By Cathie Anderson
The Sacramento Bee.
Clothiers Denise Antoniadis and Lisa Podlipnik are making some racket at more than 50 U.S. stores by solving a sportswear conundrum for tennis-playing women: figure-flattering pants that have hidden pockets for tennis balls.
The idea for the pants came to Antoniadis on a nippy night in Granite Bay when she was playing a league match: “I looked up and down the court, and all these women were stuffing tennis balls in their bras. It was the funniest thing to see.”
The women were wearing pants, but they were the tapered variety that hugged curves and gave no quarter to pockets. Antoniadis discovered many women who were frustrated that their stylish apparel wasn’t very functional. It prompted her to team up with Podlipnik on a new apparel business, Passionit LLC, in early 2012.
By December of that year, they introduced their BPassionit pants in six local stores. They sold out quickly. Today, the BPassionit clothing line includes not only the pant but also camisoles, racerback tops, pullovers, leggings and sports shorts.
At the request of junior tennis player Jillian Taggart, whom they sponsor, they also added a line of Jillian boy shorts.
All the shorts, leggings and pants have pockets. Indeed, last year, the original BPassionit pant added a hidden pocket in front to hold a cellphone or keys.
Antoniadis and Podlipnik began pushing to expand sales outside the Sacramento region in 2013.
Their apparel is now sold in the Bay Area, Southern California, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, and on their website, www.bpassionit.com.
So far, every dollar of profit is being poured into business growth. The duo have faced plenty of rejection, they said, but they also have learned that a “no” on the phone can turn into a “yes” in a store.
For instance, on a sales trip to Southern California, Podlipnik said, they called on a retailer who told them over the phone he was too busy to see them. They dropped by anyway, and he was jammed. They waited — and waited — and waited. When he was finally free, Antoniadis said, he told them firmly: “I’m not taking any new brands.” She pulled out the shorts and said: “If there’s one thing that will sell, it will be the shorts, and I tell you what, I’ll leave you a mailing envelope with our return address.”
He started stuffing the shorts in the envelope, Podlipnik said, but then he relented and told them he would give them a chance.
That was a Saturday. The following Monday, he called Antoniadis and said: “You weren’t lying. My customers loved them.”