When Natalie Fritz, Karen Sun and Susana Yee first convened at a treadmill bootcamp class in LA, they never planned to start a business. They just wanted to get some exercise.
And yet—though the three women came to fitness at different moments of their lives and find inspiration in disparate experiences—they soon found commonality. One realization that emerged was that their shared love of fashion made shopping for fitness attire frustrating. There was no nearby one-stop-shop for all elements of a style-driven workout wardrobe.
Fortunately, the ladies already possessed the necessary experience to start such a venture: Fritz had previously launched her own lingerie line, Underglam; Sun owned a retail clothing store in Beverly Hills; and Yee had a background in fashion marketing. So, Sweat NSK was born, a destination for fashion forward activewear.
Here, the founders discuss the emotional and physical rewards of living well:
Live The Process: How did your respective interests in fitness and wellness develop?
Susana Yee: I grew up in a suburb just 20 minutes west of Boston, as the eldest of five children. In cold weather, the options were ice skating, hockey, skiing and indoor tennis. I chose indoor tennis in the winters and outdoor tennis in the very hot summers because I never ever got used to the cold winters.
Growing up, my mom often cooked meals from scratch with lots of vegetables and lean meats, so we were exposed to wellness, even though we didn’t understand it. When I was 10, my aunt came to visit us from San Francisco, and that’s when I learned about wellness. My aunt was this cool college student going to UC Berkeley, who made us all these great healthy smoothies from fresh fruit every morning for breakfast and taught us how to do yoga. She taught us that wellness was a lifestyle.
Natalie Fritz: I grew up in San Francisco, one of five girls, and moved to Los Angeles to go to Pepperdine University. My love for fitness [developed] about six months before my 40th birthday. Until then, I was never really a fitness person. I hate to say it, but my workout consisted of walking on the treadmill for 15 minutes once in a while or a few classes a year at the Bar Method. But, with the prospect of middle-age looming and a big birthday soirée planned, I dove in. I started doing Burn 60, a bootcamp class, and Pilates. I realized how much better I felt, and how it was improving my overall sense of happiness and strength.
Karen Sun: I was born and bred in LA and am a late bloomer in fitness. I grew up in a traditional Chinese home. Studying and getting good grades were always important; sports were not encouraged. I love the family values that I grew up with, but I also know that being physically active is important.
In my twenties, I started to dabble in exercise with spinning because it was the only 45-minute class I could find; an hour was too long for me. But, through the years, I’ve tried everything from yoga to interval training and, just in the past two years, I have started to workout consistently. I’m a mother of two young boys and I want to keep up with them. Working out is now a part of my life and has made me strong. It helps keep me sane.
LTP: How did you become interested in fashion as it relates to exercise?
SY: The three of us have always had an interest in fashion and are constantly finding out about the latest new designers and trends. Natalie owned her own lingerie brand, Underglam, for eight years; Karen had her own retail clothing store, Crib, for children in Beverly Hills for five years; and I co-owned a digital marketing company, Buzzsmith Media, that marketed fashion and consumer brands.
[In recent years], designers have changed workout attire for the better with performance fabrics and innovative designs. It is an exciting time because people really care about wellness from what they eat, to what they wear, to how they work out.
NF: I’ve always loved style and fashion: I designed my own line for eight years. Once I started working out, I realized that too many people were wearing the exact same activewear. There had to be other alternatives and other choices. So, I started looking into other workout wear lines and realized there was an abundance of fashion forward choices.
KS: I’ve always loved fashion, and now you can be fashionable in fitness, which makes it so exciting. I love Alala, Live The Process, Heroine Sport and Ultracor, to name a few of my favorite brands.
LTP: How did you meet and decided to launch Sweat NSK?
SY: Natalie and I have known one another for over 20 years and have always shared a love of fashion and talked about starting a company together. Natalie knew Karen through mutual friends. We all met regularly for our favorite treadmill bootcamp class and ended up discussing ideas for a new business venture together.
Sweat NSK is a retail store that curates luxury activewear, and the NSK stands for the three partners: Natalie, Susana and Karen. We have over 30 lines in the store, and we only sell the most select pieces from each line. We try to pick our favorites for our customers in advance.
Based on our prior experiences, Natalie mostly works with on buying appointments with our brands, styling our photo shoots for e-commerce, the merchandising of the store and some PR. Karen has a background in human resources from her previous corporate job, so she handles our accounting, HR and payroll. I work on marketing (digital and otherwise), PR, overall e-commerce management, cross promotions with other companies and strategic planning. However, we all participate in the overall growth strategy and branding of the company on a daily basis and are constantly bouncing ideas off of one another.
LTP: What inspires you and comprises your wellness lifestyle?
SY: I live in Los Angeles in a little quiet pocket with many streets where I can walk my dog and take a walk with my husband and daughter without too much traffic. We enjoy being outdoors for a quick walk after dinner or a longer walk from our home to brunch on the weekends. We also like grilling and eating outside on a warm summer night and inviting friends to sit around the firepit. The beach is also only ten minutes away, so we sometimes pack a picnic and have dinner on the beach and watch the sunset over the ocean, while the kids run through the waves. And we love taking our dog off-leash to hike in the mountains because she is free to roam and meet other dogs, and our whole family is so happy after spending a few hours walking amongst nature. Taking the time out for a workout or a hike or a walk gives us a reason to slow down and just appreciate one another as a family and how lucky we are to live in a place with such beautiful mountains and beaches.
NF: In many ways, I think I represent the typical woman. I love working out, but I am not a fanatic. I also have a daughter and a busy schedule. So, [staying healthy] is one part of my lifestyle. Many women want to look and feel good while exercising. In today's world, it's all about comfort and style.
KS: I’m a city mouse, but I do appreciate nature. I’m blessed with a great family and good friends. My two boys keep me on my toes and are my motivators to keep moving forward. Both my husband and I want to age gracefully, so we have focused on being more healthy.
I have two favorite juice places: Kreaton (where I love the Chocolate Lovers) and Beaming (where I love the Rock Star).
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
SY: For the three of us, happiness is a healthy lifestyle, family, friends and finding balance, fulfillment and challenge in our work and lives.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that every day?
SY: "Live the Process" to us means waking up each day with a purpose and an intention to contribute to our society in a positive way. It’s about achieving goals we set for ourselves daily and being grateful for what we have achieved at the end of every day.
Everyone can “Live the Process,” as long as we all know that the to-do list doesn't need to be finished in one day. What we do achieve is part of the journey, and tomorrow is always another day to continue to enjoy that experience.