How an Entrepreneur Started a Movement That Inspires Women

The first post on my blog covered the beginning of my fitness journey and how I found powerlifting. In that article I mentioned how the Girls Who Powerlift page was a team I felt a part of and it brought me the support I had been missing for years. Today I am happy to announce I will be interviewing Ivy, owner of the Girls Who Powerlift company for the first installment of my Business Spotlight Series.

As a marketing professional with a public relations specialty, I want this section to highlight businesses and entrepreneurs who are “doing it right” so to speak. This series will incorporate companies that I believe have a great impact on the community, a mission that is impactful, owners who are driven to achieve success, and most importantly – companies that value their following. The first business I wanted to interview for my blog HAD to be Girls Who Powerlift, and let me tell you why.

5 years ago, I was merely scrolling on Instagram I came across the #girlswhopowerlift tag. It featured so many women of different sizes, backgrounds, and capabilities – I scrolled for hours. Being a powerlifter, you can sometimes feel out of place if you’re training in an environment that is foreign to your sport, and I fell into that category. I was constantly “mansplained” to about lifting, and often was too afraid to workout in the general lifting area. My body/physique doesn’t fall into a specific category or sport, but I’m built like a powerhouse, and I am strong. These were attributes that I was made to feel ashamed of and shied away from embracing – until I came across this page on Instagram.

Source: Girls Who Powerlift Instagram

Each post highlighted a different athlete. Whether it was a mother, nurse, grandmother, teenager, pre-teen, police officer, you name it – there was a woman at the bar. This showed me it didn’t matter what you weighed, how old you are, or what you do for a living – any woman can be a strength athlete. I realized that there were more girls out there who trained like me and embraced being “different”. This community I found was a group of women who all knew what it was like to compete in a strength sport, and some of the misconceptions that come with that. The more and more I connected with Ivy, and the GWPL community, the more it empowered me in the gym and lifted my spirit. And that’s why I want to highlight this company.

Once a hashtag and community page on Instagram, now with a massive following, successful business, and gym behind it – the woman who started this is a fierce entrepreneur. When Ivy first started this company, she was the one fulfilling orders, running the Instagram page, blogging, competing, including handwritten notes with each purchase, and more – all out of her own home. She’s seen so much success and support over the years due to her passion, and I’ve seen a massive growth in her brand. She has always stayed true to her mission of providing her community a place to uplift and educate one another, so let’s get into some questions with her on how this all started.

Ivy Knight, Owner of Girls Who Powerlift

How did the idea for a business come about from Instagram?
A: Honestly, making Girls Who Powerlift the Instagram page a business came from the followers. When we started using original hashtags and titling our posts specific things we started getting comments like, “put that on a t-shirt!” “I would wear that!” so we did it. We started out with one t-shirt design that we did as a preorder so we could gauge interest and it did well. A few months later we did another t-shirt and then a few months later we did a few tanks and haven’t looked back since. Our Instagram has always been the heart of our community and where we talk to our audience the most so it makes sense that it was from our followers’ encouragement that we were able to create a business from the page.

You decided to tackle the lack of resources there was for female powerlifters and establish this community, do you think this problem has been solved in the industry?
A: I’m happy to say that there are many resources available for female powerlifters. There are many female coaches that use their platforms to coach and that is exactly what we want to see. As far as the problem being solved, I don’t think there will ever be enough information. When it comes to teaching and learning, the more the merrier and you can never take in too much information. So while there are others and maybe some that are better, we won’t ever stop educating because it’s necessary.

Your company sells apparel, provides educational resources for lifters, conducts events, and you also have an affiliate program. Can you tell us a little bit about the program and how you select athletes to represent your brand?
A: This is by far our most asked questions! LOL. We handpick our ambassadors based on their presence online. Not on their number of followers but on how they speak to their followers, how they interact with them and most of all their reputation on and off the platform. We’ve always chosen women who we thought represent our brand. Women who are positive, strong, and encouraging.

We keep our ambassador team small on purpose. Each of the ambassadors has an affiliate link that they can promote but we didn’t want to saturate feed with “use my code for (blah blah) amount off”. It’s not about selling clothes for us, it’s about building a community so the women we’ve chosen contribute far more than just helping us sell. They write for our blog. They put events together. They help with our Facebook group and a lot more.

What other service(s) or product(s) do you offer?
A: In addition to apparel, we’ve partnered with companies like Skull Smash Etra and Alpha File so we can offer powerlifters products that will help them be successful.

Our private Facebook Group, Club GWPL, is one of my favorite places ever!! It’s so fun and encouraging and we do so much more than talk about lifting there.

We also have the Girls Who Powerlift App, available for iOS and Android. It’s closed at the moment due to gym shutdowns from COVID-19, but the main goal of that is to create a database of powerlifting friendly gyms around the world so that no matter where you are you can find a place to train. The idea came to us when my husband wanted to open a gym and started to learn the in and outs of owning a smaller gym. He realized that the easier it was for lifters to access gyms the better it would be for the athletes. Our gym opened 3 years ago. Iron Knight Gym is by far one of the hardest projects we’ve worked on. Keeping the doors open is incredibly difficult but so rewarding in its own way. My husband is one of the most ambitious people I’ve ever met and I wouldn’t have any of this without him so quick shout out to the hubs for being my inspiration.

How does the brand support local communities/other small businesses?
A: GWPL sponsors meets and other events all year long. We also do our best to support other local businesses by doing collabs and wholesaling other brands’ products, as mentioned earlier.

