Naples resident Natalie Zellers had had enough: “As soon as I’m done with this workout, I’m going to get on the computer and find a towel that stays around your neck,” she thought to herself.
She was on her Peloton stationary bike, tired of wiping her sweat with her shirt or retrieving her towel when it fell off the handlebars. “You’d have to unclip your cleats [to pick it up], so it was a pain.”
But she couldn’t find anything on the market to fix the problem. “So, I thought to myself, well, if this is something I want, maybe I should create it. And that was that.”
That was in January 2019. In November of last year, Zellers officially launched her website for The Gym Bib, a lightweight, moisture-wicking towel that fastens around your neck to keep you dry during workouts.
Zellers had started a business before (a graphic design company she’s run with a friend since college), but it’s her first time in the retail market. She’s enlisted some help along the way, like Prototype House in Miami, which created the technical drawings she sent to a manufacturer to design the product. “I want to say I went through four to five rounds of samples before I got it exactly where I wanted it,” she says.
Since the product didn’t exist before, Zellers needed to protect her idea. “I didn’t say anything to anyone other than my family until I had a patent application in,” she says. Zellers went with The Plus IP Firm in Miami to help her with legalities, like trademarking the towel’s name.
When the product was ready to go public, Zellers had Naples advertising agency IMA Creative steer its social media accounts. “I had people reaching out to me before the website launched, so I thought as soon as the website went up, it was going to be sales like crazy.” But, “That’s not how it works, and I’m quickly finding out that I need to get out there more.”
Zellers strives to spread the word about The Gym Bib daily, including selling the product at local events. In November 2019, she participated in a Sip & Shop event at iBrows and Beauty in Naples and did more than $300 in sales in less than two hours. “Almost everyone who came in bought [The Gym Bib] and thought it was such a good idea,” she says.
Zellers is also fine-tuning her business plan and could potentially bring in outside investors, as she has big goals for the one-of-a-kind product. (Right now she’s self-funding it.)
“My dream is to see The Gym Bib on Peloton instructors,” Zellers says. Eventually, she’d like to see it in mass retail stores. “I have big plans for this, and I’m going to keep at it.”
The feedback Zellers has received tells her she’s on the right path.
“I get messages from people who have bought [The Gym Bib], and it makes me so happy to share the product with them. It’s so convenient, and I feel like once you have it, you can’t live without it.”