West Ottawa alumni win $25,000 to jump start their company

West Ottawa alumni win $25,000 to jump start their company

Emily Johnson

“We won! We won! Oh! My! God!” screamed West Ottawa (WO) Alumna Greta Davis and Sophie Vanden Bosch. The Vanden Bosch household roared to life. They popped and poured bottles of sparkling grape juice. They shared celebratory hugs and cheers. Smiles were abundant all throughout the room. Just 20 minutes prior, life was normal for Greta and Sophie. 

Greta was outside doing yard work for her family, and Sophie was preparing for what she thought was a follow up interview with Victoria’s Secret (VS). Little did they know, Greta and Sophie were about to receive a generous check that would pave the path to success for their small business, Revolin Sports. 

Revolin Sports produce‌s ‌”high‌ ‌performance,‌ ‌eco-friendly‌ ‌sports‌ ‌equipment‌ ‌for‌ ‌better‌ ‌play‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌better‌ ‌planet.” One product they sell is pickleball paddles; the company’s major focus in the brand’s startup. Revolin was founded by Greta’s brother, Hugh Davis, also a WO Alumni, but Sophie and Greta joined the team and continue to play vital roles in production. 

Hugh’s involvement in pickleball inspired Revolin Sports. 

“He‌ ‌was‌ ‌playing‌ ‌all‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌and‌ ‌started‌ ‌breaking‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌paddles.‌ ‌He‌ ‌knew‌ ‌he‌ ‌could‌ ‌do‌ ‌better.‌ ‌I‌ ‌walked‌ ‌in‌ ‌on‌ ‌him‌ ‌making‌ ‌a‌ ‌prototype‌ ‌paddle‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌garage‌ ‌and‌ ‌immediately‌ ‌knew‌ ‌I‌ ‌wanted‌ ‌to‌ ‌join.‌ ‌Our‌ ‌first‌ ‌couple‌ ‌prototypes‌ ‌were‌ ‌actually‌ ‌made‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌carbon‌ ‌fiber,‌ ‌but‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌so‌ ‌toxic‌ ‌and‌ ‌wasteful.‌ ‌Hugh‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌learning‌ ‌about‌ ‌natural‌ ‌fiber‌ ‌composites‌ ‌in‌ ‌school,‌ ‌and‌ ‌we‌ ‌decided‌ ‌we‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌new‌ ‌mission.‌ ‌Not‌ ‌only‌ ‌were‌ ‌we‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌an‌ ‌awesome‌ ‌paddle,‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌environmentally‌ ‌conscious‌ ‌too,” Greta said. 

The company aims to reduce the use of carbon fiber products by creating sustainable paddles. 

“Most‌ ‌sports‌ ‌equipment‌ ‌is‌ ‌made‌ ‌from‌ ‌carbon‌ ‌fiber‌ ‌and‌ ‌fiberglass.‌ ‌These‌ ‌materials‌ ‌are‌ ‌terrible‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌environment.‌ ‌They‌ ‌take‌ ‌huge‌ ‌amounts‌ ‌of‌ ‌energy‌ ‌and‌ ‌water‌ ‌to‌ ‌produce, ‌and‌ ‌when‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌done‌ ‌with‌ ‌them,‌ ‌they‌ ‌sit‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌landfill‌ ‌for ‌the‌ ‌rest‌ ‌of‌ ‌time.‌ Our‌ ‌aim‌ ‌is‌ ‌to‌ ‌replace‌ ‌this‌ ‌toxic‌ ‌carbon‌ ‌fiber‌ ‌and‌ ‌fiberglass‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌renewable,‌ ‌natural,‌ ‌plant-based‌ ‌fiber:‌ ‌our‌ ‌BioFLX‌ ‌Technology.‌ ‌We‌ ‌are‌ ‌trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌prove‌ ‌that‌ ‌high-performance‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌mutually‌ ‌exclusive‌ ‌qualities,” Greta said. 

