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Jennifer AtkinsonFormer gymnast Jennifer Atkinson is the co-CEO of Destira, a women-run and family-owned gymnastics apparel company specializing in leotards for young girls and empowering young female gymnasts across the United States. Jennifer gained several years of retail, social media, and e-commerce experience, climbing the corporate ladder at Gap. Before joining Destira as its co-CEO, she worked in marketing at Adobe and DaVita.


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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Jennifer Atkinson shares her mom’s passion for designing leotards during her childhood
  • How Jennifer’s family celebrates having an entrepreneurial spirit
  • The life event that led Jennifer to join the family business
  • The impact of the pandemic on Destira
  • Jennifer’s passion is to empower young girls

In this episode…

The saying “Find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” is a cliche, yet it holds true. It also helps when you have family support to cheer you on. After all, building a business around your passion doesn’t guarantee automatic success. But when you take risks and fail, the support of loved ones can be the biggest motivator.

Jennifer Atkinson, an entrepreneur, experienced firsthand the process of transforming a passion into a business with the support of her family. Her mother’s love for sewing evolved from a hobby into a family-owned company. Her father did not only support her mother, but he encouraged her and her siblings to take risks and become entrepreneurs. However, Jennifer had to follow her path. So, what was the defining moment that led her to join the family business?

In this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, host John Corcoran welcomes the co-CEO of Destira, Jennifer Atkinson. The two discuss Jennifer’s business background and how it eventually groomed her to join the family business. Additionally, she shares her family’s entrepreneurial spirit, how to create a work-life balance, and her mission to empower young girls.

Resources mentioned in this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:02

Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:13

Alright, welcome everyone, John Corcoran here. I’m the co-host of this show. And, you know, if you’re new to the program, go check out our archives got all kinds of great interviews with smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And this episode is part of our EO San Francisco series profiling, exciting, interesting and really active and engaging entrepreneurs around the San Francisco Bay Area. And this episode, of course, is brought to you by EO San Francisco, which is the local chapter of the larger Entrepreneurs Organization, which is a global organization of entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, about 16,000 members worldwide and just about every country around the globe, and if you want to learn more about it, you can go to eosf.org to learn about our chapter and my guest here today is my good friend and forum mate. Her name is Jen Atkinson. She’s the Co-CEO of Destira, which is a family owned woman owned gymnastics leotard company specializing in leotards for little girls, and we’re going to hear the story about how it began. And also fun fact, Jen and I actually are from the same hometown and she graduated the same year as my younger brother Andrew, which is something we didn’t even realize, Jen until after we’d known each other for a little bit, which is so funny. We realize that later but let’s get into your story. So, you know, you and I grew up in Calabasas and LA County area and your mom when you were a little kid started basically making leotards for you guys and it turned into this amazing business. But did you have a memory of that? Do you have memory of your mom like getting at the sewing machine and making leotards?

Jen Atkinson 1:59

Absolutely, yes. Thanks for having me, John. Um, I’m excited to share this story with you guys. My mom lived in hertz sewing and growing up our sort of Office bedroom off of her bedroom was converted to a sewing room so the buzz and hum of the sewing machine is part of my childhood. My sisters and I were born raised and nurtured in the gym. Like we were jumping all over anything and everything we could flipping, we had boundless energy. So my mom enrolled all three of us in gymnastics, and she took her kind of passion for designing leotards, I would say, or designing and she started making leotards for us um, so we had this love of gymnastics can became a family love and that passion for design turned into a business.

John Corcoran 2:46

And was it harder to get leotards back then is that why she started doing it? Or was it just kind of she thought it’d be fun or save save a nickel or what why did she do them herself?

Jen Atkinson 2:56

I think both and all. I still remember one designer manufacturer she sold leotards out of her home and my mom would take us when we were smaller before she started selling us leotards to go pick them out. Yeah, the designs weren’t there. The comfort wasn’t there. The quality wasn’t there. My mom talks about how she just kind of felt like there was this gap and she knew she could do it better. The inspiration for her starting to make leotards for my sisters and I was because we couldn’t find anything better and it really organically grew. My teammates started asking for leotards and then teams in the neighborhood started asking for leotards as well.

John Corcoran 3:30

so that your teammates saw what your mom was coming up with. And they’re like, Hey, can we get some of those too?

Jen Atkinson 3:36

Exactly.

John Corcoran 3:37

That’s really cool. Yeah, and what point I know that your mom eventually opened a office outside of the home right? So what point did it get professional enough that she figured I need to move this outside of the home?

Jen Atkinson 3:52

Well, that’s actually a good one. My mom’s sewed leotards all like for us through elementary, junior high in high school, we went off to college and she she grew the cut through the company by her own two hands until, like manufacturing just came became too much. And that’s when she outsourced to a partner in Los Angeles that we still sew with today. So we have manufacturing in Los Angeles. I think it happened in two, probably about 2000. And my sister joined the company in 2003, which is when they incorporated us this year and started building out the framework and structure for wholesale and retail.

John Corcoran 4:34

Had your mom run businesses before this?

Jen Atkinson 4:38

No, she she always had craft or hobby businesses I would say where she was sewing or producing goods selling and maybe maybe local shops or fairs. But this was really her first venture into the business world.

John Corcoran 4:54

Yeah, funny is my my mom probably around the same time period. My mom was doing kind of the same thing. She had some little hobbies Businesses are she’d make little jewelry and stuff and go to craft fairs, there’s no Etsy back, then there’s no eBay, there’s no, you know, those sorts of options for selling things more broadly and widely. And also hard to find, you know, to outsource manufacturing. But so your father also was very entrepreneurial, and in your words, raised you with the aspiration to one day have your own business. Right. So how did he do that? How did that show up? Was that something that like, over the dinner table he was talking about? Or you guys were doing lemonade stands? What was it like?