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

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

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.”