Greta, Hugh, and Sophie launched the company in 2013, producing their first prototype by 2016. They sold limited paddles and also sold shirts to raise money for outside expenses. They created a website, www. revolinsports.com, where people could easily purchase the paddles and other goods. 

“ I have really enjoyed using Revolin paddles. I have been lucky enough to sample prototypes and give feedback to Hugh regarding the different paddles. Each paddle I have sampled feels completely different from the one before and I think this is unique. It feels as though any player could find a Revolin paddle which fits his/her style of play best, “ said Tate Strobel, who has sampled a variety of Revolin paddles. 

Greta was quick to learn that entrepreneurship was not easy. Starting up a company was not cheap, especially on a student budget. Greta realized they needed money fast, prompting her to look for alternatives. To her surprise, she found that many large commercial companies give money away to entrepreneurs like Greta, Hugh, and Sophie to help launch new companies 

That’s when Greta applied for VS PINK’s ‘GRL PWR Project’. The ‘GRL PWR Project’ allots $25,000 to fund ten female-owned companies. The money is distributed into three categories: women, education, and sustainability. A panel of notable judges, including PINK’s CEO Amy Hauk, review nearly 4,000 video submissions from across the country, and ultimately choose the winners based on passion, drive, and originality. 

“Actually,‌ ‌my‌ ‌mom‌ ‌told‌ ‌me‌ ‌about‌ [the ‘GRL PWR Project’].‌ ‌We‌ ‌got‌ ‌a‌ ‌random‌ ‌flyer‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌mail‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌like‌ ‌’you‌ ‌guys‌ ‌should‌ ‌totally‌ ‌do‌ ‌this.’ ‌At‌ ‌first, I ‌was‌ ‌skeptical. It seemed like it was maybe too good to be true,” Greta said.

Greta and Sophie got to work immediately on the application because they only had a few days until the deadline. Greta did not worry too much about perfecting the video, all they could do was try. 

The process was not difficult. “The‌ ‌only‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌initially‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌two-minute‌ ‌video‌ ‌and‌ ‌some‌ ‌paperwork‌ ‌after‌ ‌that.‌ ‌Sophie‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌met‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌write‌ ‌our‌ ‌script‌ ‌and‌ ‌brainstorm.‌ ‌Then‌ ‌one‌ ‌day‌ ‌we‌ filmed‌ ‌it!‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌‌hilarious‌ ‌process;‌ ‌we‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌know‌ ‌what‌ ‌we‌ ‌were‌ ‌doing.‌ At‌ ‌first,‌ ‌I‌ ‌thought‌ ‌it‌ ‌wasn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌a‌ ‌big‌ ‌deal.‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌just‌ ‌like‌ ‌’why‌ ‌not?’ ‌I didn’t really ‌expect‌ anything to come out of it,” Greta said. 

Fast forward to March 25, 2020, where it was just another boring day in quarantine. PINK reached out to Greta and Sophie asking them to do simple interviews as part of the “interview process.” 

“During‌ ‌Sophie’s‌ ‌interview,‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌at‌ ‌her‌ ‌house‌ ‌doing‌ ‌yard‌ ‌work.‌ ‌She‌ ‌mentioned‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌there‌, and‌ ‌the‌ ‌interviewer‌ ‌told‌ ‌her‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌get‌ ‌me.‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌freaking‌ ‌out.‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌literally‌ ‌doing‌ ‌yardwork…‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌filthy.‌ ‌But‌ ‌I‌ ‌went‌ ‌down‌ ‌anyway‌ ‌and‌ ‌we‌ ‌started‌ ‌talking,” Greta said. 

That’s when Greta and Vande Bosch got a weird gut feeling. Something was off; the interviewers were gleaming with excitement and the anticipation built. 

