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Meet Karen Gellis of Swimlids

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Gellis.

Karen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began in the apparel industry right after college. I moved to Seattle, WA in between Jr./Sr year of college and worked for a uniform company. After I graduated, I moved to Seattle to work for them. After working for a uniform company for 5-6 years, I decided to start my own uniform company. I had a co-founder and we grew that business for about 8 years and sold it to a company in Atlanta.

Soon after I was on a family vacation in Florida. At the time I had 3 young children. We were in and out of the water all day. My eldest daughter got an awful rash on her cheeks but refused to wear any of the hats that we had as they got too wet. I am a swimmer and one day after I did my laps, I placed my rubber swim cap over my daughter’s baseball hat and she swam like that all day. That night I went to Target and purchased nylon swim caps and baseball hats and with the help of my mother created my first prototype. Swimlids was born.

Because I had a background in apparel manufacturing, I had connections in Asia to have the hat made. The Original Swimlid is a tight fighting baseball style hat that a child or adult can wear in and out of the water. You can even jump in the pool and it will stay on. It’s great for swimming lessons, water parks, boating, etc.

A few years after I started the company, I decided to introduce a bucket hat – we called this The Funky Bucket Hat. It fits a little looser and is a little more fashion forward. It’s lightweight, packable, and quick drying. It’s great for kayaking, SUPing, gardening, and more. It also stays on a boat…. or some of my customers say it’s great for a convertible.

This year marks our 5th year and we have doubled every year since inception. We continue to add new products that help people protect themselves from the sun. Our company motto is Swim. Splash. Play. Protect. We have some amazing new products coming out in 2019!

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think any entrepreneur would say it’s always a smooth road. You have days when you think – working for someone else is so much easier…. but then you have days where everything is going right. I am a bit of a serial entrepreneur so I know that everything usually works out… life is too short to worry too much about things that are out of control. You are going to have customers that get upset… so you just have to listen and do the right thing.

When a company grows quickly, cash flow is always a struggle. If you are doing well, you have to take the profits and put it back into the company… so cash flow is usually the number one struggle for a growing business. We are lucky we haven’t taken on any outside debt at this time.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Swimlids – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Swimlids started as a UPF 50 Sun Hat for an active family. Our company has grown to manufacture additional sun protection products. We are most known for our Original Swimlid and our Funky Bucket Hat. I am most proud of taking an idea and bringing it to market. It was a long road from idea/prototype to an actual finished product.

Our product is a little different in that our hats are made for people who are in and out of the water. They fit snug so that the hat will stay on your swimming, supine, etc.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I loved growing up in Framingham. We were close enough to the city to enjoy all the amazing things a city offers, yet far enough away to have some green space to enjoy.

Now, living in southern Maine, we have the Amtrak train that can get us down to Boston for a game or a nice dinner.

Traffic is what I like least.


  • The Original Swimlids are $13.95-$15.95
  • The Funky Bucket Hats are $19.95-$24.95
  • Headbands are $5.00

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Stacey Kane Photography – @staceykanephoto

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