Founded: 2012

Privately owned

Employees: 1, plus 5 independent contractors

Former NBA dancer Kady Zinke has set out to upgrade women’s activewear with a fashionable, dance-inspired line for professionals and aficionados alike.

Zinke, a onetime Nuggets dancer who’s the daughter of a drag racer, had a simple idea: Dancers and cheerleaders, much like auto racers, would benefit from padding for impact-related injury.

During her stint with the NBA during the 2011-12 season, Zinke’s coach had constantly chided the team about bringing kneepads to the court. Trouble was, there wasn’t anything on the market then, aside from bulky volleyball and biker pads.

In 2013, Zinke cold-called professors at the Colorado School of Mines until she found a development partner, Dr. Terry Lowe, who was game to approach padding from a different angle and develop an exciting new technology — a hybrid energy-absorbing material for sportswear that’s thin and non-restrictive.

KADYLUXE was subsequently awarded a $30,000 accelerator grant from the state of Colorado in June, and Zinke is now collaborating with Lowe to integrate the technology into the first ever anti-injury legging. Think: yoga pant with invisible knee padding capable of outperforming anything on the market and spanning other industries including automotive, shipping, and military.

“Development takes time,” Zinke says, estimating the padding technology will be released within the next year. “We are currently trying to prove that our technology can be manufactured in Colorado,” she adds.

Local manufacturing is important to Zinke, who, in the meantime, has launched the fashion portion of her product under the brand name KADYLUXE. Everything in the collection is manufactured in the U.S., with small-scale cutting and patterning in Denver at Colorado Contract Cut & Sew and larger production runs in Los Angeles.

The devil’s in the details. “The KADYLUXE motto,” says Zinke, “is that we are transparent with our business, not our fabrics. We pay a premium for fabrics, which are sourced out of Northern Italy, but it’s worth it because they are unique, very technical stretch fabrics.”

The company’s 100 percent repurposed, fade-resistant yarns have gained traction in the pro NBA, and Zinke recently landed a new account with the Vail Beaver Creek 2015 Alpine World Ski Championship cheer team.

While Zinke will continue to service the professional dance and sports apparel market, she also announces plans to tackle another underserved market — the fashion-forward female sports fan — with sleek, high-end studio-to-street gear.

[read about more Colorado Lifestyle & Consumer manufacturers here.]

“Right now,” says Zinke, “if you are over the age of 30, there isn’t much in the college bookstore you want to wear.” Zinke’s newest line deviates from the traditional “shrink it and pink it” philosophy for women’s sports apparel, where manufacturers take male silhouettes down to a female size, or incorporate pink into a jersey. “We want to do something more sophisticated,” Zinke explains.

Challenges: “Keeping production stateside when we grow,” says Zinke, adding that, “Making clothes in general is a challenge because there are so many areas where something can go wrong.”

Opportunities: Expansion, of course! KADYLUXE is small, and relies on word of mouth, says Zinke, explaining that she snagged the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ cheerleading team account because a woman at last year’s Bronco’s audition was wearing KADYLUXE, and somebody from Tampa saw it on the television channel PNZ.

Needs: Money and a stronger infrastructure. “We are doing a capital raise now, and are strategically building a board of directors,” Zinke says. As KADYLUXE grows, Zinke recognizes a need for bringing on more sales representatives and designers, too.