By Rebecca Schmitz
Laura Futty and Jean Momorella had to tell their daughters “no.” At a Virginia Beach gymnastics meet last May, their elementary school-age daughters were clamoring for commemorative T-shirts. But when the two Crozet moms strolled over to check out what was available, they were disappointed. Where were the high-quality, colorful, flattering T-shirts featuring positive messages for young girls? The lack of appealing clothing was striking. Even their daughters eventually agreed. “There was nothing available they really wanted to wear,” Futty said.
Back at the bleachers, waiting for their gymnast daughters to perform, Momorella and Futty batted around ideas. The two women, who met playing tennis eight years ago and quickly became friends, have been athletes all their lives—Momorella as a swimmer and triathlete, and Futty as a field hockey and lacrosse player. They now play USTA tennis for the Boar’s Head Inn. Each has two daughters, all of whom are involved in sports. They had been shopping with their daughters for athletic wear countless times, and were frustrated by the lack of clothing that was appropriate, functional, and appealing to grade-school girls. The styles, while marketed to girls, were often more appropriate for boys. Many T-shirts featured messages that made them cringe.
Rather than just lamenting the lack of quality athletic apparel for girls, the women decided to take action—and 4 Sporty Girls was born. It would offer athletic clothing that “sporty” girls would be proud to wear and their parents would be proud to buy.
“Our girls live in T-shirts and shorts,” Futty said. “We just wanted to see positive messages on sports-specific apparel.”
Momorella agreed. “We wanted our girls to wear something that brought them up, without bringing someone else down,” she said, referencing the tendency of some brands to market T-shirts with boastful messages.
Futty, who has a background in apparel production and design, and Momorella, a physical therapist, spent the next few months doing intensive market research. They also began paying close attention to what was available in stores, noting what girls were wearing, and realizing there is a demand for the type of clothing they wanted to offer.
Their mission is greater than just creating stylish, cute clothing that girls would be proud to wear. “We want our clothes to empower girls and give them the confidence to be independent, and think for themselves, and be kind,” Momorella said.
When it came time to design and create the new clothing line, their greatest sources of inspiration and guidance could be found at home. Their own four sporty girls—Momorella’s daughters, Ainsley, 12, and Reese, 10; and Futty’s daughters Megan, 11, and Emily, 8—were instrumental in helping their mothers decide which designs would be most appealing. “Our first big sit-down was in front of the four girls,” Futty said. The girls keep their mothers up to speed on what they see in catalogs and what is popular with the girls at school.
Futty, who said, “my passion is designing,” tends to handle the creative side of the business. She sketches potential designs, runs them by Momorella and her daughters, and then passes them on to graphic designer Suzanne Amelung. “She takes my sketches and makes them beautiful,” Futty said with a laugh. Like the others involved in 4 Sporty Girls, Suzanne is an athlete—she runs marathons and is a triathlete. Momorella tends to handle the business side.
Initially, Momorella and Futty decided to focus on creating T-shirts and hoodies geared toward just three or four sports. But by the time their website went live in November, 10 sports were represented, with five designs each. The messages and designs on the shirts and hoodies promote self-esteem and are free from “in-your-face” flash. One shirt features a heart forming the phrase “Be Kind, Confident, Strong, You.” Another features a series of soccer balls with “be YOUnique” written below. Most shirts are offered in a wide range of colors and come in fits flattering to girls.
The two women promoted their new venture using Facebook and word of mouth. When they held their first trunk show in December at the Fox Chase Lodge, the response was overwhelming. They worked nonstop meeting customers and filling orders from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The response and support from the community has been wonderful. We couldn’t be more thrilled,” Momorella said.
Moms and their daughters were attracted not just to the designs on the clothing, but to the variety of styles and colors offered. “They like having choices, and they like all the colors we are providing,” Futty said.
Crozet mom Barrie Scheivert said she was relieved to find clothes for her girls that are high-quality, sports-specific, and simple in design: “It is really, really hard to find cute girls’ athletic wear without sparkles or glitter.” She also praised the brand’s wide range of styles: “It is personalized in that we can pick out the sport, the style, the color and the fit. My girls play the same sports but are not the same size. They don’t always like the same color and they definitely don’t like the same fit. Girls fit versus a boxy fit is a huge thing for us.”
Scheivert’s daughters were instant fans. Ten-year-old Lillie likes the clothes “because they make me feel good about myself and about what I play.” Katie, age 11, agreed: “I like their clothes because they are super cute and sporty too, but not too girly.”
Futty and Momorella soon discovered that girls are not the only ones eager to sport their apparel. Moms also wanted to wear them, so 4 Sporty Girls began offering T-shirts and hoodies in both youth and women’s sizes.
Customers from all over the country have discovered 4 Sporty Girls online. Orders have poured in from states as far away as California. And they’re eager for more. As the business grows, Futty and Momorella hope to include designs for cheerleading, gymnastics, and winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. They also want to expand into offering headbands and socks. They will also be offering limited edition designs—their first is Valentine’s Day-themed.
In mid-January, Futty and Momorella launched a “Sporty Girl Spotlight” feature on their Facebook page. McKenna Peterson, a 12-year-old Arizona basketball player who gained national attention when she wrote a letter to DICK’s Sporting Goods lamenting the lack of female representation in its catalogs, is their inaugural subject.
“McKenna is the ultimate ‘sporty girl’,” Futty said. “We admire her passion for her sport, and applaud the way she stood up for a cause that she believes in.” She said they are always looking for local and national female athletes to highlight in future spotlights.
4 Sporty Girls has proven to be about much more than just clothing. “We want girls to be confident and realize that you can be strong and pretty and athletic,” Momorella said. Futty added that, “One of our cornerstones is our desire to partner with, and contribute to organizations that help promote the development of healthy, positive, strong girls and young women.”
For more information on 4 Sporty Girls and to order their clothing, go to 4sportygirls.com or facebook.com/4sportygirls.