After graduating from high school, Emma “bounced around colleges” before moving back to Morgan Hill.
By Kelly Barbazette
I’m always amazed at young people’s ingenuity and resilience, so I was delighted to talk to Emma Vollrath recently about her Emma Lou clothing line. Her business was born out of her love of fitness and helping women feel good about themselves.
During the pandemic, not only has the 21-year-old Morgan Hill resident continued to work toward her business administration degree, she also successfully launched her “athleisure” clothing label, a hybrid of workout clothes and lounge-wear.
After graduating from high school, Emma wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and “bounced around colleges” before moving back home to Morgan Hill.
“I just felt really lost because all of my friends knew what they wanted to do,” she said. “I’ve always loved fitness and decided to become a personal trainer.”
She received her certificate from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and started working in 2019 as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Morgan Hill. While helping women achieve their fitness goals, everyone told her they wanted to look good naked.
“I felt like it went deeper. It was about their body image,” Emma said.
She set out to create workout wear that made women feel good mentally and physically. Her clothing is made out of a polyester fiber fabric that hugs the body, safely increasing body temperature. This aids in reducing water weight, releasing toxins, and burning calories.
Emma trademarked her Emma Lou label, named after the nickname her family calls her, and patented the fabric. She launched her label at the end of 2019 and dropped her first workout tops and bottoms in 2020. Half of her original inventory is sold out, but a new top and bottom workout set will be available June 15.
For now, as founder and CEO, Emma is handling everything on her own – from clothing design to social media.
She plans to graduate from Arizona State University in November with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, making her the first person in her family to graduate from college. Her dad owns a Bay Area business.
“I just always felt that I didn’t want to work for anyone and I wanted to be my own boss,” Emma said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it always tied back to fitness and making other people feel good.”
When launching her own company, Emma said she was most surprised how isolating it can feel sometimes. While her friends were going to college parties, she was at home doing research for her business.
“I love it and it’s what I was meant to do, but sometimes it does get lonely.”
She most enjoys being in charge of the brand, coming up with new designs, and going to photo shoots.
“I have a vision board that hangs on my desk. I put things on it that remind me that whatever I’m going through is temporary. I’m still in the organic stages of starting a business,” Emma said. “I’ve just learned to focus on my vision board. Comparing myself is not the way to do it. And to keep going because there’s bigger things ahead.”
Soon, she hopes to see her clothing line on athleisure online retail shops.
When she’s not working or studying, she loves to bake, go places with her friends, and hang out at the beach or pool. “Honestly, anything outdoors I love to do.”
When asked what advice she would give other young women working toward their goals, Emma said that although you might think you’re never ready to start your own business, don’t let that stop you in the pursuit of entrepreneurship.
“Start with what you love, start reading, start listening to podcasts. Look at a business and see what that CEO does,” she said. “You’re never going to be ready … just go for it.”
Kelly Barbazette, a former journalist for Bay Area newspapers, is a freelance writer. She lives in Gilroy with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at [email protected]
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