What is it like to own a Jiu-Jitsu Brand?

Guest blog written by Joanne White – Rainha Fightwear

Where do I start with the Origins of Rainha?

I started training BJJ around this time 5 years ago. It took my partner, Jon, over a year of pestering to convince me to actually give it a go, as my preferred martial arts had always been striking arts. I remember having a tough start to the year, that year. In January of that year I was diagnosed with a condition called ‘Von-Willebrands Disease’ – which is a type of haemophilia – which had me going through a lot different medications, as they testing which worked and which didn’t with my immune system, which really took it out of me due to my also having another fun disease – Fibromyalgia. So, Jon decided that it was the right time for me to finally get on the mats and experience what BJJ had to offer. I loved my first session, falling in love with the sport immediately, and I instantly wanted to go to every session available, and subsequently started looking at all the possible kit I could get myself. After a lot of looking around, there wasn’t really much out there for women. Whilst all of the above was going on, I was also entering my final year of University, and my assigned final project was to create my own brand, and after some thinking, I decided that I wanted to make a female-focused BJJ brand. As I said before, I really struggled to find anything aimed at women with the available brands at that time, with all the clothing fits only catering to male practitioners, so I wanted my brand to be empowering for women, and to also cater to female sizing, offering a more flattering fit.

The name – Rainha – took some time to arrive at. We went down the whole route of looking at BJJ terminology for the names for the brand, names of animals, names in history, and some mythological elements, and we couldn’t find anything that really ‘popped’. We then looked at the word “Queen”, and how it sounded in different languages. Where Portuguese is the most prominent language in Brazil, where the art was refined, the Portuguese for Queen is Rainha, which stood out among the other offerings. I didn’t end up using Rainha as my final major project for university, as I was given a different option instead, but my lecturers encouraged me to enter Rainha into the university’s ‘Dragons Den’ style competition, where I had to pitch my idea to a group of adjudicators as well as set-up a crowd funding page -which I hated- for the chance to win some money to help start it up for real. This wasn’t something I had originally planned on! Rainha was meant to just be another Uni project, but instead, we decided to go for it! We actually did pretty well through the crowd funding, receiving a lot of support for the project, and even got some funding from the university – we were in shock!

Not only was the reaction to the idea better then we could have ever imagined, we already had some ladies in the BJJ community from all over the world contacting us asking us when products would be released, what kind of designs we would do, and a number of emails and messages of support for creating something aimed specifically at women in the sport! From there, everything just kind of snowballed! So, by the time I was nearing my final year of university, I was also launching my own company, trying to finish my dissertation, and final major project, as well as managing my Fibro-symptoms, and Von Willebrands, topped off with the surprise of being pregnant! It was a pretty full-on year now that I think about it… My mum always said I can never do things the easy way! A fact that was reinforced by my youngest child deciding turn up six and a half weeks early, she just couldn’t wait to meet us!

Some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced with the Rainha brand is finding the right manufacturers for us – that was a complete mine field – we spent so much time and money trying to make sure that the products we were creating were of the best quality and fit possible. We were a very small brand, in a very niche part of the BJJ market. The initial funding we received, and garnered through the crowd-funding, was great and it really helped us out with funding initial stock runs. As a brand, we are constantly asked if we are going to be producing any men’s products – as a lot of our team mates hassle me for kit in their sizes. It’s definitely something we are considering, but our main focus always has, and always will be, the women in the BJJ community.

Starting Rainha has definitely been one of the most challenging and stressful undertakings we have ever made. We’ve also had such amazing support from other brands in the sport – that we are still close with – such as “The Whiskey Wolf”, “Fight like a Girl”, “Fortitude” and “Grapplers Gift”, who we adore.

Thank you for reading – Leave a comment down below and give Rainha some love!