It Wasn’t The Perfect Fit
“I wasn’t sure how, but I knew these changes needed to happen.” When Leigh began wrestling, it quickly became clear that she was competing in a male-dominated sport. “There were only men’s uniforms available then so that’s what we had to wear. We just had to deal with the fact that they were ill-fitting. It made everyone uncomfortable.” As her wrestling career began to flourish, Leigh saw this challenge as an opportunity. “It wasn’t what I felt women deserved. We needed something that fit us properly.”
A Decade of Growth
When Leigh began looking for a company interested in making these changes, she was initially met with doubt. “I was told a lot of nos – that there was no money in this product or that what they had already was fine.” Leigh persisted, and finally found a company interested in collaborating. While the collaboration allowed Leigh to accomplish her ideas, she wanted the autonomy to form new partnerships, create new products, and support the women’s wrestling community in her own way. Leigh eventually decided it was time to branch off and founded LJ Wrestling, an online women’s wrestling apparel shop she manages from New Jersey which serves 20 different states. To establish her business, she needed to apply for a business trademark, yet the application requirements required finances that, as a new business, she didn’t have. She applied for her first Accion loan and was able receive the financial support she needed to meet those requirements.
Nearly a decade later, as Leigh’s business grew and customer demand increased, she again needed financial support to purchase more uniforms, a storage facility, and business literature, as well as to create a website. She turned to Accion for a second loan, which allowed her to make these improvements. “This market isn’t easy for female business owners. Accion has been here for every company transition. With my loans, I’ve accomplished so many things that have turned into increased opportunity and income. Having that return on my investment makes me so grateful.”
Consistently prioritizing women’s wrestling, Leigh donates a portion of her proceeds to supporting a local women’s wrestling program. She also offers discounted prices for transforming men’s uniforms into women’s. “I want to make sure nobody is left behind, to support every athlete’s particular need.” Leigh values the life-changing impact she has on her clients. “I love seeing how grateful people are that something was made just for them. People are so thirsty for this need to be resolved.” She continues to mentor aspiring female wrestlers, including her 6-year-old daughter. “There’s still discrimination in this sport – someone telling you “don’t do it” or “women’s wrestling isn’t real” – things that have all been said to me. My advice is to stay focused on your goal and not allow these things to deter you. It’s almost impossible, but you can do it.”