Air conditioned shirt heats up Kamloops woman's career

By Vanessa Ybarra
April 5, 2017 - 6:00pm Updated: April 6, 2017 - 6:26am

KAMLOOPS — With sweating a guarantee in almost all professional sports, many athletes choose to wear lightweight, breathable material in an effort to keep dry.

However, not every sport allows such luxuries.

Due to traditional uniform regulation rules, equestrian riders haven't been allowed to swap their shirts for a more breathable fabric for as long as the sport has been around.

But that changed three years ago thanks to one Kamloops woman.

And turns out there is another 'hot' market interested in her clothing besides horse racing, creating a once in a lifetime chance for her to take her product to the next level.

Being a barrel racer almost all her life, it wasn't the fast-paced sport that was the most challenging for Monique Vek. It was the clothing wear. 

"The t-shirts were just hot, they were typical plaid, western shirts made from heavy cotton," said Vek.

Enter the air-conditioned shirt. 

"We basically took one of my existing cycling jerseys and we added a collar and cuff cause that's what we needed to make it legal and for the regulations within the equestrian industry." 

Add in a longer shirt length and sleeve, and bold, customized designs courtesy of husband Jim Flux, and just like that the equestrian-industries first-ever breathable, sweat-free shirt was made by the Kamloops couple in 2014.

Sales came fast.

"We went within that first year from selling 30 shirts to thousands of shirts," said Vek.

"It was a little scary," said Flux. "It was unexpected. It's not like we headed into making shirts as a plan, it just kind of happened."

In two years the couple sold thousands of shirts online throughout the world, moving their production facility from Vancouver to Mexico to keep up with demand.

Then two months ago, business took an unexpected turn for the Tolko worker and former housecleaner.

"It wasn't until a woman in Alberta messaged me and said 'I was having a hot flash. Normally I have to run to the house and get completely changed because I feel so yucky. I happened to be wearing your shirts at the time and I was dry within minutes.' It was like "Oh, that's a cool market, no pun intended." 

With her line now catering to menopausal women as much as riders, the mother-of-two ended up auditioning for the popular show Dragons Den this past march in Kelowna in an effort to seek help and funding expanding her line.

"I wrote my speech on the back of a custom form," said Vek. "When I went I was like 'they like me if they do, if they don't, they don't."

Producers did.

Monique and Jim are flying to Toronto in a few weeks where she'll officially present her business to the shows five dragons. 

"It's not surprising if you know Monique," added Flux. "I was joking with the other day that she's a force of nature is the only way to put it. If she's got it in her head that this is where it's gonna go, you're gonna get there." 

This cowgirls new clothing line and life, one that she never saw coming.

"I don't even have my grade 12 so to be able to start a business and bring it to six figures in less than two years is huge," said Vek. 

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