A blistering barbell in 2012 was enough to change Nicole Biscuiti’s life.
Biscuiti, who was competing at that year’s Wodapalooza Fitness Festival down in Miami, Fla., was doing a workout that involved shoulder-to-overhead and the 145 lb. loaded barbell—which had been sitting out in the Florida sun— was scalding hot. So, after nearly blistering her collarbone, Biscuiti took her shirt off and tucked it into her straps, almost like a backwards cape.
Two days later, she went to the gym armed with a compression shirt in which she had sewed in a pair of knee sleeves cut in half. And the very first protective lifting garment, The Chestee, was born.
And while the fashion-forward Chestee sports bras have quickly developed a following, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing from there.
Biscuiti, who quit her full-time job in May of 2014 to concentrate all her efforts on the Chestee, ran out of money three months later. The 36-year-old went through countless seamstress and hired sketch artists to get her vision right. And she was told her product was an absolutely crazy idea.
“I spent my life savings and all the money I was making at the time in PR on putting that back in the company,” Biscuiti said. “When you make that investment into something it’s scary. You think to yourself, ‘Shit man I hope this works, because I wont know what else to do.’”
“There are some days where you hear enough no’s, it can get to your psyche a little bit. But for every no or every person that was like ‘that’s weird’, there were 10 people on the other side of the fence saying that’s genius. And every single one of those comments was what has kept me going.”
It wasn’t just that hot Miami day that had gotten Biscuiti thinking about this. As a PR director for Bloomingdales she was constantly wearing a suit or dress for meetings. Having blistered hands was one thing. Showing up with bruises on her collarbone area, or wearing a turtleneck in South Florida, was another.
So, after Biscuiti’s shirt with the sewn in knee sleeves held up for some thrusters, she took her idea to a seamstress.
“I said, I want you to make me a shirt with this padding in a collar around the collarbone,” Biscuiti said. “I paid 150 dollars for this thing and it was the ugliest garment I’ve seen in my life. It looked like Peter Pan’s costume.”
Countless attempts later, Biscuiti ended up having to hire a sketch artist and designer to help put the ideas in her mind into an actual picture.
Once she had the garment sample, she went to a factory to make more samples to show at her first launch at a CrossFit competition in 2014.
Of the handful of selections, dubbed Chestees because they were initially t-shirts with protective padding, the one that looked most like a sport bra sold out immediately. It was obvious Biscuiti had tapped into something.
“Most of the criticism that I get is people saying, ‘Or you could learn proper technique and not bruise. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard that, mostly from men, from I wouldn’t need this business,” said Biscuiti.
“I have a 235 lb. clean. That’s a pretty big number. And the reason I say that is because I didn’t get that kind of number by improperly moving, and I still had the issue of bruising. I was tired of getting questions from my co-workers like who is beating me.
There’s an overwhelmingly large number of women who would rather be able to train without bruising, not even for the aesthetic reasons, but because they don’t want that whole area to be sore or be too sore to complete their workout.”
Biscuiti, who had been socking away money while at Bloomingdales, thought she had enough money saved to fund the company and herself for a year. But by August, just 3 1/2 months later, she was out of money.
After the initial panic, she got a friend to hire her in Fort Lauderdale. Biscuiti would sit in traffic for three hours a day to get to work and sit in her car at lunch to make phone calls to vendors and athletes about the Chestee. Early mornings, weekends and every spare second she could cram into a day was devoted to her company.
The hustle paid off and, eight months later, Biscuiti had built back up her nest egg enough to again venture out on her own.
This time she was more cautious, adding in freelance PR gigs to help supplement her income.
By 2015’s Wodapalooza The Chestee had its own booth and this upcoming year, Biscuiti will have her company’s entire line —they recently added a swimsuit option and a bra with a built-in-tank top overlay—at the mid-January competition.
She has a patent pending on the protective, yet stylish, pieces and big plans for the future.
“I think a lot of people wish they could leave their job or they are scared [to do it],” Biscuiti said. “When I left Bloomingdales one of the GMs of one of the stores—probably making 200-250 thousand dollars—actually told me that she was somewhat jealous that I was able to ‘get out of here and follow my dream.’
I thought in that moment ‘What are you talking about? You are skilled enough to make a quarter million dollars a year you are more than capable!’
People can identify with that feeling of being scared and not taking that next step. I am not willing to live with the what if.”
Biscuiti, who hopes she’ll be able to 100 percent support herself off of the Chestee within the next year, calls it architecting her life. She worked really hard for a lot of people for a lot of years and now she’s in a position to build her own future.
“People will say that I’m an inspiration to them and it’s something that floors me every time, because when I embarked on this journey to entrepreneurship I never set out to be a motivation for people,” Biscuiti said.
“I never set out to be inspiring. What they don’t realize is that motivates me even more and I become even more grateful for the support and community around me.”
Note: Athlete Daily is not affiliated or sponsored by The Chestee in any way.