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Women Bike Entrepreneurs: Lani Tarozzi
For many women, clothing is not an insignificant barrier to bicycling. Often, biking to work means wearing attire that, at least at first glance, seems incompatible with comfortable cycling. We love to feel the wind in our hair — but we don't want it blowing loose clothing into compromising positions. While advocates and educators and ride leaders are making huge strides in getting more women in the saddle, our National Women's Bicycling Forum has shown that there's an equally exciting movement among entrepreneurs to create commercial products aimed at addressing women's needs. One such product that's been getting recent headlines is the Skirtweight, so we got in touch with its creator, Lani Tarozzi, to hear her bike story and advice for fellow Women Bike entrepreneurs.
What's your bike story? How and why did you start cycling?
My sister, Rosalyn, and I started Tandem NY together from our love of fashion and biking. We launched this April. My biking really started when I was working for fashion designer, Todd Snyder, in New York City, where I live. I needed to get my boys to school and then to the studio, but it didn’t make sense to take mass transit, as it couldn’t get me close enough to the studio — so I got on my bike. It was a completely bike friendly place. I’d take the freight elevator up with my Citi Classic Biria Dutch and I could park my bike right along side my desk! My sister reminded me that we biked everywhere growing up in our small town in New Jersey: to friends’ houses, sports practices, into town to shop and eat. Check out the pic of us with the Schwinn in the background, circa ’73. I’m to the left; she’s to the right.
When you did start riding, what were some of the barriers you had to overcome?
I got back into riding a few years ago. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg brilliantly installed bike lanes all over NYC and soon thereafter the Citi Bikes bike-share program was started, the combination of which made biking safer, more visible and actually alluring. I never had a real worry about biking in traffic on the NYC streets, with or without the bike lanes, or even biking in my wedge heels. My real problem was having to look fashionable for work everyday and to keep my fashionably flowy skirts and dresses in check while I was riding there.
How did the idea for the Skirtweight arise (no pun intended)?
Working in a fashion studio I often wore skirts and dresses, most of them billowy and flowy. While biking to the studio, I was frustrated having to crumple up my skirts and dresses and sit on them in such a way to keep them from flying up while I biked. I had to adjust the “placement” at every stop along the way and I’d get to work a wrinkled mess. And when sitting on my skirt “in just the right way” didn’t work, I was flashing the world when my skirt blew-up, which then caused a huge safety problem as I was distracted trying to quickly keep my skirt down with a frantic hand. I looked online for solutions for this issue, but there really wasn’t anything out there that would work for me. I wanted to ride my bike, wearing what I liked, so we created the Tandem NY Skirtweight.
What were some of the challenges to take it from an idea to a product?
Getting the actual Skirtweight done right came together nicely after only a few iterations of prototypes. It was the packaging that held us up. The design of it was a cinch, as we used two seasoned graphic designers, Frank Ozmun and LeeAna Benson. We also used a well-reputed packaging company, Cadica, but it was time consuming getting it to come to fruition the way we imagined. The packaging had to be the right weight to hold up the Skirtweight, be displayed properly at a retail level and also stand-up to wear-and-tear. Trial and error coupled with working with patient and knowledgeable people at the packaging company got us an awesome design, in a beautiful pop-color of coral, that has been well-received by customers and retailers alike. It proudly and stunningly stands out on a hook among the black and grey products in most bike shops. Oh, and we named the Tandem NY girl on the packaging. We were looking at her so much that we decided that she needed a name: Pippi.
I know it has “skirt” in the name, but what's the most creative use of the weight that you've seen or heard?
We love the alternative uses we hear from people. Bike to a picnic and use it as a tablecloth weight. Bike to the beach and use it as a bookmark. Holds up/back the brim of your floppy hat while you’re gardening. Creative customers, we’ve got ‘em!!
As our Pop-up Shop has shown, there's a growing number of Women Bike Entrepreneurs. What advice would you have for other women who have an idea for a great bike-related product or business?
When I came up with the idea of Skirtweights, I thought I was a focus group of one, so I talked to bikers, bike shop owners other people in small businesses. I asked lots of questions and I listened to some great feedback before I put much time and money behind Skirtweights. All of the feedback energized me and I kept “rolling along” with the idea. And when I didn’t know what to do or how to do something, I asked for help. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or think someone is going to steal them. It takes a long time to develop something and most people don’t have the time or gumption to make it happen. As Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving!” Keep moving, keep talking, keep at it and you’ll find yourself where you want to be!
Where can folks find Skirtweights?
Currently we sell them on our website at www.TandemNY.com. At a retail level we sell in bike shops and fashion accessory boutiques in NYC and you can find them in the UK on www.DaisyWheel.co.uk, a bike accessory website. With such an amazing response in such a short time, we’ve got expansion plans in the works for Skirtweights and other unique fashion biking accessories.