Henry apparel company wins national competition
Henry County-based RaesWear LLC still may be a startup, but it already has gotten a nod of approval from one of the nation’s top sports apparel companies.
RaesWear creates athletic wear with waistbands designed to store keys, phones and other personal items. The company won the $50,000 grand prize at the Future Show Innovation Challenge sponsored last fall by Baltimore-based Under Armour. RaesWear technology also will be incorporated into future Under Armour products, says Laurin Wolf, a spokesperson for the company.
From 2,000 applicants, RaesWear was one of 10 companies picked to participate in the challenge at Under Armour’s headquarters.
“The prize money has been fantastic because our business is completely self-funded, so it’s nice to be able to reinvest that money,” says Leigh Cockram, who launched RaesWear in December 2014 with her husband, James. In addition to running the company, she is director of research and business development at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.
Most of the money from the competition, Leigh Cockram says, has been used to legally protect RaesWear’s business concept. It has been issued one utility patent and has three other patents pending, she says.
Cockram came up with the idea for RaesWear more than three years ago when she was head of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, an economic development group. While on a business trip, she wanted a place to store personal items while on a run but she didn’t want to carry a fanny pack or belt. That experience inspired her to design a waistband-pocket for workout pants that differed from attire on the market.
“At first it was just for me,” Leigh says of the idea. “Then I started thinking, ‘If I need this, and it worked so well for me, other people are going to need it.’ ”
She made product prototypes and then hired a designer to make the pocket functional and aesthetically appealing.
Today, RaesWear sells shorts, capris, tights, pants as well as “skorts” and “skapris,” skirts with built-in shorts or capris. The products, which range from $35-$60, are sold on RaesWear.com. Eventually, RaesWear also plans to license its technology to other companies.
RaesWear’s merchandise is made in Martinsville at Mollies Originals, a sewing and embroidery firm. RaesWear sources fabrics through Solid Stone Fabrics in Martinsville and Kendor Textiles in Canada.
In addition to winning the Under Armour competition, RaesWear also received a $1,200 website development grant through Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.’s Small Business Division.
RaesWear redesigned its website in October, a move Cockram says has really paid off.
“We’ve been very pleased with sales volume, and it’s increased month over month,” she says.