Interview by Sophie Pape
Kimberly Caccavo and Kate Nowlan laugh in tandem about the night before they opened their first store for their new women’s activewear – Graced by Grit. “We were up very late the night before sewing curtains! Our staff called to check up on us, realized we were still there, and came to help,” says Caccavo. “That is what we look for in our employees: hard work. We have women from all walks of life but hard work, they all have in common,” adds Nowlan.
It is apparent that the duo have learned to inject a sense of humor into their venture. Indeed, Caccavo says that whilst they are both giggling, realistically, they are most likely delirious with stress. “When our staff arrived to help, we were both sitting on the floor sewing and laughing,” says Caccavo, “being able to laugh is so important.” Especially since this store opening was not planned.
They had unexpectedly been backed by a bank who believed in them and they opened on the fly. “Being nimble and being able to make decisions quickly is very important as an entrepreneur,” says Caccavo. And so, when the opportunity arose, they thought it would be a good move and thank heavens, thus far, it has proved to be just that.
Their journey started when Nowlan was teaching Caccavo’s young son to swim. Caccavo asked Nowlan if she knew of anyone who may be able to train her for a triathlon and since Nowlan was something of an accomplished athlete, she turned out to be just the person. “I didn’t realize that Kimberly [Caccavo] had just three weeks to train – so we became friends quickly,” says Nowlan.
“I remember losing time on my transitions that she [Nowlan] had taught me the night before; I’d forgotten them,” adds Caccavo. Of course this may have been consequent upon the fact that she was prepping for the race like any normal woman, i.e. with a glass of red wine. (Incidentally, she finished very well that day – in the top third of her age group.)
The friends bonded over their love of the outdoors, both had been keen sportswomen in their youth and that love of activity had sustained itself through their eventual move to California – Solona Beach – just north of San Diego.
One day, they were out running; unsatisfied with the activewear they wore and that of their fellow female runners. Ask any woman, the correlation between feeling confident and performing well in full view of other “athletes” is strong. The better you feel you look, the more confident you are, the further you will run, the higher you will climb and the faster you will peddle.
“Women would try on our products and they would look better which made them feel better, and made them perform better,” says Caccavo, “Kate [Nowlan] needed a really advanced and accomplished fabric that would aid her performance and I needed a fabric that would hide my lumps and bumps. We both needed a fabric that would survive sea and land – and we developed just that – in colours and styles that suit every woman.”
Caccavo and Nowlan’s young business is doing well so far. Their customers range from eleven year old gymnasts to a lady of 87 who rides her mountain bike (without a helmet) every morning – and who is said to be one of their biggest champions. But it is their commitment to the business that is truly compelling.
“We wake up at 5.15am every morning so that we have a couple of really productive hours. We are really efficient, we make decisions really quickly and if they happen to be the wrong decision, we figure it out or renegotiate immediately,” says Nowlan. Chiming in, Caccavo says, “We try to do the right thing. Often you do the right thing if you make an instinctive decision. If Kate and I decide we are going to do something – and it’s wrong, we change course and we don’t dwell.”
Their final nugget of entrepreneurial advice came from Caccavo’s husband, “Don’t fool around and make it happen.” They laugh. “We were going to use ‘Just Do It’… but someone beat us to it.” Making it happen… is exactly what they intend to do.