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Locker Lifestyle Founder Katarina Samardzija

For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted the most successful startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.

Startup: Locker Lifestyle

Interviewee: Founder Katarina Samardzija 

Which university challenge did you win and when? 

I have won 22 pitch competitions to date! The Draper Pitch Competition for women was one of my favorites. I met so many incredible women and I still keep in contact with many of them to this day. I won the grand prize in April of 2019.

What is your elevator pitch? 

I’m always working to evolve my pitch! Locker Lifestyle was founded out of my college dorm room at Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, Michigan, after I had my valuables stolen out of my gym locker. I create wearable accessories like wrist wallets & pocket neck gaiters to stash small essentials so you can workout, travel & adventure with confidence.

What should we know about you? 

I played tennis for my university all 4 years. I originally wanted to go to med school but changed my major to entrepreneurship and marketing after selling my first products out of my dorm room.

What are you looking for?

I am always looking to scale and advance my business through more retail and e-commerce partners. We’re also currently hiring to grow the Locker Lifestyle team for those with experience in retail, sales & e-commerce!

Why should someone invest in you? 

I started Locker Lifestyle during college — all while juggling tennis, academics, and my start-up. In lieu of spending money on my own clothes, I searched for the best sources to buy fabrics and zippers for new products to sell. Instead of going to parties, I meet with mentors for crucial advice, learned how to code, & design new products to patent. What little free time I had was spent learning to incorporate my company, Locker Lifestyle, and ensure its long-term viability. I am not afraid to work long hours or weekends, seek advice, or pivot strategies to support the business. We’ve doubled in growth year over year, and now with our official women-owned business certification, we’re prepared to work with our largest corporate partners this year.

Is there a clear evidence of success you would like to share? 

After being in business for only two years in college, and two while actually full-time, we secured a feature on Good Morning America December 2020 where we sold out within 24 hours.

How much money have you raised so far, and what is the number of employees in the startup?

$0. I own 100% of the company and have scaled by winning grants and fueling the business by sales. And we are one full-time and four part-time employees.

Where are you based?

Chicago, Illinois.

Worst and best advice received so far?

  1. Worst: “Your products aren’t good enough.”
  2. Best: “Everything is negotiable.”

More info on the competition: 

Draper Pitch Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs is hosted and organized by the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Smith College, the Draper Pitch Competition For Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs provides more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a $25,000 cash prize as well as a Draper University Scholarship for the Grand Prize winner. It’s number eight on Times of E’s list of top university entrepreneurship competitions.

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This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit and connect with and