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Tampa Bay 'mompreneurs' turn love of sports into maternity wear

From left, Jane Grantham and Katy Planamenta, both of Palm Harbor, and Gayle Clark of Trinity model FSU, USF and UF shirts from Sporty U. Planamenta’s faux pregnancy shows the shirt’s versatility.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

From left, Jane Grantham and Katy Planamenta, both of Palm Harbor, and Gayle Clark of Trinity model FSU, USF and UF shirts from Sporty U. Planamenta’s faux pregnancy shows the shirt’s versatility.

CLEARWATER — Jane Grantham, the mother of three young children, is a rabid University of South Florida Bulls fan.

Gayle Clark, the mother of two, is a die-hard University of Florida Gators fan.

The friends were recalling their pregnancies recently — and how difficult it had been to look stylish while cheering on their favorite teams.

"I'm a huge sports fan," said Clark, of Trinity. "I looked everywhere for a collegiate maternity polo shirt and couldn't find one."

Clark mentioned an idea to Grantham, of Clearwater, formerly an assistant to beauty mogul Estee Lauder and a merchandising manager for several bridal magazines.

Grantham jumped at it: outfitting pregnant women for games.

"We had three criteria," Grantham said. "The shirts had to be comfy, casual and collegiate."

The result was Sporty U, a home-run business selling fashionable polo shirts to pregnant women. The two "mompreneurs," as they call themselves, are focusing on featuring the big three in Florida — the University of Florida, Florida State and the University of South Florida — but that's just for starters.

"We want to expand our line to other maternity wear," Grantham said, "as well as expanding out of the state of Florida."

Grantham, 49, said she learned valuable lessons from Lauder, her former boss. "She would never take 'no' for an answer," said the new entrepreneur.

Lauder also taught her young assistant to work hard and be persuasive. Those lessons, coupled with an understanding of women's taste in fashion, convinced Grantham the women had a winner.

Getting the business up and running was no small matter.

"The key is to get a license to use the school's logo," said Clark, 38.

"It had to be an original idea to get approved because the market is already flooded with sports paraphernalia," Grantham added.

Clark said the Collegiate Licensing Co. of Atlanta also wanted to see a business plan to be sure the applicants were serious. The women made the cut.

They began by calling local sporting goods stores to see if interest was there. It was.

Next came finding a company to make the perfect shirt. They found one, an Arizona firm, at a convention in Las Vegas. Production was soon under way.

Grantham, in her Clearwater home, displayed the resulting team apparel. The soft cotton-blended shirts feature collars, buttons, school colors and logos, along with loose, swing bottoms for comfort.

And there's more.

"UVA protection is built into the fabric," said Grantham. "You're actually protecting your baby in the womb while you're in the sun cheering on your team."

The women envision other possibilities.

"We'd like to team up with a charity where we can help moms with young children in need," said Grantham. Clark added that starting a charitable foundation was also a possibility.

"I wish people could incorporate the passion they have at games into their daily lives," said Grantham. "I think it would be a better world."

Fast facts

To learn more

For more information, visit SportyU.com or call toll-free at 1-877-473-2672.

Tampa Bay 'mompreneurs' turn love of sports into maternity wear 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:59pm]
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