A- A+

Velorosa Founders Gear Up for RAGBRAI

Des Moines Startups Velorosa Cycling Clothing

July 17, 2017

Bike Shorts for the Women of Greater Des Moines (DSM) and Beyond

A few weeks ago, Kim and I were working at a bike race in Clear Lake, Iowa. We’d set up our pop-up store near the finish line of the annual Bicycle, Blues & BBQ festival. On the second day of the event, a woman named Barb ran up to our booth. She’d just finished an 80-mile training ride in her new Velorosa® cycling shorts and was thrilled with the way they looked, fit and performed. She thanked us, several times, for finally making bike shorts that she wanted to wear.

To be honest, we hear these kinds of comments a lot from our customers and they are exactly the reason we started Velorosa. We had our own frustrations with the limited clothing options available for women riders. Just look around most bike shops and you’ll notice the choices for women are slim. As avid cyclists, Kim and I couldn’t find good looking, high-performance gear to train in, so we started designing our own. We felt women needed more options for cycling kits (jersey with matching bike shorts) that fit well and looked beautiful. After a few years of laying the groundwork, we debuted our first collection of women’s cycling wear at RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) in 2015. 

Ragbrai apparel
We utilize a direct-to-consumer business model. We reach our customers through an online retail store at velorosacycling.com, and our pop-up store at bike races and expos that reach our target market.

Cycling is a 3.3-billion-dollar industry. Roughly 14 percent of sales involve women’s-specific products. Industry trends show that interest in the sport among women continues to grow, and 45 million women rode a bike in the U.S. last year. Given our performance over the last two years, we believe we’re successfully growing our brand.

A Growing Brand

In 2016, we doubled our sales and are on track to do the same in 2017. We credit this growth to several factors including a brand ambassador program, securing a line of credit and the high-profile sponsorship of an elite cycling athlete.

Velorosa Cycling ClothingAs a DSM-based company, we realize the importance of continuing our growth in the Midwest, as well as gaining exposure in other regions of the country. This year, we strategically attended expos and events in New York City and Logan, Utah. We also targeted the top cycling regions in the U.S. and recruited brand ambassadors there, to wear our gear, review it and publish to various social media platforms.

Support in DSM

Kim and I both live in DSM. Kim grew up here and I moved to the area nearly 16 years ago. We have found DSM to be a great place to start a business. The DSM cycling community is a strong, tight-knit and vibrant group. It has welcomed our business with open arms. We have received unparalleled support from riders and bike shop owners, in particular Greg Rasmussen of Rasmussen Bike Shop. We feel this is the perfect place for Velorosa.

Bikers around the states
After being entirely self-funded for the first 18 months, we secured a line of credit in early 2017. This allowed us to make larger inventory purchases than in 2015 and 2016 combined. It has also allowed us to travel greater distances to promote our brand.

Finally, we are the exclusive race wear provider for ultramarathon cyclist, Sarah Cooper. Cooper is a local athlete who is one of the top distance cyclists in the world. This year, Cooper was the Solo Female Winner in the grueling 3,000-mile Race Across America (RAAM) in June. Velorosa created a custom race kit and skin suit for her 2017 season. Her journey will be featured in a documentary that is set to be release next year.

Kim and I often look back on the past two years with a bit of awe. We started with an idea and a few sketches and now Velorosa features five unique collections and nearly 60 different products. At times, it feels like there’s as much second-guessing as there is success, but there’s no question it’s the feedback from our customers, like Barb, that keeps us rolling forward. 

DSM USA Velorosa Cycling Clothing for Women

Love cycling and the outdoors? Learn more about DSM’s extensive trails system.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.

Lisa Carponelli

Velorosa was founded in 2015 by business partners and cycling friends Kim Hopkins and Lisa Carponelli, both of Des Moines. Hopkins began designing jerseys for her race team in 2008. The partners sell the race-inspired apparel online and at pop-up locations to meet the needs of women looking for unique, great-fitting, high-performance cycling clothing. Velorosa loosely translated means 'pink bike' in French and Italian.