This is the first entry in a new series of Young Innovators being profiled at Creator, the daily online magazine for the collaborative workspace company WeWork. Check back for a new business founder every day for the next two weeks.
Every time Lynn Le stepped into a gym, one thing always bugged her. None of them had boxing or mixed martial arts gloves that were made for women.
“There was a legit problem where women were wearing gloves that didn’t fit them,” says Le, a member at Portland’s WeWork Custom House. “They were wearing men’s gloves or a youth large. A youth large isn’t a women’s glove. There was a lack of fit, and that leads to injuries.”
And the women’s boxing gloves on the market had one big problem, at least as far as Le was concerned.
“They were usually bubble gum pink,” she says.
That gave the 27-year-old entrepreneur the idea to launch Society Nine, a sports apparel company for “badass women.” Its boxing gloves come in white, black, and gold and have designs resembling shattered glass. There’s not a pink pair in the bunch.
Women can fill out their athletic wardrobes with Society Nine’s whole line, which includes hoodies and sweatpants (perfect for warming up before you step into the ring) and a faux crocodile skin cap (for celebrating afterward).
And the name Society Nine? It’s a riff on Title IX, a much-praised federal civil rights law that guarantees equality in college sports.
Not a bad business model, since women make up about a quarter of the $50 billion combat sports market.
Le says her goal is to put out a product that none of her customers will want to return. To accomplish this, she does all the quality testing herself.
“If I strike a bag, and I feel like my hands felt numb and awful, we’re not going to sell it,” Le says. “That’s an example of a sobering, shitty situation where a lot of work went into making them, but we’re not going to go into production.”
Le also mentors other influential female fighters who have become brand ambassadors for Society Nine.
“We’re not just a boxing glove company,” Le says. “We’ve galvanized the community of fierce women that say we deserve better for our athleticism. They’re galvanized under the idea that there’s a lot more to power than physique.”