At this time last year, Jen Kranz and Kate Vigmostad, both single moms, were desperately searching for something fun to do outside after the pandemic hit. Since they had both enjoyed roller-skating as kids, it seemed like a good time to embrace that hobby once again and bring it back to their hometown of Fairfield.
Kate, an owner of a dance studio in town and an online yoga instructor, bought herself a pair of skates to help her escape to the outdoors, and started buying and refurbishing old skates to sell out of her studio. Meanwhile, Jen, then a student at Maharishi University of Management earning a degree in digital marketing and entrepreneurship, was skating for fun and researching protective skating gear with dreams of starting her own business.
It seemed like an easy match. After running into each other skating around town, they joined forces and today are co-owners of Iowa’s first and only skate shop, Volition Skate, which is accepting online orders and will open an official storefront in May.
“There’s only a handful of dedicated roller-skating shops in the country, and people are so excited to come in and try on skates rather than ordering online,” Kate said. “It’s been very exciting to enter such a booming industry. Our business was able to take off and I don’t know that that’s always the experience.”
Their first endeavor as a business began with pop-up markets like those in Iowa City, which proved to be a great way to gauge interest. Though skates are fairly expensive, and it was a big investment for the skating duo, they sold their entire inventory in a matter of hours every time. This strong response gave them the confidence to expand their line and begin reaching out to manufacturers and distributors to create a full inventory of colorful skates.
From there, their business grew to include a website that also sells clothing, accessories and protective gear, social media pages that offer giveaways and content from influencers. As their following increased, so did the excitement about the return of a traditional recreation. With 10 to 15 orders a day and daily appointments, it became obvious that the excitement for roller skating is on the rise.
“People are loving it, it’s just such a nostalgic thing. Roller skates remind you of childhood. Now that it’s becoming more popular and people feel more comfortable giving it a shot, we know that the interest will only continue to grow,” Jen said.
Outside of their business, Jen and Kate are finding even more ways to encourage others to try skating. The pair started a skate crew in Fairfield last year, who get together to skate around the square, skate park and tennis courts while listening to music and helping each other learn different moves. This in turn inspired them to create tutorial videos on their website and social media.
But the ideas don’t stop there. Once their doors officially open, Jen and Kate also plan on turning the upstairs area into a mini skate park as another place for their skate crew to hang out and perfect the art. They also have plans to offer virtual classes for a variety of skating dance and fitness classes as well as enter the manufacturing industry with a focus on protective gear.
“This all started because we felt we wanted to get into a hobby that we are excited about and share our collective knowledge about roller skating. We’re excited to be the first roller skate shop in Iowa and we’re really proud to be women-owned,” Kate said. “We’re definitely overcoming the odds of the pandemic and are also making something that people are excited about.”