CINCINNATI -- Monica Kohler needed something to wear after her Saturday morning workouts with her sisters, something she could throw on over her tights and wear to lunch, or to run errands.
“I kept saying to my sisters, I just want to make a tube in the size of a skirt,” she said, adding that one of her sisters replied, “Like a skube?”
And so was born the idea for Skube.me LLC, the Westwood woman’s business of making and selling those garments.
What’s a skube (rhymes with “tube”)? A tube-like skirt made from a stretchable, knit fabric that’s machine-washable and can be slipped on over yoga pants or other workout clothing. It’s reversible, with each side having a different, complementary pattern. And it can also be worn as a top, rather than as a skirt.
Where do people wear them? Just about anywhere, Kohler said. Originally, she conceived of wearing them before and after yoga classes. But customers tell her they wear them to work as pencil skirts, along with a jacket, silk blouse and heels.
Schoolteachers wear them to class, but don’t fold them over at the top, so that they extend to the knees. Travelers like them because they can be reversed and worn two days in a row. Sports fans wear them with jerseys at games.
“They’re super comfortable, the fabrics are really high quality and it’s really versatile,” said Mariemont resident Kristine McGilvary, who purchased one and “fell in love with them.”
How much do they cost? They retail for $64.95. Kohler has sold about 500 since she started working on the business full-time in January 2015. She’s also given away about 100 more to friends and family, so they can wear them and promote the product. Her customers range from 6 to 87 years old.
They include West Harrison resident Beth Lake, the first paying customer, who wears hers to her job as a schoolteacher. “(Monica) always chooses fabrics with several different colors, so it’s easy to mix and match and make several outfits,” she said. “And they don’t wrinkle if they’re rolled up and put in a suitcase.”
Where are they sold? Three local stores, all of them suggested by Kohler’s customers: House of Run N Tri, on Eastern Avenue in Columbia Tusculum; Cincinnati Sports Club on Red Bank Road; and Metallic Giraffe, on Anderson Ferry Road. She also sells them at markets such as Second Sunday on Main in Over-the-Rhine and has a booth at the Cincinnati Home & Garden Show through March 6.
Who makes them? Kohler, whose mother taught her to sew, originally made them all herself, but now she has a local seamstress, Karen Williams, put them together. Kohler picks out and buys the material from Fabric Row Shopping Center in Philadelphia, which she says is the “mother lode” of textiles.
How much has she invested? About $18,000. That includes the cost of creating the website www.skube.me, legal advice, materials, fees for shows/markets and a van to carry her wares on the road.
Has she ever owned a business? Not until now. The 59-year-old University of Cincinnati College of Nursing graduate has spent most of her professional life as a nurse practitioner.
What’s next for the business? No. 1, to enable customers to buy skubes directly from the website, which is now informational only. No. 2, to get skubes into more retail stores, including stores in other cities. No. 3, to create a line of skubes for children, a frequent request from customers.
What’s been the greatest challenge? Creating awareness of the product. It’s not something that’s immediately appreciated when seen on a hanger, she said. It’s easier to get when it can be worn, touched and felt. It’s been both fun and scary to have created something people want to buy, she said.
“I get so excited,” she said. “I can see this working in so many different arenas and locations. I want skubes to be everywhere.”