Kristi Yamaguchi inspired many when, at only 20 years old, she won the Olympic gold medal in ladies’ singles figure skating. After winning gold, she worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation during the Stars on Ice tour, and was inspired by her experience with the nonprofit.
“I wanted to create something that also helps underserved children to reach for their dreams,” says Kristi. “I learned that it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference, just an open heart.”
She began the Always Dream Foundation in 1996 to promote early childhood literacy through classroom programs that help children learn through technology and e-readers. The programs provide parents with research-based techniques on how to share a love for reading with their children. Kristi also wrote bestselling children’s books about the adventures of an ice skating pig, Poppy, to inspire kids to pursue their dreams.
“The reward of making a positive impact on the life of a child is immeasurable,” she says.
The next step in her career was Tsu.ya, an active lifestyle brand. Kristi announced the company in 2012, 20 years after her Olympic victory, and it launched the following year. Tsuya is Kristi’s middle name and her grandmother’s family name. She chose it as the name of her brand to honor her Japanese ancestry.
“I’d been wanting to do an active wear line for several years. Being a busy, active mom, I saw a void in my wardrobe for stylish, feminine, functional active wear and was really inspired from there,” she says. “We started in a licensing arrangement but soon discovered that I wanted more control over every aspect of the brand. My husband Bret has taken on a lot of the business side of Tsu.ya and I took over the design, development, and merchandising of the line. I’m also involved in most of the marketing of Tsu.ya. We have a great team that works with us as well.”
Tsu.ya clothing is elegant in a way that many brands fail to achieve, and Kristi says her pieces are inspired by her time as a figure skater.
“I think my years of performing in costumes have given me a lot of inspiration in the designs,” she says. “Keeping the designs feminine, silhouettes that flatter the female figure, as well as fit and comfort all go into making each piece special and functional.”
Many of the lessons Kristi learned during her first career are still relevant for her latest one. “It takes time and focus to reach your goals and that is exactly what we have needed to do with a startup company,” she says.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Kristi says, “Work at it and be patient. Find something you are very passionate for. Know that there will be many obstacles and steps backward but if you create the right team around you and keep believing, that is the first step towards success.”
A portion of each Tsu.ya purchase goes to the Always Dream Foundation. Order online or find a store near you on the brand’s website.
by Lacy Cooke - October 21, 2015
See the original article here.