Able Nation: A gymwear-turned-lifestyle brand with a positive message
Kevin and Mandy Denison have transformed their own determination into a brand to live by.
“No Grit, No Pearl.”
“Earn Your Keep.”
“Don’t Be What Stops You.”
They sound like the things your weightlifting partner would tell you while you’re straining under that last set of reps you have to finish. And when you hear the story of Able Nation, it wouldn’t be surprising if more than a few of these inspirational quotes came right out of the weight room.
For Kevin Denison, the creator of the Able Nation, what began simply as a desire to create shirts that he liked that he could wear to the gym and to work turned into a business almost by accident.
“I was wearing them to work, and some of the guys started asking for them,” he said.
Next thing he knows, he and his wife Mandy are opening a store. Now Able Nation, which celebrates a year of business in May, has expanded into the space next door, which used to be the storefront for an art studio.
Kevin Denison says the new space provides windows, drawing in even more customers.
“We had people coming in because they could see the shirts on display, and they had no idea we’d been next door for the last year,” he said.
It’s not as though Able Nation has had a hard time getting customers. Mandy Denison, swiping through photos on her phone, pulls one up of Black Friday last year; over the course of four hours, more than 200 customers came through their 300-square-foot store. Kevin couldn’t believe it when someone called before they were open, saying that customers were lining up outside the door.
“We brought in all this inventory and I thought well, we’ll be able to calm down and take it easy and I won’t have to unload everything for awhile,” Kevin Denison says, smiling. “Between that and Christmas, I’m still not sure we’ve recovered.”
Even without selling online, the brand has taken the world by storm.
“I see our brand everywhere I go,” Mandy says. “I was at a ballgame in Owasso, and across the field I see our shirts. We have an order for shirts going to Alaska. It’s crazy.”
Both of them admit that she wasn’t into it as much in the beginning. “But once she saw someone else wearing a shirt that she helped make,” Kevin says, that did the trick. She then morphed into being the one that handles the store and runs the business side while Kevin concentrates on the designs and production side.
“Now, it’s like she’s the one pushing me,” Kevin says. “I didn’t even want to open the store. She made it happen.”
It’s done well. They now have over 90 shirt designs, 70 of which you can see at the store. Kevin will say, “That’s it, I’m done, I’m not designing any more.” but Mandy knows better. Kevin admits it’s a futile effort. “I can’t stop. I don’t know when the next big shirt is going to be that everyone will want to wear!”
One thing Kevin has been consistent about is that he doesn’t do shirts for other people, clubs, or organizations, choosing to focus on Able Nation clothes almost exclusively.
“I didn’t want to be the guy making everyone’s shirts,” he says. “I wanted to be building my brand. It made my wife mad at me because we were turning away money. But we’re beginning to see it pay off.”
That’s not to say they never support other causes. They made custom shirts to support the recent Teacher Walkout, and they have another one launching soon to support a girl recently diagnosed with cancer.
They’ve also landed a deal with the Sapulpa Public Schools football program, and each shirt will have the Able Nation logo down the back.
Despite the fame, the prices are reasonable. $15 for a t-shirt, tanks are $18. Their lineup has expanded to include hats and stocking caps, and they recently launched a clothing line for children. They sponsor their own T-Ball team, (The Able Nation Outlaws) and they have big plans for the future including—of all things—a restaurant.
Even with these big aspirations, if there’s anything that Able Nation has taught us, it’s that we are able to do more than we usually think we can.
Able Nation is located 12 E Dewey. You can find them on Instagram at theablenation.