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4 min read

From just five years old, Katarina has been on the court pursuing the game. The time, effort, and grit have paid off as she now plays Division II tennis for Grand Valley State University on a scholarship. The pressure of balancing athletic life and student focus has yet to shake Katarina. “Tennis has taught me more than the game itself, but how to manage stress and play my strengths in the real world,” she explains. Having dealt with this balance her whole life, her number one rule is to never procrastinate.

Practice starts early for an athlete, it always does. With supportive parents, Katarina was driven to and from games and training. The sacrifice they made only helped her more on the court as she realized she wouldn’t be where she’s at without them. Almost two decades later, the love of the game is still strong. She claims she has probably spent as much time on the court as she did off of it, and we aren’t arguing that! The origins of the sport date back to the 16th century, popular in England and France. Rules have largely stayed the same in the classic sport but any player, Katarina included, can relate to the emotional rollercoaster the sport gives an athlete.

“At one point you could be up in the game or set, feeling great, timing your shots, and then all of a sudden, you can lose confidence in yourself and your shots really quickly. Any outside distractions, noises or comments from the opponents or even other coaches can mess with your head. The true grit and mental toughness come when you can drown all the background noise and not think of the other player, but the ball itself. Instead of focusing on playing not to lose, I pick a strategy before each point so I can focus on the execution."

Tennis has always been Katarina’s focus, but with a solid education foundation, she was able to pursue a new passion in life of becoming an entrepreneur. Her business began after practice one day. She found herself in a frustrating situation of needing a place to put her key and ID card. “The locker didn’t lock, gym cubbies were open, and when we had our valuables stolen, I knew I had to do something about it,” Katarina explained. Thus began her journey from ideation to creation of Locker Lifestyle.

With the help of her “Momager,” Katarina was able to create her dream product. Her mother helped pull resources from her own business to aide her daughter in the infancy of invention. Her mother owned a bridal salon, which Katarina basically grew up in. From age three, she was helping fill pin cushions and other tasks around the shop. This gave her mother the ability to share crucial elements to growing a business as a woman. "If I had a mother or mentor capable of assisting me in my start-up, it would have saved a tremendous amount of heartaches and headaches. It’s been a duty to pay my knowledge forward," her mother gleamed. Working together has only bonded the two together beyond mother-daughter. The extra time together has been a reflection for both of them to realize how alike they are. "I was humbled to have such a hard working teen who appreciated my input and advice. I’ve passed the proverbial torch and she’s grown into a woman who is more driven and talented than I could ever be," she boasted. 

And just like that, her first product was born. The Wrist Locker was an eye-catching design that began to gain traction. With the dream planted, Katarina changed her goals to marketing. “Locker Lifestyle would not have been possible without my mom's bridal store,” she said. Soon after though, devastation struck and her mother’s bridal salon was lost in a fire. All concepts, materials, and equipment for Locker Lifestyle were lost, as well as the twenty-six years of business her mother had there. Back at square one, Katarina refused to give up. With lessons learned on the court, it was time to focus her energy so she could execute the plan. 

At an entrepreneur competition, Katarina met the owners of SHEFIT and found new mentorship. “They were kind enough to ask about the struggles I was having as a young, female entrepreneur and they offered to help,”  she grinned. A self-proclaimed fangirl of SHEFIT, she accepted the help from the local business to better guide her through the beginning stages of creating something remarkable. She hopes to take Locker Lifestyle to the next level after graduation. Their mission is “to help lovers of fitness, travel, and concerts enjoy their active life without having to worry about the essentials when on-the-go. 

Going forward, Katarina has a solid support network of family, friends, and teammates. Tennis requires every ounce of your attention and as Katarina sets goals she’ll need that same focus to lead her to success. “I love being able to dial in and strategize what I am capable of.”