CEO Lowe will now focus on creating the next generation of technology as iSnap’s chief technology officer. Tau remains its chief operating officer. The company has doubled its revenue for each of the last two years, Whitson said, and his goal is to maintain the growth to attract future investors. He and Schraith say they may go after a second round of venture funding as soon as the fourth quarter.
Whitson raised more than $30 million in venture capital as CEO of Sierra Logic. He sold that company to Emulex for $180 million in 2006. Since then, Whitson has been COO at Auburn’s ioSafe and CEO at Roseville-based Wijit.
Update on Taylor’s bike rack
Taylor’s Market, 2900 Freeport Blvd. in Sacramento, finally has a new bike rack to replace the one bowled over by a delivery truck in late March. Danny Johnson, the market’s owner, said it took a while to get a replica of exactly the same rack he had before. The installation took place last week, so the concrete has dried and the rack is ready for action.