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From compression legwear to High Fashion hosiery: Personal passion leads to success at Rejuva

By Michael Goodwin | Small Business

Imagine a site where vascular technology crosses paths with stylish leggings, pantyhose, stockings and socks. Now imagine flashy photo spreads in big fashion magazines like Vogue, Shape and In Style. You’ve just imagined Rejuva—a startup compression hosiery company that blends therapy, comfort and style in a bold way that’s never been done before.

For many years, compression stockings (designed to manage edema, and prevent things like deep vein thrombosis—blood clots—on long drives or airplane flights) were mostly plain and white, and looked like the awful foot coverings they give you in hospitals to keep your feet warm. Thanks to Kelsey Minarik, the founder of Rejuva, that’s ancient history.

The Rejuva web site features articles like “How to Style Compression Leggings” and “How to Transition your Compression Stockings from Winter to Spring"—along with a bevy of beautiful socks, pantyhose and etc. Welcome to the wonderful world of high-fashion compression—a far cry indeed from white spandex.

Personal Passion

Before Rejuva opened its doors in 2011, Minarik was working as Sales and Marketing Coordinator for BoulderScape, a specialty construction company that makes structural/architectural shotcrete wall finishes. And if that seems like a severe career deflection, it is.

Minarik’s "aha moment” came from direct personal experience.

“Up to this point my passion had been marketing and branding,” she recalls. “That’s what I studied as an undergrad, and got my internships in. But when I was just 21 I was on a plane flight from L.A. to New York and developed a DVT, a deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in your leg. I had to take blood thinners and wear compression stockings. Being 21, and living in Newport Beach, California, I wasn’t that fond of how the stockings looked—but I required their function. Rejuva was born as a personal passion project.”

From Varicose Veins to Long-Distance Driving

Compression stockings are often used to improve circulation for medical conditions like diabetes, edema, and varicose veins, and Rejuva’s devices are registered with the FDA as Class 1 Medical Support Stockings intended for general medical purposes. But anyone can benefit from leg compression. Most people love how it feels. Healthy men and women like the energy it gives tired legs when sitting or standing for long periods. Frequent fliers and long-distance drivers use it to prevent blood clots. People with swollen ankles appreciate the slimming effect.

Even so, once Minarik started looking into compression products she couldn’t believe there weren’t more stylish options out there. Today, five years after she started Rejuva, her catalog includes knee-highs, thigh-highs, leggings, pantyhose, men’s, athletic—in a variety of attractive patterns and several different levels of compression.

Minarik left a full-time job to devote herself to the new company. Her parents helped with financing, and they are still her business partners. Then it was just a matter of sales, marketing, and getting the word out—and Minarik knew how to do that. “Initially all our sales were direct-to-consumer on our website,” she recalls. “Then we started learning more, so we reached out to places like Vein Center, vascular doctors’ offices, surgeons, putting the product into those locations. It’s evolved from there.”

Start-up was an intense learning experience.

“When you have a business with hard physical inventory,” says Minarik, “management of minimum order quantities and SKU diversity can be quite difficult—particularly as you grow and have to maintain deeper inventory to fulfill thousands of orders within a couple of days. Figuring out that working capital component, and being smart about where you’re putting your money in terms of inventory, is no joke. It’s been a steep learning curve. We figured it out by employing Excel financial models, tracking and regular reporting. Gradually we invented our own ways of monitoring that stuff to make sure we’re keeping needed supply and ordering more right away.”

Shh! It’s Our Secret!

The idea from the beginning was to offer great-looking designs—partly to conceal the fact that you’re wearing compression, and partly because everyone likes to look sharp—even when you’re using a compression product.

“Shh!” Minarik laughs. “It’s our secret! Because our compression legwear is more than just a pretty face. It feels good and it does good for your body. It’s also a way for you to incorporate something healthy into your wardrobe, something that will prevent complications for you down the line. Whether you’re a frequent traveler, or someone who sits or stands for long periods, it’s a way to do something good for yourself while looking great too.”

Rejuva develops its own designs for patterns, colors, finishes and styles. “We read comments from customers,” says Minarik, and we look at the styles we have, and try to figure out how we can bring more offerings that will appeal to a wider range of demographics. Then we collaborate with our Taiwan-based manufacturer on how to bring them to life. We’re currently in the process of second-sourcing with a U.S.-based maker as well.“

Marketing Into New Channels

When Rejuva started, the vast majority of its sales were via its web site, with a few sales to vein clinics. It’s very different now.

"We still market to and serve our direct-to-consumer business via our web site,” Minarik explains, “but in July of last year we also partnered with a brand called Dr. Comfort. As the nation’s leading provider of diabetic and therapeutic footwear, they are licensing the Rejuva brand to distribute our compression garments through medical channels: pharmacies, medical supply stores and clinical environments. Thanks to that partnership we’ve been able to expand our distribution focus into additional channels like travel. If you’re ever in an airport, check Brookstone’s airport store; you’ll find Rejuva there.”

Rejuva also supports physicians who want to recommend compression products to their patients, but don’t have space to stock them. Minarik provides materials and information so those doctors can refer patients to Rejuva’s web site. Surprisingly, marketing via social media has not been particularly successful. “Our customer base is mostly 50+,” Minarik points out, “and we’ve found they don’t utilize Facebook in relation to these products as much as we thought they might. Where we see the most impact is newspaper features. For example, last year we were in the New York Times and we saw a huge spike in sales.”

Two Web Sites Better Than One

Something must be working. These days, Rejuva actually has two web sites: RejuvaHealth is the original direct-to-consumers site, where the company distributes its brand name items alongside complementary compression products from other brands. ShopRejuva is a new site, designed to be more informational—and it’s exclusively devoted to Rejuva products.

“I think this year has really been a turning point,” says Minarik. “We’ve outgrown our facilities and are setting up fulfillment and inventory warehousing with a third-party logistics provider. We’re turning a corner, and moving up to a new level.”

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