Every now and then I come across a story that truly inspires me and that was the case when I first heard about NoNetz. NoNetz is a New York-based small business startup that makes anti-chafe swimwear, hence the name’s play on “no nets.” The company contacted me through my autism blog and since my son, who is on the autism spectrum and has sensory sensitivities, is in year-round swim lessons I decided to give the suit a try.
NoNetz sent me a pair of swim trunks at no charge and my son was ecstatic to try out his new suit. He loved it and I interviewed him for my site, when I asked him to sum up his thoughts about the suit in a single word, he responded , “epic.”
During my correspondence with Cathy, a family friend who is helping NoNetz get off the ground, I learned the inspirational story behind the company. NoNetz is a team of three sisters, the Little sisters: Kym Timpano is the youngest sister and is the NoNetz CEO; Patti Messina is the oldest sister and serves as the company’s CFO; and Sue Gray, the middle sister, is the sales admin.
All three of the Little sisters are beach lovers and have seen spouses and sons deal with uncomfortable chafing from the nets in their swimwear. Uncomfortable boys weren’t what got the business started, though. Unfortunately, the event that set the Little sisters onto the new business startup path was more serious; Sue was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and experienced loss on multiple levels. Sue lost her health, she lost her job, she lost her marriage and is losing her house.
Big sister Patti and little sister Kym pooled their savings together and NoNetz launched. Starting a new small business is never easy but when you’re in New York and your sewing facility is in Brooklyn, a little storm named Sandy makes your launch even more difficult.
All of the NoNetz inventory and patterns were stored at the Brooklyn sewing facility and when the bottom floor flooded, the building lost power. It took a month for everything to get back up and running and NoNetz is still moving forward.
Starting a new business isn’t easy, starting a new clothing business is even more difficult but adding a Made in America focus to everything adds even more challenges. However, this is important to NoNetz.
Sue Little Gray explains the Made in America focus, “When the economy collapsed in 2008, my family was directly affected. Between my MS, the loss of my job, the end of my marriage, bankruptcy and foreclosure, I was sure my boys and I were going to be homeless . When we decided to start this business, there were lots of families in our community losing their jobs and homes. We collectively decided to keep it here in the USA to be a small part of the change that this country needs to boost the economy.”
Seeing this warmed my heart; in the middle of their own challenges the Little sisters were still looking at ways that they could help their own community.
This isn’t the only heartwarming part of the NoNetz story, though. After reading my son’s feedback about the suit, the team went back to the drawing board and figured out how they could redesign the suit to make it a better choice for boys with autism. In recognition of his feedback, they are naming the swimwear line after him. In the coming weeks, NoNetz will be releasing The Alex; the picture of the suit here is one of the early iterations of what The Alex is going to look like.
The Alex will feature several design changes that may sound insignificant to many but can be very significant to those with sensory sensitivities. These changes include the removal of a small grommet on the suit that could be noisy if it comes in contact with a water slide or other solid surface and the removal of excess waistband stitching that may be irritating to the wearer while also slowing the swimmer down.
In his interview, my son mentioned that he wants to go fast in the water and although he’s not an Olympic swimmer, the team at NoNetz took this feedback seriously. This attention to detail is amazing.
NoNetz is a new small business startup in a tough economy and I wish them nothing but success. The spirit of the company is summed up well in Sue Little Gray’s advice to other small business startups, “The best advice we would give to other start ups would have to be to never give up! Having your own business means working seven days a week . Realize your goal, keep your head down, and plug away no matter what, until you get there. There will always be problems, and unforeseen obstacles, but push through them until you accomplish and meet your goal. It is so rewarding when you do!”
Thank you to Cathy and the Little sisters for the opportunity to try out the swimwear and for sharing your story with me.