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Laker tennis player turns entrepreneur from necessity

  • three people standing in front of poster
  • three people at sewing machine
  • wrist locker and what it holds

Posted on July 05, 2017

Katarina Samardzija, a junior with a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship, has successfully merged her academic work and athletic lifestyle to create a rising business.

Samardzija, who plays tennis for Grand Valley, creates and sells wearable products that store keys, cash and identification cards. Like other entrepreneurs, Samardzija's business venture, Locker Lifestyle, grew from necessity — and fashion.

"My roommates and I would go into the Campus Rec Center and only need an ID to get in and a key to get back to our room. We found we were carrying these wallets and backpacks when we didn't need all of that," she said. "The only other product out there was running belts, and they were too bulky."

With help from her mother, who owns a bridal store in Illinois, Samardzija designed the "wrist locker" to hold an ID card, key and cash. It's made of dry-wicking material and washable.

From there, Samardzija expanded her product line to include a headband, phone sleeve locker and smaller version of the wrist locker and began selling them on Etsy. 

She entered area pitch competitions and caught the eye of area entrepreneurs. In April, she won first place in the poster competition at MWest Challenge, and in May she won a 5x5 Night competition hosted by StartGarden.

"Even if you're not successful at these competitions, the feedback you receive is incredible," she said.

Through the help of a business attorney, Samardzija secured three trademarks and three provisional patents for her products. Locker Lifestyle is no longer on Etsy as Samardzija sells through her website and at area festivals and farmers markets.

Her tennis teammates not only sport Samardzija's products but occasionally pitch in to help with packaging and shipping them. "I have awesome teammates who have been super supportive," she said.