When life gives you a pandemic, make roller skates. For Adrienne Cooper that was exactly the case. When the Chattanooga resident had the idea to open the Moonlight Roller Lounge – the US’ first adult only roller rink – it seemed like a pretty good idea. But 2020 would not be the year to open event locations. But instead of burying her dream, Adrienne showed some real entrepreneurial spirit. Aside from a cute mobile roller rink for pop-up events she jumped in at the deep end and created a line of roller skates which already have a serious fan base. Fun fact: the Moon Boot was originally meant to be the rental skate for visitors of the Moonlight Roller Lounge. Now it comes different colors to suit every taste – including one model where they are donating $ 50 from each skate sold to “Color of Change”.
Watching Adrienne adapting throughout the past one-and-a-half years made us really curious about who the woman behind the brand is and how she maneuvers through those challenges. We asked Adrienne to tell us about the exciting process of creating a hand-made roller skate boot and, of course, whether it will be available in Europe.
Hi Adrienne, how did you come up with the initial idea of the Moonlight Roller Lounge?
I started skating in 2019 and we have a local roller rink but I just kind of was interested in seeing more of a skate space tailored to adults. It seemed that many roller skating rinks’ priority is kids parties. So, whenever they do an adult night it’s always on a Wednesday or a Sunday. We are still working on the lounge but had to put it on hold due to the pandemic. We just have to wait until the climate is a bit better and the event industry is getting back together. Hopefully, we will be able to open it in the beginning of the new year. Right now, we are just focusing on the mobile roller rink.
Did the Mobile exist before the pandemic or was that just an idea that evolved during this time to be more flexible?
We did have it prior to the pandemic. We wanted to do pop-up events but I was having a really hard time finding good venues and getting all of the rental skates to the location for the rental skates. So, I told my husband that I had come up with the idea of renovating a trailer so we can tow it with us to the events. It seemed like a very good idea to maybe even get a portable wooden floor. And that way instead of just having events inside we could also do them at parks. We had a huge event planned in March but it had to get cancelled because of Covid. Luckily the Mobile is already paid off. Now it’s even more relevant than ever to have the it.
Did you actually go all in with Moonlight Roller?
Yes. I was catering before and was in the events industry which is why I thought that would be something that I liked. My goal was to continue working my full-time job as long as I could. But then in May last year it kind of got to the point where I felt I needed to either go on and get serious about it or put it on hold because it was so much of a time commitment. So, I quit my job and have devoted myself full time to it ever since.
Was it scary to quit your job and go all in?
Absolutely. I have two-year-old son and a husband. Just like taking the risk. You never know what happens when you start a new business. My husband was incredibly supportive and still is. It was scary taking the leave of a stable job into something where I didn’t know what would happen.
At which point did you decide to also put out a skate boot?
The skate happened 100 per cent because of Covid. We had been working on it since December as we planned for it to be our rental skate. I was really unhappy with the quality of rentals that were being offered. At events you have adults that haven’t skated in years and they’re drinking. You need to have a good supportive skate so they can have a good experience. When Covid hit and we had to cancel all our events all I had was this really good skate. The color that we were going to produce was grey and I decided to do a limited run of 500 pairs. After I put it on Instagram we got a huge response. It was our most liked post. So, I talked to my team and I was like: I’m thinking of doing some more colors. What do you think? They thought it was a really good idea. I talked to the manufacturer and we decided to just go ahead with the entire line.
Wow, what a story. Did it feel risky to put another skate on the market where there are so many brands right now?
I thought that there is a gap on the market between the skates that are $ 300 and the trashy 100-dollar-skates. For some people the US $ 300 is a lot. Especially when you are talking about people from overseas. They have to pay shipping and customs. So, I wanted to offer a skate, I don’t want to say more body positive, but when I started skating I weighed 220 pounds. My feet were swollen and wide and the break-in period of my 300-dollar-skates was tough. And my Nylon plate ended up snapping. I really felt self-conscious about myself and how it made me feel that my skate plate snapped. I wanted to offer a skate that had a good aluminum plate for dancers. That way they could have that stability when they are on their toes. I have a very adult kind of style. I like colors such as black, grey and white. My husband also was not very into the colors that were available. So I wanted to add a different kind of range.
They are hand made in Hongkong. How did you find a manufacturer and decide on the fit and the form? I would imagine it difficult.
It was very difficult. I have a mentor. His name is Nick Champa. He owns a roller skating rink. Last November, I went up to his rink to meet him. I asked him what rental skates he used. They looked cute. But he was like: ‘No, no, no. Don’t use these rentals, they are not what you want’. He told me I would be better off contacting a manufacturer he knew. So, I reached out to them. I wanted a skate that is soft suede and has a little more padding, so it’s going to be friendlier to people who will skate for hours without a break-in period. Also, the people at my events not only like to skate at rinks. They like to skate at restaurants, at the park, basically anywhere where the is floors. I wanted to make a skate to encourage that. We ended up creating a mold for our own sole, one mold for our own toe stop, we designed the lining.
Sounds like a great experience.
It’s my favorite part, honestly.
Did you travel to Hongkong or is it more like calling and sending samples back and forth?
That’s exactly it. I am planning a trip to Hongkong. They just moved into a new facility. They are opening a production line specifically for us. We are creating some new jobs for the company, which is pretty amazing. I want to get out there but the travel restrictions and the political situation in Hongkong right does not allow it. I hope to be able to fly there by the end of the year. For now, we talk a lot on the phone, they send me samples, I make notes and send them back with the notes.
Right now, you have three colors available but you revealed that you will have more?
We have nine colors in total. In addition to the black, grey and flashdance, we are putting out a vegan snake print called ‘Charmer’. And we are doing an emerald green called ‘Erold City’ and a purple one called ‘Amethyst’.
By when will you be out with the other colors?
Will you sell the boot individually and will they be available in Europe as well?
Yes. We are working with three shops at the moment, two in the UK and one in Canada. We will set them up as UK distributors.
That will be cool for lots of European countries that have high custom taxes for overseas goods.
A lot of skate companies who sell overseas have a distributor. That’s important. Planet Roller Skate was saying people didn’t understand that they will going to have pay customs, too, when it came to the door. So they were turning the packages away and then the company has to eat that shipping twice.
Are you planning to have sponsored team skaters?
Yes, we are. We are working on building a Moonlight skate team right now. We are trying to find talented unknown skaters. I think we’re going to do an open call and get people to send us their reels.
What would you say was the biggest lesson learned from your journey?
I would say my biggest lesson has been the sheer will of what you can actually do. There have been so many times throughout the past year that I would lay in bed, being sad. And I had a loss, and something didn’t go the way I thought and it totally breaks my heart because I am so emotionally connected to the project. But, even at those times of super lows, just having the ability of: Okay, it sucks, but we’re gonna do it anyway and keep pushing. Sometimes I didn’t even realize how hard it was going to be until I was all the way in it. But it just shows you what you are made of. If you really want to do something, there is a way.
Would that be the advice you would give people who want to start a business from scratch?
Absolutely. We are turning the Mobile into a franchise. I want it to be all women owned. We’ll probably start selling franchise packages by the end of the year. There are too many rinks that are owned by males. The intention is to get more women owned businesses in the skating industry.
If you want to know more about Moonlight Roller and their Moon Boot check out their page.