First of all, this is not a story about a company that makes fanny packs. As it were, the fanny pack nearly destroyed the belt-based storage market, with it’s 90’s trendiness and horrid neon designs, so we’re not really going there — only kinda. No, this is a story about what Austin values the most, and how one local business has made tremendous profits by building a product that caters to those values.
In Austin, our most widely held values include an appreciation of fitness, a deep love of live music, and a profound connection to our dogs. Austin entrepreneur Kim Overton somehow figured out a way to bind all those values together with a single product that you should definitely not call a fanny pack. She has a better name for her accessory: The small personal item belt, or simply SPIbelt.
“There really isn’t anything similar to this,” Overton told Austin.com. “There are fanny packs, but this isn’t a fanny pack. This is discreet, slim, and will hold small personal items. And most importantly, when you’re running, it doesn’t bounce, which is one of the key selling points.”
In other words, think more Batman and less Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson circa 1990.
The idea of SPIbelt came to Overton in the fall of 2006, after she grew tired of storing her keys in her top at Austin City Limits. It got her thinking that there must be a better way. She left the festival that day and created the first prototype of her non-fanny pack accessory, meant to hold hold things like keys and IDs.
Turns out, she stumbled upon the perfect accessory for a great many Austinites who participate in the things central Texas folks love to do. Today, the SPIbelt is enormously popular in town with runners, bikers, hikers, festivalgoers, dog lovers, and basically most of Austin’s population.
If you’re going to Fun Fun Fun Fest, expect to seem them around. They were certainly on display during ACL.
Overton, who’s from Austin but lived in New York City for over a decade, started the company on her own. She was a personal trainer when she first created an SPIbelt for herself, but once her clients saw it they all wanted one.
Call it a case of a really useful product going viral. It didn’t take long before SPIbelt orders were coming in from across the U.S. and even overseas. Now that original SPIbelt comes in numerous varieties, including a Diabetic SPIbelt that fits items such as insulin pumps, the SPI ankle/wristband (“for extreme minimalists,” Overton said), and even a leash that can hold onto stuff while you’re walking the dog.
All that growth has led to Overton’s company hiring 16 full-time employees in Austin, and they’re not planning on leaving any time soon. In Overton’s words, this city has “nurtured the business” she started it up.
“Austin’s a great place to be an entrepreneur,” Overton said. “It’s very supportive and the city has been a big part of our growth. I love this town. People want to help here.”
To buy your own SPIbelt, which starts at $19.99, check out a local sporting good store like Dick’s or Luke’s Locker, or head by the SPIbelt website.
Featured photo: SPIbelts come in a wide variety of colors. Rebecca L. Bennett.