Karen Noseff Aldridge didn’t pay a penny for her Rebel Athletic apparel to be featured in the Netflix mega-hit Cheer. The show chronicles Corsicana’s Navarro College Bulldogs squad as they prepare for the National Cheerleading Championships, all decked out in flashy Rebel attire.
“The Netflix producers edited Rebel into so many parts of the show because we added to the narrative,” Aldridge says. “We were very open in unfurling information about the cheerleading world and proving that cheer is a legitimate sport.”
More than 70 percent of Rebel’s employees and executive team are women. Clients include some of the world’s biggest squads, such as Canada’s 1,200-member Cheer Sport Sharks, as well as professional teams like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Rebel’s Netflix appearance led to distributors reaching out from all over the globe. Aldridge had turned away such suitors in the past, but “with the frenzied level of interest following the show, we’ve decided to give it a shot,” she says.
The company’s profile spiked after its apparel was featured on a popular Netflix docuseries.
Cheer gear is a segue for the Rebel Athletic founder and president, who left law school at Southern Methodist University to launch a designer jeans line in 2008. Her company, Fortune Denim, was a success, with products sold in 300 boutiques and department stores. But when the Great Recession struck, sales fell 40 percent, and Aldridge put the company on pause.
To help keep her small team employed, she started doing private label for women’s contemporary brands and teaching dance classes.
Through a twist of fate, she met the owner of a cheerleading events company, which led to an order for 2,000 cheer champion jackets. While hand-sewing glistening sequins onto garment sleeves, it occurred to Aldridge that there was a business opportunity in selling highly styled, blinged-out cheer uniforms.
Market research revealed a single industry giant, Varsity Spirit, controlled about 80 percent of the market. Aldridge felt she could grab her share, too.
“We’ve somehow figured out a way to use our size as an advantage against competitors,” she says. “We remain nimble and adaptable, and will adjust our sails at a moment’s notice if something isn’t working.”