Zuma Blu founders see an opportunity to help prevent bullying
With her eye for fashion design and his entrepreneurial spirit, Lea and Brian Leopold of Plymouth have launched their own fitness apparel line Zuma Blu.
Inspired by their coastal years in California and the lack-luster style in cycling wear, the couple decided to dive into the market designing functional yet fashionable attire. The couple also desires to give back to the community by donating 10 percent of their annual proceeds to bully prevention programs, a cause near and dear to Lea.
Originally from Iowa, the couple met at Iowa State University. In the years after college, their careers took them from New York to California.
“That started our love affair with year-round exercise,” Lea said of moving to coastal California where they diving into hiking, biking and surfing as the both worked at Gap headquarters. ‘‘Life was pretty sweet,” Brian said. “We were livin’ the dream in California.”
After Brian graduated from business school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, the couple moved back to the Midwest to be closer to home. The name Zuma Blu came from the couple’s favorite Malibu beach.
Brian had fond memories of his family taking summer trips up to the lakes of Minnesota. “This was paradise,” said the Iowa native. The Twin Cities was also the nearest fashion hub for Lea to pursue her career while still being close to family.
As they looked around at the various cycling shops, the couple saw the apparel was consistent – skin-tight spandex with bright-colored logos. They wanted something that was fit for riding a bike without the “bike look.”For casual cyclists like themselves, they didn’t need to wear a jersey, Brian noted.
Additionally, they looked at the market and found every segment of the apparel industry was down, with the exception of athletic apparel.
The athleisure trend had yet to cross over into cycling, Brian noted.
Brian credits a number of factors, including a more health-conscience and active society, along with a consumer desire for comfort. “Women are wearing yoga pants around town, rather than denim,” Brian noted.
“We thought why don’t we provide the functionality of a cycling kit, but make it look like the yoga wear women want to wear?” Brian said.
Last year, they tested out their cycling-specific products and have since expanded their line.
From built-in pockets to high-rise cross-over waistband, “We put so much thought into the features built into this [line] based on the feedback from hundreds of women on what’s important to them,” Brian said.
“Anyone who is somewhat active can find something in our line, whether you’re just hanging out or running errands, or going for a run or doing yoga,” Lea said. “Clothing needs to suit a lot of different bodies, especially active wear,” Lea said, noting it needs to support one’s body, but also needs to make one feel confident and comfortable.
The couple also believes one needs have clothes for the specific sport as a form of motivation.
From shorts to tanks, Zuma Blu offers a variety of mix and match colors and designs. “We didn’t do a basic solid black on purpose,” Lea said, noting they are all custom-designed patterns.
While they started with a women’s line, the couple is working on a men’s line of shorts for the upcoming summer line.
Not only does the couple want their apparel to inspire people to live active lives, they also want to influence others through their own charitable giving.
As a mother of a toddler with another child on the way, Lea shared her story and inspiration to help prevent bullying in her own community. “I grew up in a small town and I had two years of pretty relentless bullying,” she said. “As a parent, it’s something you don’t want to see your child go through.”
The Zuma Blu mission is a two-pronged approach:
First, it’s to help fund school programs that promote kindness, acceptance and inclusion in their own community, with the goal of expanding as the company grows.
In September, Zuma Blu is partnering with Youth Frontiers on a charity bike ride in conjunction with James J. Hill Days in Wayzata. The proceeds will help fund school programs in the western suburbs.
Secondly, the Leopolds want to spread positive messages to empower others in a social media campaign they call #SpiralUp. Lea described it as a “pay it forward” message.
“We want to at least be a positive reminder to people of what’s important,” Brian said by trying to get kids to speak up and stand up for someone else. Zuma Blu also has a blog, which the Leopolds see as an outlet for people to start talking about bullying by sharing their own stories. “Hopefully, if we can get the conversation started … then maybe we can make lives a little easier for kids,” Brian said.
Currently, Zuma Blu is sold exclusively online at zumablu.com. However, the Leopolds are hoping to get their product out around the community through various partnerships.
Contact Kristen Miller at Kristen.Miller@ecm-inc.com.