This essay was produced in partnership with Facebook Stories. Facebook is a cosponsor of National Small Business Week, May 12-16. Read about other small businesses on Facebook Stories.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I've been snowmobiling since I was very young. But as I grew into adulthood, I started to get frustrated about how limited the choices were for women's snowmobile gear and apparel.
Much of women's snowmobile apparel is in men's proportions scaled down slightly to fit women. There was a complete void of anything feminine fitting and attractive. Because of this, my girlfriends and I would buy ski wear, but since it's made for another sport, it didn't have all of the functionality and warmth that snowmobile riders need.
A few years ago, I decided if someone else wasn't going to do something about this void in the market, I would. That is how Divas SnowGear was born. I wanted to make women feel like they have a place in this sport by giving them their very own brand to be proud of.
I started out with some colored pencils, hand sketching an idea for one outfit including a jacket, pants and gloves. I found a manufacturer willing to work with me on the specs and create my first sample. Feeling good about my idea and having a way to produce a product, I began to do market research.
I started with a line of casual wear and visited trade shows throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2010. I wanted to test the trends and design details I was working on, as well as understand what was most important to women when buying snowmobile apparel. I was encouraged when I learned that brand name didn't matter much, but warmth, comfort and feminine fit did. That meant there was room for us to enter the market and give these women a better product and a company they could relate to: for women, by women.
In September 2010, Divas SnowGear rolled out into the market. We had an e-commerce site and sold at tradeshows. But with a business serving such an extremely niche market, reaching customers was a challenge. Only 30 to 35 percent of snowmobilers are women. Snowmobile magazines have about 99 percent male readership. Any related TV shows were also geared toward men. I knew there were other women like me out there. I just couldn't find them through traditional advertising.
After about a year, we started using Facebook ads. Initially, we were just trying to gain new likes on our Page, but seeing how well they worked, we also started to advertise to drive customers to visit our authorized retailers and their events. Facebook is the only advertising channel that allows us to specifically target women who are interested in snowmobiling and live in a region we serve. It has become our primary means of marketing and a key source of sales. Facebook helped put us on the map.
Today, Divas SnowGear products are available in powersports retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada. We are focused on adding more and more great products and gaining market share in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Russia.
It's amazing to see women become more involved in snowmobiling just by doing something as simple as giving them something attractive to wear and feel good in. And the more women who are involved, the more families are involved, which benefits the entire industry as a whole. It's such an amazing sport for families, nearly any age or ability level can participate and they can create memories and stories about their adventures that will never be forgotten. It's an activity that can be passed down through generations just as it has been passed down from my family and into my own children's lives.
Wendy Gavinski lives with her husband and two children in Oregon, Wis. She is part of of Facebook's Small Business Council, a community of advocates that Facebook listens to in order to understand small business needs and improve the Facebook experience. Like Divas SnowGear on Facebook.
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