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Meet Cynthia Blais of Funktional Wearables in Kearny Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Blais.

Cynthia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My whole life, I have always loved trying out new gadgets and devices- I was the first of all my friends to get a digital camera, a portable GPS, a Blackberry, a Keurig, etc. etc. My nickname at one of my old jobs was ‘Cyndigital’ because I was so much more interested in consumer tech than my coworkers. When the Fitbit came out it was no different. I thought it was so cool how just by wearing this rubber wristband I could know how many steps I had taken, calories burned, the quality and length of my sleep, etc. I only had one complaint: how it looked. It wasn’t that I thought it looked bad all the time- it looked perfectly fine with gym clothes, and I didn’t mind it when I was just in jeans and a tee. But with a business suit? Or a sexy dress? No way! I knew that there had to be other women out there like me who felt the same way, and that if I could just figure out a way to make the Fitbit more fashionable I might really be onto something big.

I told my little sister Rose about this idea and was blown away by her response. Rose is without a doubt one of the smartest people I know, not to mention that she has engineering and business Masters degrees from Dartmouth. I had floated a few other ‘inventions’ by her in the past, and being the incredibly sweet and kind person that she is, she had always been supportive. But this time her voice was different and I remember exactly what she said: “Now this is actually a really good idea!” I was a little in shock that apparently my other ideas weren’t so hot after all, but her enthusiasm about the potential for fashionable Fitbit made me determined to see this through. I had already come up with the name of Funktional Wearables for my last idea I stopped short of producing (stylish and secure microphone belts for fitness instructors) and decided it would also work well for a Fitbit accessories line.

I basically started by going to the craft store, buying a ton of jewelry making supplies, and experimenting. I enlisted the help of my Aunt Christina, who sewed little pouches that we could slide the Fitbit tracker into, which we glued inside of bracelets and necklaces. Just as I predicted, there was a high demand, and within just a few months I was selling several dozen a day- my background as a seller on eBay and Amazon helped, and I also sold on Etsy. As I got more successful, I began collaborating with local engineers and manufacturers and my products got much more sophisticated. Today Funktional Wearables makes products to enhance and protect all types of activity trackers, and we are in boutiques across the country, as well as OpenSky, Overstock, Boscovs, and Bed Bath and Beyond, just to name a few.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Ha! It has not been a smooth road- more like a roller coaster! I can’t complain though, I know that I had a much easier time getting Funktional Wearables going than the average startup. The first year and a half, I had issues with meeting demand- pretty much an awesome problem to have. I tried working with one manufacturer abroad who delivered poor quality merchandise, and since I had prepaid with a wire transfer, there was basically not much I could do… That was an expensive lesson to learn.

Funktional Wearables – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We have quite a laid-back vibe at the Funktional Wearables office, which is not for everybody, but which I love. I bring my dogs to work with me most days, and we all dress very casually. I try to give my employees as much flexibility as I can- they get to choose their own hours, work from home when they feel like it, etc. Everyday, there is lots of laughter. The company provides exceptional customer service- we will pretty much do whatever it takes to make sure the customer is happy. A couple things that set us apart from our competitors is that nearly all of our products are made in the USA, and that we give a portion of our sales every month to the Best Friends Animal Society.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I remember coming into work on Jan. 2nd, 2015, to find the phone ringing off the hook. One of my employees had gotten there before me and he told me that people were telling him they had seen us that day on Good Morning America. I laughed and thought they must be mixing us up with something else- but a quick google search revealed that Funktional Wearables had been chosen by an editor of InStyle magazine, (my all-time favorite magazine) as one of just four brands in a feature called ‘The Hottest Tech-Savvy Workout Wear for 2015’.

The other brands that were chosen were Lululemon, Adidas and Athos. To be chosen for this nationally televised piece, and among such established peers, is an honor that was completely unexpected and a memory that will always be very special to me.


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Image Credit:
Luyi Zhao

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