The Work Pool: The Versatile Warrior
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
This Monday we continue our “The Work Pool” series, highlighting swimmers who are starting or have started their own small businesses. Last month we covered Athlete Approved. This week, we shift focus from athletes in the pool to athletes outside of the pool with Jamie Martone’s clothing company, The Versatile Warrior.
Jamie Martone, who swam at Michigan and graduated in 2009, wasn’t satisfied with many of the polo shirts he wore. As a swimmer with a certain type of athletic build – strong shoulders and built arms – he didn’t like how some shirts bunched fabric under the arms. So he had an idea, and he started a new clothing company called The Versatile Warrior.
“It’s a tailored design. We modeled the shirt off an athletic build,” Martone said. “You’re not getting a lot of bunching material under the arms. The main thing is the polo shirt. Every aspect, the cut will be a tailored fit. It’s more comfortable for the body.”
The Troy High School graduate stayed in Michigan to start his business. He founded it with his brother while on vacation one day.
“One day my brother and I were sitting at the kitchen table up north. We had always been interested in the clothing industry,” Martone said. “We talked about how we were so disappointed we couldn’t find clothes that fit how we wanted them to.”
But it wasn’t just the fit. Martone was also disappointed how no clothing company stood for a larger message. As part of Michigan’s swim team and later a captain, Martone was used to swimming for institutions that meant something. A swim team is not just lapping up and down a pool; it’s about leadership, hard work, commitment, and tradition. Similarly, Martone believed a clothing company should also stand for something.
“We wanted this idea to always conquer,” Martone said. “We worked with manufacturers and gave them the design and grew it from there, this philosophy of what I learned in swimming. Always conquer. The same thing with the clothes you wear. In whatever setting, clothes say a lot about the individual who wears them.”
Martone came up with the idea for The Versatile Warrior, and he’s been heading the business while simultaneously attending law school and business school. He says that the lessons he learned swimming for Michigan, -- going from one of the slowest practicing swimmers and a walk-on to eventually qualifying for the NCAA Championships -- perfectly transitions over to the business world.
“In swimming, when you get to the pinnacle, you have to go beyond it. As soon as you become complacent, you start losing,” Martone says. “That mind-frame of pushing yourself to the next step is key in both swimming and business.”
He adds: “I rely on my experience in swimming to help me in the classroom, too. [For instance] self motivation." I don’t always feel like reading 80 pages of cases every night. But with swimming, you have to get into that cold pool and train. It’s a great transition into the real world. You have to step up to the challenge.”
For now, Martone tries to live the philosophy that his clothing company preaches: Be versatile, and strive for excellence. He runs a business while attending business school and law school. A newcomer to the textile industry, he had to learn manufacturing lessons and fabrics and every aspect of the design process. He doesn’t swim as much as he used to, but he wanted to start a company that would allow someone to seamlessly jump from a professional environment to a casual environment. To be completely versatile while striving for excellence along the way.
“If you want to wear it into the office, it looks great. If you want to go out at night, it looks sharp with loafers and jeans. The whole idea of the lifestyle behind it: We want people, when they put on shirts, to get a boost.”
Clothes, according to Martone, should reflect the individual’s approach to everything – business, professional, and casual environments. And a clothing company should stand for something more than just clothes.
“There’s no message behind [other companies’ products]. It’s just a shirt. When you buy our product, we want you to have a confidence booster. If you try to close a deal or a date with a girl, you have this shirt on and you know it’s time to conquer.”
If you want to check out Martone’s company, go to www.VersatileWarrior.com. And if you are a former swimmer and now an entrepreneur and would like to be featured in our ongoing The Work Pool series, please tweet to me @MikeLGustafson.