You’ve successfully created a worldwide name that empowers women through strength, is there a specific lifter or woman in your life that you look up to?
A: When I first started lifting, I followed a male lifter who would do depth shout outs on a weekly basis and he shouted out my dear friend Renee Garcia. She was the first woman who looked like me and it was the first time that being a competitive lifter was in reach for me. I followed her immediately and I commented on one of her videos and from there we connected. When I started GWPL she was one of our first ambassadors and we became lifelong friends. She passed away in April, and I’m devastated because I don’t think I would have seen myself in powerlifting if it wasn’t for her. I’m so grateful to have known her I miss her dearly. In addition to Renee, I’ve met so many amazing women in my travels to meets and online. I don’t think I can say there is one person that inspires me. And I think that’s what makes GWPL so special is that I find every single one of you so inspiring and I learn so much from everyone because we’re all different and yet we have powerlifting in common.

Have any aspects of powerlifting translated into your business? If so, how?
A: Failure. We often feel afraid to miss lifts or fail attempts but once you’ve done it, you learn real quick two things. It’s not the end and how you can improve. The same goes for business. You’re going to fail and you’re going to make bad decisions. The important thing is to learn from them and move on. It’s not the worst thing that’s going to happen and it’s not a reflection of who you are. I read a quote that said, “Failure is not a personality trait. You will fail but you can not be a failure.”

What was your greatest fear in establishing the brand, and how did you manage it?
A: My greatest obstacle has always been and still sometimes is perfection. In the beginning, I was afraid of showing myself or sharing my personal stories because I was afraid that people either wouldn’t care or would think I was a fraud. My name is not amongst the top of any ranking and I don’t have a medical or athletic degree of any sort so I was terrified to ever give my opinion. Now it looks more like will people like this pattern or this color or will they understand the story behind this design. I worry that I’m too lengthy in my writing or when I speak. I often worried that I’m either too much or not enough and I allowed that to hold me back at times.

I’m a work in progress, but the thing that’s helped me is perspective. I’ve had my share of bad feedback and negative comments but never on a grand scale. I’ve always been mostly accepted with love. And for every negative comment, I’ve gotten hundreds that were positive so I do my best to focus on that. I will go back and read positive comments on my personal blog posts or emails that I’ve gotten as a reminder that I get more love than hate. I try to remember that perfect isn’t real and that it’s ok if I don’t know all the things or the right answer. I can ask or research but at the end of the day, indecision or waiting for perfection is only going to hold me back. So I’d rather make a bad decision than no decision.

Can you describe what a day in the life looks like for you?
A: I wake up at 7 am (I’m not an early bird LOL) My morning routine starts with skincare and brushing my teeth. Then I stretch, pray, and look at my planner to fill in anything I may have missed writing my to-do list the night before. Then I wake up my boys (my two pitbulls who are my life) and let them out to pee. Then I feed them breakfast, eat breakfast while I listen to something educational like a podcast or an audiobook. After that, I start with planning Instagram and Facebook posts and answering emails.

After that, it just depends on the day. Some days I stay and work from home, planning new releases, writing or working on a project and other days I go into the office. We might have an office meeting or sometime I need to pack orders if we have someone out or we have a large number of pending orders. I also do all the photos for the website so I’ll go in for that.
If it’s a training day, I like to nap for 30-40 minutes and then I usually get to the gym around 4:30-5 pm and we’ll stay at the gym for a few hours. Our gym is very close-knit so we end up staying for hours into the evening just talking.

Then we come home for dinner for us and the boys and then it’s shower and bedtime.

I have a very tight schedule but I also have a lot of freedom. We’ve worked really hard to be able to create a schedule that helps us to be creative and alert when it works for us. I work best earlier in the day where my husband, who does most of our designs, is more creative in the evenings.

What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur and business owner?
A: The freedom to create my own schedule and I love that I can work from anywhere. That was made especially apparent with the recent shutdowns. As long as I have internet access and my phone I can work. I can make money while I sleep and I can inspire people during the day. I have the freedom to get work done in the morning and then rest in the afternoon if I need to.

To what do you attribute your success?
A: Support. I wouldn’t have done any of this without my husband. He started the Instagram page and gave it to me to run. He’s seen me struggle and he’s encouraged me to keep my going and he’s been there to celebrate every success so I owe so much to him. And I couldn’t have done this without every single follower we have. I say it all the time, I can’t do what I do without the inspiring women that follow our page and support our brand. I get so much fire and energy every time I interact with any of you. Helping women understand their strength and love themselves is my why. Every comment, like, email, DM, purchase keeps me going.

What can my readers do to support your work?
A: First, obviously follow our pages and our newsletter, but mostly, support each other. Inspire others to find their strength and be confident in what their bodies can do. And you can also follow my personal Instagram.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out? Whether it’s in business or preparing to step on the platform?
A: Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. It’s important to remember that starting is the hardest but most important part of the whole process. Don’t be so hard on yourself when you think you should be at a different level. Think big but enjoy every moment. Find spaces and people that will encourage you but also teach you and help be better. Starting is scary but the alternative is scarier so just start!

Ivy is a driven woman who I’ve seen grow so much on her personal journey with powerlifting and through her business venture. She’s established a key community to which empowers women and has successfully created a brand that supports female strength athletes. This community opened my eyes to other lifters who train similarly to me and has given me the chance to connect with a lot of athletes that provide support, knowledge, and endless encouragement. Whether you follow them on Instagram, subscribe to their newsletter/blog, or join the private club on Facebook, show your support for female entrepreneurs and powerlifters through Girls Who Powerlift.