“So‌ ‌this‌ ‌whole‌ ‌interview‌ ‌thing‌ ‌was‌ ‌actually‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌ruse…‌ ‌I’m‌ ‌here‌ ‌to‌ ‌tell‌ ‌you‌ that ‌you‌ ‌guys‌ ‌won!!!” the PINK representative shared with the girls. 

And suddenly life for Greta, Hugh, and Sophie would never be the same. Excitement spread throughout the room and the celebration began. 

“We‌ ‌freaked‌ ‌out.‌ ‌We‌ ‌were‌ ‌screaming.‌ ‌We‌ ‌were‌ ‌jumping‌ ‌up‌ ‌and‌ ‌down.‌ ‌Sophie‌ ‌started‌ ‌crying.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌amazing.‌ ‌We‌ ‌thanked‌ ‌them‌ ‌about‌ ‌30‌ ‌million‌ ‌times‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌sprinted‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌tell‌ ‌everyone‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌house.‌ ‌We‌ ‌broke‌ ‌out‌ ‌some‌ ‌sparkling‌ ‌grape‌ ‌juice‌ ‌to‌ ‌celebrate,” Greta said. 

After many hours of celebration, the Revolin team realized that it was time to get to work. Their dreams of expanding their company could now become a reality. The money covered many expenditures that were preventing Revolin Sports from growing their mission. The money carved a path to success for the future of Revolin Sports. 

“The‌ ‌GRL‌ ‌PWR‌ ‌award‌ ‌has‌ ‌made‌ ‌it‌ ‌so‌ ‌we‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌worry‌ ‌about‌ ‌our‌ ‌finances.‌ ‌Before‌ ‌this,‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌big‌ ‌deal‌ ‌to‌ ‌spend‌ ‌$20.‌ ‌Now,‌ ‌if‌ ‌we‌ ‌need‌ ‌$500‌ ‌graphics‌ ‌for‌ ‌our‌ ‌paddles,‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌get‌ ‌them.‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌been‌ ‌so‌ ‌amazing.‌ ‌We’ve‌ ‌used‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌money‌ ‌for‌ ‌inventory‌ ‌and‌ ‌material‌ ‌costs.‌ ‌Another‌ ‌big‌ ‌thing‌ ‌it‌ ‌paid‌ ‌for‌ ‌was‌ ‌getting‌ ‌our‌ ‌paddles‌ ‌certified,‌ ‌a‌ ‌key‌ ‌step‌ ‌to‌ ‌launching‌ ‌our‌ ‌product,” Greta said. 

Now that the $25,000 is in the hands of Revolin Sports, the big question is, what comes next? 

“Over‌ ‌the‌ ‌next‌ ‌year‌ ‌or‌ ‌so,‌ ‌we‌ ‌want‌ ‌to‌ ‌really‌ ‌infiltrate‌ ‌the‌ ‌pickle ball‌ ‌market.‌ ‌We’re‌ ‌hoping‌ ‌to‌ ‌really‌ ‌expand‌ ‌our‌ ‌pickle ball‌ ‌lineup‌ ‌and‌ ‌offer‌ ‌3‌ ‌to‌ ‌4‌ ‌distinct‌ ‌kinds‌ ‌of‌ ‌paddles.‌ ‌After‌ ‌that,‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌thinking‌ ‌of‌ ‌expanding‌ ‌into‌ ‌other‌ ‌sports,‌ ‌potentially‌ ‌skis,‌ ‌stand-up‌ ‌paddle‌ ‌boards,‌ ‌longboards,‌ ‌etc.‌ ‌And‌ ‌‌we‌ ‌will‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌everything‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌to‌ ‌further‌ ‌our‌ ‌mission‌ ‌of‌ ‌making‌ ‌sports‌ ‌more‌ ‌sustainable,” Greta said. 

It is no question that VS PINK and the “GRL PWR Project” made a long-lasting impact on Greta, Hugh, Sophie, and the rest of the Revolin family. Sometimes the least expected outcomes can end up becoming an onset for success; and the Revolin team witnessed that first hand.