Triathlete Stefani Schuetz was diagnosed with stage II melanoma at age 25. Surgery successfully removed the cancer, but Schuetz needed to find sun-protective clothing to continue competing. “Living in Florida, I thought there’d be a ton of options. But there weren’t,” she says. “I had to ride my bike in rash guard [long-sleeve surfing tops] or loose-fitting fishing shirts.”
A radiologist by trade, Schuetz, now 30, consulted with a friend in clothing design, and together they located a manufacturer in Tennessee who could provide high-quality, cooling fabric with a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Working with that company, Schuetz created and tested her own designs for shirts, pants, full-body suits, gloves, socks and hats.
Tri Sirena launched this fall. The company’s name and its bold, feminine aesthetic honor Schuetz’s affinity for mythological sirens. (Sirena is Italian for mermaid.) “I designed exactly what I wanted to wear,” she says. “I want to do sports and be a badass, but I still want to feel like a woman.”
Triathlon clothing sets are “an investment,” Schuetz says—high-performance Tri Sirena tops start at $140. For now, the entrepreneur is handling online sales, and packing and shipping all orders from her home. In the next year, she’s hoping to partner with local retailers such as Endurance House and eventually to have her own distribution center.
Schuetz has recruited a “Luminary Team” of competitive triathletes who sport Tri Sirena at races while preaching skin cancer awareness. “I want to do everything I can to educate people, and then say, ‘Now here’s a product for you,’” she says. “Next year we’re adding running leggings and a long-sleeve swimsuit. We want to cover all outdoor athletes.”