Nexarina founder carves a path for women in snow sports

Mikayla Balfour, the NAIT grad named Student Entrepreneur of the Year at the YEG Community Startup Awards, is about to start accepting pre-orders for her size-inclusive women's outerwear.

Nexarina has been selling sweatsuits and beanies, but the snow pants and jackets that Balfour has dreamed of will be for sale as of May 30, with delivery expected in October, just as the fresh powder starts to collect in the mountains.

The 25-year-old from Sherwood Park adores snowboarding, but as a shorter-than-average person struggled to find snow pants and jackets that fit, and sometimes had to shop in the kids' section.

"I've always hated being five feet tall, because every single time, even going shopping for regular clothes, it was so frustrating because I always have to get everything altered — nothing ever fit," she told Taproot.

She decided to create snow pants and ski jackets that come in short, regular, and long lengths, and with adjustable waistbands.

"It's built for a woman's body, but it's also built to adjust to us," Balfour said. "Our body shape fluctuates depending on the time of the day, the time of the month, so it's meant to move with you."

It wasn't just the sizing of women's gear that bothered Balfour. Men's gear typically has pockets and is made of high-quality, high-tech material, unlike women's.

"Stuff for women just isn't made to the same standard," she said, noting that her apparel will be made with top-of-the-line clothing materials such as eVent and Primaloft Insulation. "I wanted stuff that was going to move with you throughout seasons, but it would also stand the test of time."

Nexarina isn't just about snow pants that fit well — it's about helping women carve out a space in extreme sports, Balfour said. "Women have just been kind of forced to make do for so long, and we're all about challenging that and saying 'No, we deserve better.'"

Mikayla Balfour models her outerwear apparel in a snowbank.

Pre-orders open soon for Mikayla Balfour's outerwear brand, Nexarina. (Facebook)

Balfour doesn't have any background in fashion or clothing manufacturing. She said she visited several fashion and sportswear conferences to learn how to make outerwear and interviewed more than 100 women to hear what they disliked about the current sportswear options on the market.

Balfour started her entrepreneurial journey at the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship. The centre was looking for students who were working on businesses to send to Inventures in Calgary in 2022.

At the same time, Balfour was looking for co-op opportunities, but nothing was jumping out at her. "It was just all these different things kind of pushing me in the direction of starting my own business," she said.

Her win at the YEG Startup Community Awards on May 2 was hailed by NAIT personnel who have worked with her as she completed her business degree and launched Nexarina.

"She's a world conqueror," posted Dale Schaub, the Mawji Centre's lead entrepreneur consultant, after her win.

Nexarina's prototypes will be in the store run by NAIT students at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital starting this summer.