Since developing the SPIbelt™ ("small personal item" belt), Kim Overton has turned a quick fix for a personal inconvenience into one of America's fastest-growing companies. In just a few years Overton established SPIbelt™ as an internationally recognized fitness accessories brand.
Having previously worked in website development, Overton began her fitness career in 2002 as a personal trainer in New York City and launched her first fitness video, Love Your Legs, in 2005. Shortly after relocating to her hometown of Austin in 2006, Overton conceived the idea for the original SPIbelt™ while looking for a hands-free solution for storing essentials on the go. Since launching the SPIbelt™ in 2007, Overton has made her mark on the fitness world by introducing an array of uniquely innovative products designed to simply and securely store life's most treasured objects.
Under Overton's leadership the SPIbelt™ brand has expanded rapidly, garnering recognition from CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Better Homes and Gardens, Women's Health, Runner's World, as well as Inc. which named SPIbelt™ as one of America's Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2011.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have traveled the world, lived in other countries, and I am a believer in the power of learning from other cultures. I have a broad understanding and respect for different points of view, varying approaches to situations in business and in my personal life, as well as an appreciation for diverse cultural views.
Nothing was given to me and I have worked for everything. My journey began from zero and working my way to owning a company has been a bumpy one with lots of hard lessons learned along the way. I have empathy and understanding, and know what it takes to get the job done. My journey has also given me thick skin and a fearlessness that I believe comes from having experienced many ups and downs.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at SPIbelt?
I worked in the service industry in my teens and early 20s and have held a variety of jobs from a hostess to a bartender in NYC. The experience taught me extreme tolerance, humility, respect, and the importance and benefits of honest, hard work.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at SPIbelt?
I am very proud of my appearance on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, landing at #175 on the Inc. 500 list and seeing our products in carried in stores in the U.S. and internationally. The challenges have included managing the company's growth and hiring the right team leaders.
What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Speak up when you need help. I found my first hire while at lunch one day at a communal table-type restaurant. I looked up and said, "I'm just throwing this out there, I recently started a business and I could really use help getting things going". A woman next to me called her friend whose daughter was looking for a career change. That individual provided the support that helped me get things going the first year.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I've learned to embrace being uncomfortable, and to willingly venture to my un-comfort zone. Building a manufacturing business is not something I had experience in, but I take it on without fear of the unknown and I don't worry about making mistakes.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I hired great people to help me maintain normal hours. Also, long before starting SPIbelt, I told myself that I wouldn't work Sundays and I've stuck with that.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think many women second guess themselves. We don't say what we truly believe to be the best thing at that time in the work setting in fear of worrying about what others might think. Sometimes playing it "safe" feels easiest, but safe and staying within the lines of what's expected of us doesn't make for innovation.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having a mentor gave me a nurturing environment to ask the questions that helped me start and maintain my business. Having someone I trusted, and who I knew had the best interest in my success, definitely helped me through the tough early stages of my company.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Mary Kies who received the first US patent granted to a woman (and who was also black), Amelia Earhart and other female pioneers because they managed to do what no other women did in their time, without a female role model to refer to. I imagine they had amazing conviction, passion and focus to achieve what they did, especially women from decades ago. I'm in awe of the women who were the first.
What do you want SPIbelt to accomplish in the next year?
To become a household name as the utility belt of choice whether using it for a medical device, running, day-to-day errands or traveling.