Inside Coolibar

John Barrow – Entrepreneur of the Year, Upper Midwest

Coolibar President and Founder, John Barrow, was honored to be selected as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was surprised when his name was called as the winner of the consumer products category.

John thanked the judges for recognizing him among such an esteemed group who are making tremendous changes to improve our world and acknowledged the work and dedication of his team at Coolibar.  John said, “I would like to say thank you to the people at Coolibar.  In truth they are actually a lot more talented than I am. The success of Coolibar, is really your success, and I will forever be in your debt for that.”

Hard work, dedication and collaboration were common themes throughout the evening as Midwest entrepreneurs accepted their awards.  We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Barrow, seeking advice for young entrepreneurs.

1) How hard is it for young entrepreneurs to make their mark in the fashion industry?

I would say it is probably easier than some industries and harder than others.  On the one hand, there are not large barriers to getting into the business in terms of capital or intellectual property.  On the other hand, obtaining access to distribution channels, or building your own, can be a challenge. On the positive side again, it’s a very large, global industry but on the other hand it’s quite price competitive.  So, I don’t think it’s easy but I certainly think it is possible for talented and hard working individuals to make their mark.

2) Normally, what challenges make young entrepreneurs give up?

The biggest issue is probably being able to generate sales of their products.  Another one is obtaining adequate financing for their business.  And finally, I think that the opposite side of the coin of being young is that young entrepreneurs typically don’t have extensive experience or management skills that would help them be more successful in building a business.

3) What is the eligibility criterion or qualification required to make it big in apparel and fashion industry for young entrepreneurs?

I would say the qualifications are parallels to those challenges I mentioned above.  I think young entrepreneurs need a strong vision of their product, they need a lot of energy to work long hours, they need selling/communication skills and enthusiasm to convince people of the attraction/benefit of their product/company, and they need some resilience in their personality to accept some setbacks but still bounce back and follow their vision.

Read the full press release for Mr. Barrow’s award. Watch Mr. Barrow’s acceptance speech below.

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  • Judy Funk

    Congratulations on your award. I wish you every continued success.

    Coolibar has had the advantage of providing more than all the competitors, by originally having black as an option for most of your clothing.

    This allowed for Coolibar to be worn also in a more elegant, professional look. Black travels easily, as it can be dressed up with accessories and be suitable enough for evening restaurants etc. Especially when traveling a wardrobe needs to be super versatile. Of course, this advantage is also very useful every day of the year, when at home too.

    I findi that with the introduction of many lovely, but less versatile colors, black is disappearing much too often as an option. Eiither the top does not come in black, or when ordering it is never available in black in the full range of sizes. This is beconing discoouraging. I, and countless others wish to keep Coolibar as our first choice.

    At medical conferences, thousands of physicians, from around the world attend. The free marketing for Cooibar is tremendous, but again, due to less black options, this is becoming so problematic just as Coolibar is becoming more well known. An unfortunate convergence.

    Please take full advantage of our needs, and of your unique niche re allowing a more elegant look, by keeping black tops, and slacks as a staple. The conpany can ONLy benefit by filling this need.

    Thank you.

    • aoberg

      Hi Judy,

      Thank you for the congratulations.

      We appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback about our products. I have forwarded your comment to our merchandising team. They really do take the time to listen to our customers. Hopefully you’ll see more of your needs met from us in the future. We hope you continue to use Coolibar, and thanks for being a fan from the beginning! – Amanda

  • james a jacobson

    I’m a fan. Is Coolibar hiring?

    • aoberg

      Hi James! Glad to hear you are a fan! We are not hiring at the moment, but you are free to send your resume to! -Amanda

  • Malcolm Bund

    Well said mate and good on you. Nice short speech. I am glad to be an Aussie customer.

  • AWilcox

    I am a Coolibar fan. However, there are some weak areas. I would love to see more fashionable choices in men’s golf clothes. In particular, long pants. The selection for long pants is pretty much non-existent. I hope that is an area that you would consider looking into and expanding.

    • aoberg


      Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your feedback. I have forwarded your comment to our merchandising team for consideration for the 2014 Coolibar line! We try hard to serve our customers requests, and we hope you continue to be a fan of Coolibar! -Amanda

  • Alan

    Thank you Amanda. To clarify: I am looking at the Summerweight Gingham Shirt. The picture shows the model wearing the shirt with white pants. It would be nice to have those pants (and others pictured throughout the site) available in SPF 50+. I realize that it creates a whole new and extended issue of size inventories. All of the waist sizes with all of the inseam sizes. Much more involved than with shorts, for example.

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