ASU alum makes a splash with innovative swim line
Demi George grew up in Minnesota, but spent many spring breaks in Arizona visiting family, splashing around and swimming in the pool at her grandmother’s retirement community. While buying bathing suits for a trip, she realized there was a problem. Swimsuits that provided adequate coverage in some areas were too big in others. She had to tie the sides of her bathing suits just to make them fit snugly.
After discovering a similar problem with other clothes and among other women, George realized that the problem was not with his body. It was the women’s size itself. Sizing standards are built around a specific body shape that less than 10% of the population has.
Tired of being limited by industry standard swimwear, George decided to develop a new size model. When she enrolled at Arizona State University in 2015, she took advantage of the university’s many entrepreneurial resources to help launch her own swimwear brand, which was featured at New York Fashion. Week and on a Times Square Billboard in 2022.
HeartGlass is the first brand to commercially produce a one-piece swimsuit with different top and bottom sizes. This innovation allows women of various shapes to have swimsuits that better fit their bodies.
Dive into entrepreneurship
George pursued a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation from the WP Carey School of Business. Her courses at ASU empowered and encouraged her to be an entrepreneur while attending school.
She’s always had a lot of entrepreneurial ideas in mind, but the inspiration for HeartGlass came while she was studying by the pool and swimming with her family. She recalled her lingering frustration with swimsuits that didn’t fit her properly.
“My intuition was telling me, ‘I have to do this. I have to make swimsuits for all body shapes,'” George said.
In his Principles of Entrepreneurship and Innovation course this fall, George learned about the Venture Devils program from ASU’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. Venture Devils supports students, faculty, staff and community entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources such as mentors, funding and spaces to support the development of ideas.
“A classmate suggested Venture Devils to me. At the time, I had a few other startups I was working on prototypes for,” George said.
George decided to apply to Venture Devils with his two best business ideas. Her swimwear line – HeartGlass – is the one that has been accepted.
Venture Devils put George in touch with her mentor, entrepreneur and business consultant Lynn Whitman, whom she still meets regularly. George worked with Whitman to create an execution strategy and plan his new way of growing women’s sizes.
“Lynn really helped guide me into adulthood,” George said. “She gives me genuinely honest and clear, straight-to-the-point feedback.”
She says the best advice she’s received from Whitman is to “step back and ask yourself what you need to do now to achieve your goals later.”
George spent that first year with Venture Devils developing HeartGlass in the 1[email protected] collaborative space, where ASU-affiliated companies can work on their ideas.
During spring break 2018, she split her time between splashing around in the pool and preparing her application for Demo Day, an event where Venture Devils entrepreneurs can showcase their ideas and win funding.
At the Demo Day event, George was happy to see familiar faces from her classmates pitching their own ideas, and she made many valuable connections through the experience.
“Later in the awards ceremony, they were heading for the highest amount. I wasn’t expecting much, but then they named all the winners from the lower tiers. They name the second highest high, and they said me,” George said. “I burst into tears thinking about it. I will never forget how I felt that day.
George received $8,500, which gave her the start she needed to start her business.
She launched again at Demo Day in the fall of 2018. She won $5,000 and was a semi-finalist in the Adidas Global Sport Alliance’s Global Sport Venture Challenge, winning $1,000.
AFTER: Show your support for local entrepreneurs and learn what a pitch contest is all about. Register to attend Demo Day on April 29.
Swim in rougher waters
School wasn’t usually something George looked forward to growing up in, but working towards a degree and a business she was passionate about changed everything. Yet balancing all of his responsibilities and goals has not been easy.
“When I was in school, working and trying to spread awareness of this product, I adapted a healthy routine and made sure the people around me were supportive. Sometimes it was saying no to social events and having that self-discipline without being too hard on myself,” George said.
Being part of Venture Devils provided the right funding opportunities for George, but it also gave him the chance to connect with other entrepreneurs who were going through the same challenges.
“I also decided to take the risk and go to Los Angeles in January 2019. I didn’t tell anyone about it, but I had planned to go and meet different manufacturers and development facilities,” he said. she declared.
In Los Angeles, she traveled to networking events and made valuable connections to help her get her products out there. She met models, famous photographers, famous music producers, other swimwear brands and inspirational speakers.
“I really enjoyed being there and growing as a person. I loved myself and what I was doing. It’s something I can say I do. That’s my goal. said George.
After graduating from ASU in May 2019, George dedicated his time to starting his business and working on development. She made connections with other professionals and businesses in the Minneapolis area. Then the following spring, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.
“I hadn’t had enough materials in time to make enough swimsuits. I had to wait,” George said.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the financial well-being of small businesses and entrepreneurs. The pandemic has prevented George from fundraising and many fundraising opportunities for women have been cut. Although she wasted valuable time as fabric factories closed, she continued to promote her brand and worked to produce sample swimwear when she could.
“I just kept going,” George said.
Full steam ahead
In the spring of 2021, George was able to begin marketing his product in person. She applied and was accepted to Minnesota Fashion Week.
She also participated in Miami Swim Week, an opportunity that not only connected her with more people in the industry, but also generated more HeartGlass sales.
“It was like a domino effect. In fact, Ms. Colombia 2022 contestant, Gladys Marín Santa, became my first international sale,” George said. “Another woman I came into contact with was International Ms United 2021, Monique Coney. We met at the airport because she was flying to a convention and she asked if I had a bathing suit on me. She tried on swimsuits in the airport toilets and decided to buy one. It was crazy!”
The two women, along with 10 other models, posed for George at HeartGlass’ appearance at New York Fashion Week. During Fashion Week, she was able to display an ad in Times Square.
“Everyone wanted to help and be a part of it. They just believed in the brand and what I do. I became one of the models’ favorite swimwear designers, which was such an honor,” George said.
Since November 2021, HeartGlass has had customer try-ons at Flirt Boutique in Edina, Minnesota, a small woman-owned business located just 15 minutes from the Mall of America. The pandemic has hit small businesses hard, but by attracting more customers with exciting collaborations, George hopes to help local retailers and shine a spotlight on women-owned businesses.
George set up her business innovation and branding company, Demi Glass, which provides advice to other businesses, in October 2018. Through Demi Glass, she has helped people reboot their swimwear lines. bath and has helped other businesses in the beauty, wellness and e-commerce technology store. Industries.
“It’s great to be recognized for the help I’ve given to the community, especially after the pandemic where most businesses have had to reassess their operations or move online,” George said.
For HeartGlass, George is working to gain access to more retail space and launch his two-piece swimwear line.
“Venture Devils has given me a big push into real life as an entrepreneur,” George said. ” It is not easy. If it was, everyone would. I never felt like I missed out on anything in college because I worked by the pool, listened to memorabilia, and talked about HeartGlass with my friends. This kind of community support has made my business fun.
TO BE INVOLVED: Do you have an idea that you want to bring to life? Apply to Venture Devils by May 15.
Written by Elise Lange, ASU Knowledge Enterprise