Betsy Johnson + Berry Wanless | Prairie Village, Kansas | Microenterprise
- Stylish UV 50+ swimwear for children
- As seen on and in: ABC’s Shark Tank, NBC’s Today Show, Target, People, Red Tricycle
It’s 2003. Topeka High School student, Betsy Wanless signs up for Youth Entrepreneurs, a yearlong elective that will teach her, among many other things, how to valuate a business, write a business plan and pitch it to potential investors.
Flash forward to 2014. Betsy (now Johnson) has survived skin cancer, started a line of UV 50+ protective swimwear for kids and stands with her brother and co-founder Berry Wanless on the biggest business stage in the world to pitch her business to four of the most recognized entrepreneurs.
Little did she know back in 2003, but her experience in Youth Entrepreneurs was about her to land a shark of a deal on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Johnson is co-founder and president of SwimZip, the stylish go-to brand for sun protective clothing, sun hats, rash guards and swimwear for mostly children. The self-titled mompreneur created the company in early 2010.
In the summer of 2013, Betsy and Berry flew to Los Angeles to pitch the business to five Sharks: Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary. The total pitch took about two hours and aired six months later on Jan. 24, 2014. America watched as QVC queen Greiner offered $60,000 for 20-percent equity of the company.
Since the SwimZip episode aired on Shark Tank, business has exploded for Betsy and Berry. In just two days after the show aired, their sales nearly surpassed what they had made the previous year. They’ve used their (pardon my pun) exposure to cannonball their brand in brick and mortar and online stores, high-end hotels, boutiques, blogs and across social media.
SwimZip doesn’t tread water and they freely pass the buoy to other businesses. A quick scroll through SwimZip’s Facebook page will show you how dedicated Betsy is to sharing her light with both complementary brands and other mompreneurs.
Betsy currently serves the organization that sparked her inner entrepreneur as a member of the Youth Entrepreneurs Kansas City Advisory Council.
“It was so nice to have the support of Youth Entrepreneurs when I moved back to Kansas. They provided me with a strong network of people to chat with and have the support with, and also connected me to many successful entrepreneurs who I would have only dreamed about meeting,” says Betsy. “Having them as a support network and huge advocate of SwimZip has been extremely beneficial.”
Youth Entrepreneurs currently has programs in eight greater Kansas City metro schools. Statewide there are more than 1,100 students and 12,000 alumni.