When Kendra Jarratt competed in her first Ironman competition, a grueling triathlon, she strapped a laminated picture of her son to her wrist for inspiration.
A decade later, after competing in some of the most challenging physical tests in the world, and winning last year’s Tri for a Cure triathlon, Jarratt is seeing a wave of interest in her newly formed company AIDBAND, which produces customized bracelets to motivate athletes.
At the time of Jarratt’s initial inspiration for AIDBAND, her son Jack was 4. Now, some 10 years later, and after successfully launching the company last October, Jarratt is looking for ways to expand and reach more people.
According to Jarratt, the business, selling customized bands for $11.95, also has a mission to give back to the community, and works with multiple nonprofits, including the Maine Cancer Foundation, which sponsors the Tri for a Cure. The foundation provided AIDBAND with the first major order, 400 bands to serve as fundraising prizes for the triathlon.
AIDBAND also partners with the Special Olympics, and at a recent event known as the Dynamic Dirt Challenge, Jarratt’s company gave $2 from every band sold to the Special Olympics.
Jarratt said the company now asks that when placing an order, customers suggest a nonprofit partner for the order to support.
Jarratt, 40, works as a sales team manager for Wex Inc. in South Portland, and has also worked for WCSH-6 in Portland, but said that in between her day job she brainstormed ways to launch AIDBAND.
“I would do market research and pick it up, and put it back down,” she said, referring to getting the business off the ground.
She said that in her experience in the workplace, especially on a sales team, part of her job is to keep her team motivated, a skill that she used in brainstorming for AIDBAND. Jarratt said that in the year and a half leading up to the launch, she worked on AIDBAND details at night.
While the small business has grown during its first year, Jarratt is still using her garage as its headquarters, and said that with the help of friends, they can produce bands (by hand) during one or two weekdays, and ship orders on weekends.
She added that the day after AIDBAND’s first event, the website exploded with orders. Customers can choose from multiple colors, and upload a custom image on the website.
Nicole Tackett, a co-worker and friend, said her AIDBAND is a photo of her 2-year-old daughter. Tackett and Jarratt have been “running buddies” since 2009, and both moms run together about three times a week, on top of also participating in Crossfit training.
Tackett said that Jarratt is inspiring not only because of her push to start a creative business like AIDBAND, but also because of her ability to provide encouragement.
“Eighteen days after I had my daughter, I did the Tri for a Cure’s swimming portion on a relay,” she said, adding that she competed in the full triathlon last year. “She definitely knew what I was capable of doing.”
While Jarratt won last year’s event, the prior year left her yearning to prove to herself she was capable of winning. During the swimming portion in 2012, Jarratt had a panic attack while in the water and did not finish the race.
“I was hyperventilating and of course they plucked me out,” she said, adding that the experience pushed her to begin work on AIDBAND and to “give back.”
“She is very resilient and very determined,” Tackett said, about Jarratt’s turn-around. She added that the two push each other while on the course, because Tackett’s best portion is the swim, while Jarratt’s is the bike.
“When we get in the water, I get a substantial lead, and when we get on the bike, she gets a substantial lead,” she said.
In the 10 years since her first Ironman, Jarratt began competing in cycling competitions, and placed high in multiple races, including a win at the Yarmouth Clam Festival race.
Both of Jarratt’s parents were runners, and she said she grew up watching them compete in marathons. Jarratt’s father, who worked in international business, led the family to Tehran, Iran, where Jarratt was born, and then back to Brunswick, where he opened a fitness business.
“Some of my earliest memories are handing out water and oranges at a 10-miler he put on every year,” she said. “My mother drove me to my first triathlon in Massachusetts, and after that I was absolutely hooked.”
Jarratt said that while she has been excited by interest in AIDBAND, she has been absolutely surprised by the creative ways customers have used the product, which has allowed the business to expand.
“The very first person to purchase an AIDBAND took a picture of a letter her father wrote her the day before he died,” she said. “In my mind it was going to be pictures that people would use to get through races, but our customers have taken it in completely different directions.”
Tiffany Flibbert, a longtime friend and former co-worker of Jarratt’s, who has assisted with AIDBAND from the beginning, has been creating new types of bands, called art buttons, which offer a more creative approach. The business now sells kits so that customers can design their own creative band.
“The way I thought of it was like it is a little 1-inch canvas to work with,” she said.
Jarratt added that she has also received large orders for funerals and family reunions.
“I kind of knew in my mind it was an endless possibility, but I couldn’t have imagined where people would go with it,” she said.
Flibbert said after recently going through a really rough patch in her job, she created an AIDBAND that said, “Breathe.”
“It sounds silly but we all need those reminders that it’s going to be OK,” she said.
“A lot of people who do these types of races are doing it for something special or a cause that is bigger than themselves,” Tackett said. “I think that’s what Kendra is trying to promote in her business, helping to motivate people not just in athletics, but in the decisions they’re making in their everyday lives.”
Jarratt said she is uncertain what the next major step for AIDBAND will be, but is determined to keep the business progressing, and plans to set new goals in October at the business’ one-year mark.
“I’ve learned a lot, which has been the best part of all of this,” she said. “If there’s an adventure, I want to be a part of it. If it’s epic, I seem to be attracted to it.”
Customers show off their AIDBANDs at a recent event in Maine. While founder Kendra Jarratt often brings AIDBANDs to regional events, customers can also purchase the custom bracelets online. AIDBAND founder Kendra Jarratt poses following her victory in the 2013 Tri for a Cure triathlon. Just a few months later, Jarratt would launch AIDBAND, her small business that produces customized inspirational bracelets. Kendra Jarratt sells AIDBAND products to a group of competitors at an event earlier this year. Jarratt takes her business to events throughout the year, but still uses her garage as AIDBAND headquarters. AIDBAND founder Kendra Jarratt, with AIDBANDs on her wrist, ties a shoe before heading out for a run. Jarratt was the 2013 winner of the Tri for a Cure triathlon. Kendra Jarratt gets congratulated following her victory in the 2013 Tri for a Cure triathlon.