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Kelsey Walsh Perry: “duoFIT is Made by Moms for Moms!”

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duoFIT, the Kansas City maternity activewear brand that launched in 2019, is “built like a mother.” When Kelsey Perry, duoFIT founder and mom of three, couldn’t find maternity activewear that truly supported her during her pregnancies, she made her own. The result was a maternity activewear collection filled with pieces that are supportive, practical and designed to grow—created by a mother for mothers. 

“Pregnancy is such an amazing experience but everything is changing with your body and mind,” she shared. “For me, working out allows me to become re-grounded and re-centered and be healthy, active and the best I can be. But when you’re constantly pulling up your pants, your mind wanders and you’re taken out of your workout. It becomes easier for you or me to lose motivation and concentration. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find activewear that stayed up with me. Mothers deserve better.”

Perry tried dozens of maternity activewear brands and kept coming up short. Her sister, an entrepreneur herself, Hailee Bland-Walsh, challenged Perry to make her own collection and a year later duoFIT was in production.

Kelsey describes duoFIT as activewear that features functional and fashionable attributes, designed to support mothers while they support their growing babies. The entire duoFIT line is constructed from breathable, moisture-wicking fabric that ranges from sports bras designed with breastfeeding in mind to leggings that stay in place to tops that can be worn during and after pregnancy. Kelsey adds that duoFIT eases through the seasons and adds new pieces equally as thoughtful. It serves birthing bodies of all ages, stages of pregnancy and beyond. 

“Your body has done something incredible and will never be the same again because you’ve just brought life into this world,” added Kelsey. “duoFIT is designed to be mindful of bodies during pregnancy and post-pregnancy, too. I’m so pleased with how these products are performing; they make me feel confident about my body.”

Kelsey knows a lot about the ins and outs of creating a successful company. She hails from a long line of entrepreneurs; her parents were co-owners of Silpada jewelry before the company was sold to Berkshire Hathaway. She has held management and executive positions in the fashion accessory industry for most of her career. Not only are her business credentials impressive, but she’s also an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor.

Invest in You
Many times, women will put themselves last on the list when it comes to many segments of family life. They sacrifice so that others in the household will have what they need. But Kelsey says that’s the wrong thought process because so much depends on the mothers being happy and healthy. “I hear from other pregnant people that they’ll make the clothing they already have work and that’s especially true with activewear such as leggings,” commented Kelsey. “I understand that sentiment, but give your body what it needs. Get the leggings that support you and keep up with you. duoFIT will provide the piece of the puzzle that keeps you feeling like you.”

duoFIT offers an impressive lineup of activewear for people. Sports bras are fabricated to provide proper support and coverage while also allowing easy access to nursing. Nursing moms can move effortlessly from pumping iron to pumping milk. They’re supportive enough for high-intensity interval training yet comfortable enough to wear all day. Leggings offer moisture-wicking, performance fabric that Kelsey promises will stay in place and not slide down while exercising or strolling around the block. Tops are created to move with you throughout your day and your pregnancy.

Great ideas can’t be rushed, and Kelsey took her time researching the market and identifying experts to assist in her endeavor. Eventually, she found herself sharing her concept with Rightfully Sewn, a Kansas City non-profit that provides seamstress training so individuals can thrive in a specialized workforce. Rightfully Sewn has its eye on reestablishing the KC-metro as an epicenter of garment manufacturing, while also fostering local fashion designers to market so they can supply the flourishing demand for high-quality, American-produced garments.

A Truly Focused Group
“I wanted to find a way to produce the clothing locally because with young children I didn’t want to travel. Then in March 2018, I’m pitching my idea to Jennifer Lapka at Rightfully Sewn, and she is the missing piece,” enthused Kelsey. “I have minimal knowledge about sewing and pattern making. But her team was there for the pitch meeting and they agreed they could do something by researching patterns, fabric, thread and more in making these garments. I’m so proud to partner with them. It’s an awesome experience to produce duoFIT locally and with this organization that’s doing so many amazing things for our community.”

Thanks to the gifted seamstresses at Rightfully Sewn, garment prototypes were ready in March 2019. Now, Kelsey turned to a group that was really “focused” to try out her new line. “During the research and development stage, we had put our sample through rigorous testing. But knowing that I needed to have more comprehensive feedback, we held a FIT party prior to launch. I had about a dozen women at all different stages of pregnancy or newly postpartum try out our launch line,” remembered Kelsey. “Each woman had a top, leggings and sports bra to wear during a 15-minute group workout and then took the pieces home for a week to put them through the wringer. Their insight proved to be invaluable. We made some tweaks to the final product, and we were ready to launch.”

Kelsey says that seeing something she had been working on for over two years come to life with the focus groups was a dream coming true. But she knew that the chore of selling and promoting duoFIT had arrived. However, not only was she now starting a new company, she was beginning a new life. “Five months after the June 2019 launch, we found out I was pregnant with our third baby. We were so excited and I couldn’t wait to actually wear duoFIT,” commented Kelsey. “To be completely honest, I have been living in duoFIT since about 14 weeks.”

Expecting a Great Future
The company has made it through its first 18 months, and Kelsey is checking off the company’s strategic goals for a new business. “My first-year goal was to get product out there and take feedback as it came. I had a number in my mind, but I really wanted to just sell them,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience this year, especially with COVID coming in, which impacted the supply of finished product from Rightfully Sewn.”

But Kelsey points to the ability to move to another strategy to get her through the COVID supply chain issues she experienced this year. The situation demanded that she make adjustments to fit the community and business environment. “I’d offer to other entrepreneurs that you need to have the ability to pivot,” she remarked. “We’ve seen that with COVID. You must constantly examine your business plan to figure out how you continue with your mission and stay true to who you are. For me, that’s built into the DNA to be able to start a business and make it work. Finally, you must believe in what you’re doing. If you believe it’s the best, you’ve got something.”

Yet the best-laid plans do need the backing of the community. While Facebook and Instagram and a pop-up here and there get her products to market, she understands the importance of assisting others to make it in the business world. “Supporting local business is important. In Kansas City, there is such an amazing network of entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs who support each other and show up for each other,” noted Kelsey. “That’s incredible to me.”

Cultivating duoFIT through its first year-and-a-half of existence has been much like bringing a new life into the world and nurturing it through its early years and beyond. It can be compared to motherhood but in the business world, rather than a home.

“duoFIT is made by moms for moms. Everyone I work with has been pregnant and they recognize the changes that go on in their bodies,” stated Kelsey. “Having things sewn by Rightfully Sewn is very amazing. We take a lot of care in the design process and constantly ask our customers if the product is functioning properly. Is it doing what we designed it to do? If not, we start over and troubleshoot. At duoFIT, we improve and evolve to ensure that our pieces work beautifully.”