ZipSip is born from Wichita's innovation ecosystem

Five minutes into a conversation with Lacey Leatherman, it's clear she's drinking her morning coffee. She is full of energy. It's also clear that she has no shortage of enthusiasm and expertise as an entrepreneur.

Through her company LML Ventures, she has been creating niche clothing and hats for outdoorsmen. But her latest invention, her ZipSip, has become a rising star in Wichita State University's innovation ecosystem and is now available for purchase at Shocker's store.

ZipSip is Koozie, a scalable and adjustable drink inspired by disappointing beer.

“A few years ago, I went to a concert and my date brought me a beer on tap. Now I was there with a cold Solo cup and a useless beer koozie that couldn’t fit in the cup. I’m sitting,” she said.

As Leatherman looked around the arena, he noticed that almost everyone was drinking the same type of drink and there was no way to keep it cold.

“Sure, this is someone else's problem. Why isn't anyone fixing this?” she asked.

As a result, ZipSip was born.

ZipSip is similar to its ancestor, the Koozie, and fits snugly into standard beer or soda cans to keep them cold. However, the ZipSip has an adjustable zipper that stretches to fit perfectly into cans, bottles, and even solo cups.

Today, ZipSip is sold in over 1,200 stores nationwide and features over 1,000 customized and licensed designs.

Learn through LaunchPrep

zip shipLeatherman is a graduate of Kansas State University, but she had heard and was aware of the entrepreneurship program available through Wichita State University. There's no part of ZipSip's success story that doesn't exude Shocker pride.

Leatherman, who had already worked on the Center for Entrepreneurship's LaunchPrep program along with other LML Ventures products, knew what an asset the program's guidance would be at ZipSip.

“It's great to be able to sit back and look at your business instead of immersing yourself in running it. I think that's very valuable for entrepreneurs,” she said. “It forced me to take a step back, pause, slow down and think about some of the decisions I was making.”

LaunchPrep helps early-stage companies consider all aspects of their venture, challenge strategy, and create execution plans to reach key milestones. The ultimate goal is whether we can achieve market validation, funding, and accelerated growth.

Leatherman said she appreciates the close-knit sense of community that LaunchPrep provides.

“The people involved were really engaged and I really liked that. I was able to bounce questions off of my colleagues and the coaching was really helpful,” she said.

Mark Thorlein, director of the Wichita State Entrepreneurship Center, said ZipSip's popularity is due to Leatherman's commitment to product development.

“Our primary focus in the early stages of a business is the team,” says Torline. “Are founders really committed to dealing with all the realities and uncertainties of bringing a product to market? , it was easy to see her desire to tackle that challenge. This effort alone greatly increased her chances of success with the product.”

Additionally, Leatherman also utilized the Gateway to IP program for guidance on securing intellectual property and patents.

ZipSip's simple, creative concept is appealing to sports venues, water parks, and tractor supply stores, which are Leatherman's current largest customers. Products can be customized with logos and all kinds of art.

Special Shocker-branded ZipSips are also available at the Shocker Store.

practical learning

Shocker Hannah Farber, a junior in real estate finance and entrepreneurship, has been part of the ZipSip success story since she started working as an executive assistant at Leatherman in December 2018. Ms. Farber's duties go beyond the normal duties of a person in her position.

“I don't even want to call her an executive assistant anymore,” Leatherman said. “I keep her on top because she's seen everything from the beginning. She's on top of running her things.”

For Farber, working at a small business from the beginning was a valuable hands-on learning experience.

“The interesting thing about working at a startup, which most people don't realize, is that every day is different,” she said. “Working for an entrepreneur means you don't know what you're going to do that day and have to be OK with it. Can I change anything? I don't like it. At such a young age I can't thank Lacey enough for giving me the opportunity. She and my amazing business professors at WSU have had a huge impact on my life. , I'm sure it will help me in whatever I do in the long run.”

As a university that strongly values ​​innovation and ingenuity, Wichita State University has several programs available through its Entrepreneurship Center to help entrepreneurs launch new ventures.

“There are many touch points in this ecosystem, both here at WSU and in the Wichita community, and we encourage anyone with a genuine interest in innovation and advancing ideas to connect with the ecosystem and take advantage of our programs. and the mentorship, support and development opportunities that it provides,” Thorlein said.

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