Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Designed to Thrive: OWRP Puts Profits Towards Women's Rugby

It takes a lot to create a solid rugby club and keep it viable. Since refs don't like being paid in pizza and hugs - and USA Rugby doesn't accept high fives for CIPP registrations - every club needs money to remain afloat. Unfortunately, these funds aren’t always available for clubs that need them. This is especially true for women's and girls’ teams. The Ohio Women’s Rugby Promotions is a charity-based solution to the funding problem that empowers people to directly support the rugby women’s community – and it gives their supporters some sweet swag to wear in the process.
"Despite our best efforts to scour the state, we missed a couple teams this year.
We’ve been notified and future designs will not overlook these worthy teams."
- Renee Whittenberger

The OWRP is unique in that it was conceived by women, is run by women and directly serves women. Renee Whittenberger, Bridgette Ford and Helen Dauka are the minds behind the OWRP and the driving force behind its endeavors. All three women helped found the OWRP. Now, Dauka handles the marketing and artistic sides of the business, while Ford handles the in-person sales and recruitment efforts. While all this is going on, Whittenberger ensures the company is headed in the right direction. With the women working in concert, the OWRP has been on an unconventional upward trend.

“Admittedly, it all came together a little backwards,” Whittenberger said. “I created ‘the original’ Ohio Teams design to feature the Ohio women's and girls' team. We loved it so much we put it on a T-shirt. We decided to sell that T-shirt, at first, as a fundraiser for Youngstown Steel Valley Rugby women’s team, but we wanted to benefit more than just ourselves.”

That's when the OWRP primary plan for funding teams took shape. The women decided that they would dedicate a portion of every shirt sold for the Ohio women's team chosen by the purchaser. At that point one shirt that was meant to make a few dollars for one team took on a whole new life with much more meaning.

“We are only at the beginning of this endeavor and we continue to generate and pursue other opportunities to benefit Ohio women's teams,” she said. “Ohio Women’s Rugby Promotion has worked with women’s rugby groups on a low-effort, high-reward fundraiser which we call the ‘Two Week $500+ Program,’ we have sponsored a local sevens tournament and we have even more projects in the works – all to benefit our peers in rugby.”

The OWRP has produced big dividends for teams that have taken on the task of selling shirts. The Ohio Ellie team is a prime example of the success clubs can have with the $500+ plan. The OWRP created a design, hosted a sale for two weeks and delivered the shirts once orders had been completed. All the players had to do was direct interested buyers to the shirts, and their efforts were successful to the tune of $700. The whole process required minimal effort in the part of the Ohio Elite.

“No inventory, no organization, no collection of money, and no stress – we do it all and then hand over a check,” Whittenberger said. “This particular fundraiser was especially profitable due to hard work by the players and some well-timed perks from our printing company. We conservatively estimate a cashflow of $500 in our Two Week $500+ Program.”

Though there has been success so far, there is still a lot of leg work that goes into spreading the word and moving the product. The ladies can be seen all over Ohio at a variety of functions promoting their products. From matches on Saturdays to events put on by the Ohio Rugby Business Network and even the USA Rugby National Development Summit, Whittenberger, Ford and Dauka are continually out increasing the visibility of the OWRP. All the pavement pounding and schmoozing is in the name of building up the women's rugby teams around the state, at all levels. That is a mission the ladies have put front and center from the start - a mission they, literally, wear proudly.

The initial shirt design was crafted to showcase every single girls’ and women's team in the state - or at least the ones Whittenberger and her crew could find. After nine attempts, the design was ready. The final product was intended to be something special for the teams represented on it. It recognized each one, some of them for the first time ever. The names were more than just a roll call for these Ohio clubs. They were a symbolic message from the women behind the OWRP.

“It was my artistic way of saying ‘you matter, your team matters, your rugby counts, and we are grateful to have shared the pitch with you,’” Whittenberger said. For her, the process of creating the design held special meaning as well. “Each time I would write a team name, I would think about the players and memories I have of that team. Having played senior women’s rugby for six years and refereeing all levels of rugby for the last two years, I had been on the pitch with many of the teams featured. In producing that design, I realized how many women make up this incredible community in Ohio and how grateful I am to have officiated their matches or played with and against them. My heart swells just thinking about it.”

After the original design was successful, more were developed. In addition to the Original, there's the limited edition U24 “I Am Ohio Rugby” design and the “Ohio Pride” design, which shows the OWRP's support of the LGBTQ community. Each design is unique, and future ones will be as well. As partnerships develop and opportunities present themselves, Whittenberger and her crew will consider new sartorial offerings to meet the new demand.

The OWRP is always looking to reach out to more people, whether it's build its network of partner clubs or have more customers purchasing products. Supporters can purchase any of the shirt designs on the group's Web site. The Ohio Pride design is available as a shirt and a tank top, while the I am Ohio Rugby and Original designs are available as shirts. Those looking to get involved on the fundraising end can e-mail the OWRP.


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