Smooth Sledding: Area woman feminizes snowmobiling fashion

When Wendy Gavinski, an avid snowmobiler since the age of 4, launched her women’s snowmobile apparel company, Divas SnowGear, in 2010, she had absolutely no experience in fashion design. “There were plenty of other companies making women’s snowmobile apparel,” she admits, “but I was frustrated with what was available.” Snowmobile suits, she said, tended to be unflattering and unfeminine.

Starting with a sketch on the back of a napkin, she decided to pursue her passion, learning everything the hard way. For example, factories wanted spec packs. What, she wondered, was a spec pack?

She knows now. “You call out everything you want to use. What brand and type of zipper you want to use, the exact fabric, insulation. … I had no idea.”

Investing $30,000 of her own money into the business, Gavinski sent her designs to about 40 different outerwear factories and found only one willing to help her learn the ropes. Wanting to prove her theory that female snowmobilers wanted functional but more feminine outerwear, she began attending trade shows. She started small, peddling casual wear (long-sleeved T-shirts, hats, and yoga pants) under a pink tent, but she used the opportunities to survey the female snowmobilers who stopped by. “I wanted to put in as little investment as possible until I knew for sure,” she said. From their reaction, she knew her idea had merit.

“The survey confirmed that women were looking for warmth, a feminine fit, comfort, and to be fashionable,” she said. It was a far cry from most designs at the time, which tended to be particularly masculine, with racing stripes, company logos, and checkered-flag themes. “That just wasn’t my style,” Gavinski said. “I wanted something more neutral, feminine-fitting, and pretty.”

It didn’t take long before Yamaha Corp. approached her at a Minnesota show and asked if she’d be interested in co-branding with them. “It was super flattering,” she said. “That gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing and kept me going.”

The company has been evolving ever since. In its first year, Divas SnowGear sold directly to the consumer, until dealers started signing up in year two. By 2012, Yamaha USA and Western Power Sports were distributing Divas SnowGear apparel, followed by Yamaha Canada and Parts Canada. A year from now, Parts Europe and Parts Russia will also be on board. Currently, Divas SnowGear is sold in about 500 power sports retailers across the U.S. and Canada.

Gavinski says the company will soon launch an uninsulated line for people who like backcountry riding, which happens to be Gavinski’s favorite style of snowmobiling. “You don’t sit, usually,” she explained. “You maneuver through extremely deep snow and have to throw your body weight around to turn. It’s very physical because you’re not on a trail. You have to be very strategic to get through the forest without getting stuck.”



Gavinski knows she entered the market at a perfect time. “Four years ago, the industry was changing because the machines were changing. Snowmobiles are lighter and more agile now. They have remote start, hand warmers, thumb warmers, seat warmers, and power steering.”

The 35-year-old’s business savvy has attracted the attention of Forbes, USA Today, and CNN Money, which were especially interested in her use of Facebook to target 28- to 55-year-old women in a predominantly male marketplace. In its first year, Divas SnowGear reported $50,000 in sales. This season, Gavinski projects sales will reach $1.2 million.

“My biggest accomplishment has been being a part of the Facebook Small-Medium Business Council,” she says. The group has brought the company a lot of media attention, including mentions in the Financial Times and The Huffington Post. “We were chosen by Facebook out of 39 million companies. That’s the biggest honor.” It was an appointment she did not apply for. “I believe they had seen how much our Facebook page had grown,” Gavinski explained. “They were watching us for a while.”

Asked where she wants to be five years from now, Gavinski cites the results of a recent survey, conducted by a large power sports dealer, asking women which type of snowmobile gear they wear, by brand name. “Ours was dead last,” she said, smiling. “Our market share is so small, the only way to go is up.”

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