Emma Vollrath only has a few college classes to go before she graduates, but she already has a bubbling business selling workout clothes.
Vollrath, a senior studying business, said she started Emma Lou in 2019 to make leggings, sports bras and shorts that make women feel comfortable and stylish.
Just a few weeks into working as a personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, she decided to combine her interest in clothing and skin care to make yoga sets that "sculpt and sweat." So she made her first prototype, using her own materials to sew a set that she wore around the house.
"I realized this is an idea I can monetize. I began to build Emma Lou," she said.
She quickly dove headfirst into larger-scale manufacturing and got in touch with someone who could replicate what she had created. She designed her clothing with health benefits in mind and landed on a fabric with nylon and spandex with a tight fit that helps you sweat. The sweat your body creates releases toxins and reduces inflammation.
But just as her brand began to crystalize, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"Going into the factory and seeing your designs in person wasn’t an option, so everything had to be done through FaceTime," Vollrath said. "I was sourcing materials — down to the needle and thread — all through my phone screen trying to get it done in time for the season." And it worked; Emma Lou had its Fall/Winter capsule release in 2020.
Vollrath is already working on her next line, calling it "trendy and innovative," which she said will be released throughout next year.
"When she locks in on her passion, she has this ability to lock in and focus on an objective," said Vollrath's aunt, Nancy Heil. "It's like she sees things a few steps ahead."
Emma’s friend since childhood, Alia Insignares, said she "has grown into a different person — an independent woman" since starting her brand.
"She let her artistic vision come to life," Insignares said. "I think it's very impressive."
Her mother, Dina Vollrath, agreed and said she's very proud of how Emma Lou has developed and her daughter's resilience.
"It doesn't matter how many noes she keeps getting," Dina Vollrath said. "She'll keep going until she gets a yes."
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