AnnMaree Skelton’s huge (weight) loss is, without a doubt, our gain. A few months ago I met AnnMaree at a Westpac Ruby Connection luncheon – I was so lucky to be on her table and discover her passion! Our Success Story this month features this inspirational young woman who has, together with her sister, launched ‘Keep Sweatin’ a fabulous business that boosts the health of men and women with their innovative fitness products. So how does she balance a demanding job as Communications Manager at Westpac with her fast-growing business in the fitness industry? Here’s her story.
Who is AnnMaree Skelton?
When I look back to how I got onto this journey, the moment that comes to mind is a bet between my sister and cousin. I was at my heaviest weight when we all decided to try and lose 20kgs – each week we said we would put $5 into an account, and who ever lost the weight first, would win the money in the account. It seemed like such a big goal – but it was the kick-start we all needed. I’ve now lost over 40kg!
I developed a weight problem going through primary school, and started high school weighing 75kgs (year 7, 12 years old). By the time I started university, my weight had ballooned, and at my heaviest I was 115.5kgs.
My weight loss journey changed me as a person – Not only did I change physically; I was motivated and gained confidence. I am now the person that other people always saw in me. I go after my dreams, I live for every day, and I experience life. I have 2 kids, a supportive husband, and an amazing family – all who have loved me through my weight ups and downs.
What is your business and where is it located?
Keep Sweatin is the brainchild of my sister and myself. We run this from home in the North West of Sydney. You can find us at www.keepsweatin.com.au
Who are your clients and what are your products?
Keep Sweatin has a range of gym and exercise related products. We started importing hydration backpacks in bright colours, and have since received Keep Sweatin men’s and women’s compression pants and tops. Our clients are varied, from mom and dads, to young fitness fanatics, all the way through to endurance riders.
What did you do prior (or concurrent with) to your current business?
I have a full time job with Westpac, which I love. I have met amazing people at Westpac, many of whom have input into the business. We like to ask our friends, families and customers to help shape our business.
What made you make this career change?
I love all things funky, and I have never been afraid of prints, patterns, colours and bling. My weight loss has made me really think about what I want to wear, and how I want to feel in what I wear. I went shopping a few times, on the look out for funky and bright items that weren’t going to break the bank (I am a mum of 2 after all) – and so Keep Sweatin was born.
How did you come up with the idea?
My sister had the great idea for the name and it came about after a pretty gruelling training session. We had just been out on a run, and we were having a giggle about the sweat patch on the back of her shirt, which happened to look like a love heart, and she said ‘just keep sweatin’. Initially we toyed with that as the brand name, but ended up with Keep Sweatin. My sister Trish is the calming and sensible influence in the business, and I am the crazy ideas person.
What assistance did you get along the way?
We have constantly asked for feedback, we have sent samples out to customers, and asked for honest feedback. I know that both my sister and I are talking to everyone we know about this business, and using their feedback and expertise as a way of guiding us. We have had heavy input from our other sister and brother in law who have run their own successful business for many years. We use their business knowledge, and their expertise (design and printing), to help in our decision-making. The fact that they have had a successful business for so long is a testament to their skills.
What were the key challenges you experienced?
Communicating with suppliers on the other side of the world is a massive challenge. Getting across exactly what you are after can be difficult, but also very rewarding when you see the end product. Our hydration backpacks have been an amazing success – the supplier was great to deal with, made the transaction very easy, and the product is fabulous quality!
Finances can also be challenging – as a start up business, there is a line – how do you manage to bring in more stock while not stretching your finances. Ultimately, we are bringing stock into the business in a drip feed style. We purchase more stock as we start to sell what we have, ensuring new styles and colours for our customers, without overwhelming the business.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of going into business?
Get advice, attend a business course, do a tonne of research. Businesses do not run themselves, and customers don’t always come knocking – get out and ask for business. Talk to everyone you know about it (and even those you don’t know). The beginning is hard and it requires perseverance.
Tell us about your most fun moment in your new business!
Both Trish and I registered for the City2Surf last year, and at that point, we only had our hydration backpacks in stock and selling. On the way to the event, we were on the bus at Wynyard, awaiting the next stop at Town Hall to get off. As the bus was sitting at Wynyard however, I spotted one of our hydration backpacks! I literally ran off the bus (before my sister really even knew what was going on) to chase the backpack down! I ran up to the girl telling her that she had my backpack!! The look on her face was priceless, as I’m sure she thought I was a lunatic trying to steal her bag! Of course, it was quickly ironed out with a hasty explanation. This was a massive buzz – seeing our product out and about!
How can we reach you to find out more about your products?
Our website is www.keepsweatin.com.au
Follow us on facebook! www.facebook.com/keepsweatin
BREAKING NEWS! Look out for this month’s Women’s Running Australia magazine – Keep Sweatin’ Hydration Packs are featured in the Top Gear section!