Best Practices

KCSourceLink: Youth Entrepreneurs Alumna Zips Up Success on ABC's Shark Tank

Published Mar 04, 2014 by


In 2003, as a Topeka High School student, Betsy (Wanless) Johnson took the 
Youth Entrepreneurs yearlong class as an elective just like nearly 12,000 other students have. 

Little did she know her YE experience would serve as the foundation of her preparation for 
ABC’s Shark Tank.

Johnson is co-founder and president of SwimZip, the stylish go-to brand for UPF 50+ sun protection clothing, sun hats, rash guards, and swimwear for babies, toddlers, and children. The self-titled, mompreneur, created the company in early 2010 and has been swimming ever since and knows how hard it is to balance and juggle being a full-time mom and full-time business owner.


During the summer, Johnson and her co-founder and brother, Berry Wanless, flew to Los Angeles to pitch the business to five Sharks, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary, on the national television show. The total pitch took about two hours. SwimZip ran on the Friday, January 24, 2014 episode. America watched proclaimed home shopping channel QVC Queen Greiner offer $60,000 for 20-percent equity of the company.

Since the SwimZip episode aired, the business has experienced high website and social media traffic and increased sales. In fact, many of the most popular products are currently back ordered.

SwimZip UPF Swimwear has previously been featured on the
 Today Show and is carried in high-end hotels, as well as boutique stores. Johnson designs the products herself and is very hands-on in the all aspects of the business. Johnson praises YE for showing her how to write a business plan, pitch her business plan to a panel to potential investors, and to have an intimate knowledge of her market and financials.

For a short time, while working for Boeing, Johnson lived outside of the Kansas City area and Youth Entrepreneurs region. After moving back, YE helped re-connect Johnson to mentors. Johnson serves the organization that sparked her inner entrepreneur as a member of the Youth Entrepreneurs Kansas City Advisory Council.

“Betsy really exudes everything we're trying to teach our students," said Priscilla
McInnes, director of Student and Alumni Services for YE. "She demonstrates how to take
calculated risks. She's truly creating value for her customers."

Johnson’s primary advice for fellow YE students, alumni, and budding entrepreneurs, “Don’t be afraid. Dive right in. And, make sure to ask a lot of questions.”

Youth Entrepreneurs currently has programs in eight greater Kansas City metro schools. Statewide there are more than 1,100 students and 12,000 alumni.

Content contributed by Sarah Mote, and first published at KCSourceLink. KCSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.