How Kim Overton created a global fitness accessories brand from her home

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 8, 2024 11:15 AM EDT
Kim Overton. Photo credit: Authority Magazine

Necessity is indeed the mother of all innovation. Kim Overton didn’t know where to stash her keys when she went for a run. Placing them in her bra top was simply uncomfortable and holding them while running was out of the question Motivated by her frustrations, Overton purchased materials and assembled the first SPIbelt™ (“small personal item” belt) from her home. What began as an inconvenience has since grown into an internationally recognized fitness accessories brand.

Of her journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur, Overton has said:

Nothing was given to me and I have worked for everything. My journey began from zero and working my way to owning a company has been a bumpy one with lots of hard lessons learned along the way. I have empathy and understanding, and know what it takes to get the job done. My journey has also given me thick skin and a fearlessness that I believe comes from having experienced many ups and downs.

Although Overton has always been involved in athletics, it took a while to discover her inner calling. She was already doing cartwheels around the house at age three and was signed up for gymnastics early. She became a competitive gymnast, started taking dance classes and became a hip-hop dance teacher – all while still in high school. In pursuit of the big city, Overton moved to New York where she landed a spot on The Grind on MTV and did music videos and bartending on the side. She went to NYU for a while to study the foundations of music and began to work in new media but still hadn’t found her calling.

After 9/11, Overton was struck with the fragility of life. She decided at that moment to go back to working with people in health and fitness. In 2002, she began her career as a personal trainer in New York City and launched her first fitness video, Love Your Legs in 2005. Overton eventually relocated to her hometown of Austin where she conceived the idea for the original SPIbelt. She was out on a run one day thinking over ideas to promote her fitness video when she developed a hands-free solution for storing essentials on the go.

“I was jogging in place, and my keys were annoying me. Morcheeba was onstage, that was one of my favorite bands at the time, and the idea for SPIbelt hit me. From there, I went to the fabric store and bought the supplies to make the first SPIbelt. I was living with my grandmother at the time, so I went home and handmade the first one. I wore it to the gym, I was a trainer, and all my clients wanted one,” Overton describes how she was inspired to invent the SPIbelt.

When Overton assembled the first belt, she knew she was onto something. She wore the handmade prototype to the gym and all her clients wanted one. After some iterations, she filed for the first patent and trademark a few months later.  Overton officially launched the SPIbelt at the 2007 Austin Marathon where she sold approximately 150 belts in two days. Following this success, she immediately quit training and started full-time with SPIbelt.

Within a year of its launch, SPIbelt was on the shelves of over fifty retailers, travel stores, and fitness stores around the United States and Canada. The company was amongst America’s fastest-growing companies in both 2011 and 2012. It went from having one employee and revenue of $1.1 million in 2008 to adding 11 employees and growing revenue by 325 percent in 2011. Through client referrals and effective marketing, the business has morphed into a household name.

The running bags can fit an iPhone, headphones, keys and credit cards while remaining secure around your waist with newer models including dual pockets and sleeves for sports gels. Overton has listened to feedback and continuously sought to fulfil the needs of people in the small personal items space. SPIbelt has consequently developed the SPI Distance Pro hydration belt, the Diabetic Insulin Pump Belt, the SPI Messenger Bag, and other innovative products that solve daily needs and lifesaving issues.

SPIbelt pivoted to masks during the pandemic as the company lost retail partners due to stores closing. Although it was extremely taxing for the team to become mask experts, they were grateful to continue working and keep operations alive. Post-pandemic, SPIbelt products are available in over a thousand stores across the US and over 40 countries.