There are two things Jackie Gross feels passionately about — art and athletics. The former varsity runner at Michigan State with a degree in apparel and textile design loves to talk about both. It’s what drives her, what brings her joy and what makes this energetic 20-something ready to take on the business world.
Jackie has brought her two passions together at UR Sportswear, working to make good-looking athletic wear which responds to the needs of women.
“I started out as psychology major because I love talking to people and meeting them, but I missed taking art,” Jackie said. “I realized I needed art to be part of life to feel I was whole as a person. Also, I love sports. I love a challenge of any kind. I love to push myself. That grew into this idea of sportswear . I thought there were a lot of things not being addressed. It wasn’t about the athletes but about how a company can make apparel the cheapest and fastest way. I wanted more interaction with the athlete and that’s what UR Sportswear is all about.”
The idea came and Jackie got to work gathering experience. After graduating from Michigan State, she worked at a small retail store in Detroit for seven months. She then took to the road and decided to check out Los Angeles as a possible site to launch her sportswear company. But the feel was off. In the bigness of L.A. she was just another person with another idea. There was no personal connection. She then went to Northern Michigan as an assistant track and field coach. The work was fine, but it wasn’t her passion and balancing coaching and a business launch wasn’t the best fit, either. She wanted to devote time to creating her own company. After several rounds of surveys where she asked women what they liked and disliked about their sportswear, she started to hone in on the issues of both fit, functionality and fashion.
But then came a call from Alaska. Jackie had applied for a seasonal job at cannery and got the job. She put her business plan on hold for three months to live in Alaska where she learned more about the fishing industry than she ever really cared to, and made an important discovery.
“I was working in a office 16 hours a day every day for three months with no days off,” Jackie said. “I was fueled by that. I got really excited to start this. The whole time I was up there all I could think about was how much I really wanted this company to work out. It made me really driven. I am not going to fail. This is going to happen.”
Her hope is to create a production house in Michigan to create jobs in her home state and to keep control of the production close by — a key for Jackie since her business model is to be responsive to her customers. The idea is solid — a sportswear company that responds to the needs of the athlete. Seriously, what I wouldn’t give to have a pair of shorts that made me feel strong and sleek and didn’t give me chaffing issues.
Even more inspiring than the prospect of cute, good-fitting running shorts, is Jackie’s attitude. She has a passion and a vision. Jackie is creating something that is a perfect extension of who she is — an artist and an athlete who loves meeting people. She loves life and takes the most of each opportunity that’s in front of her. Hearing her story inspires me. What is it I want to create? Is it big and scary? So what. Sometimes you just need to sit with your dreams, listen to your passion and go for it.
Check out Jackie’s Kickstarter video. Maybe you’ll want to be an investor as she starts to turn her passion into reality. Maybe you’ll be inspired to kick start your own project. But after some time with Jackie, I remember that no dream is too crazy.