Grand Valley State University student Katarina Samardzija was recently named one of the Newsmakers of the Year by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. She is currently a senior double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship.
The Grand Rapids Business Journal held their annual Newsmakers of the Year event on Friday, Feb. 1 at the Frederik Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.
Samardzija won the “Startups” category for her business Locker Lifestyle, which she started about two years ago. She said she could tell she was one of the youngest finalists there by about 20 or 30 years.
“It’s really humbling to be recognized at such an early age of my business,” Samardzija said. “I have been through a lot and learned a lot, and I’m really thankful for the mentors and all the supportive family and friends that I’ve had through this process.”
As a student athlete, Samardzija recognized the need for her business. She said she used to get annoyed of having to carry all her valuables to the Campus Recreation Center with the possibility of them being stolen.
Samardzija decided that something needed to be done, so she created what is now known as the Wrist Locker. With help from her mom’s then-bridal seamstress, she was able to create a product that allows people to bring their basics – such as keys, money and identifications – with them wherever they go.
“At first, I only created this product because it was something that I wanted and needed,” Samardzija said. “But then, I was being asked by people I didn’t know where they could get one and with that I knew I had something.”
She started her business on Etsy, a website for handmade sellers, and was shocked at how fast it took off, so she decided to build a website.
Samardzija started off going into medicine at GVSU, but with the sudden takeoff and success of her business, she decided to change her major to marketing and entrepreneurship.
“I didn’t realize (the importance of the event) until I did some research on how big of a scale this event was,” Samardzija said. “There were about over 600 people who attended and I was in the winning categories along with individuals from Spectrum Health and other prestigious individuals in the community, so it was definitely a big honor.”
Samardzija said that winning this big of an award showed her that what she is doing really means something and that all those sleepless nights were worth it.
“President Haas sat right in front of my table and he came up to me asking for a picture after which was pretty cool,” Samardzija said.
Samardzija has more product ideas and just issued her first full patent a few months ago. She has also been working on a project with FedEx and a few local retailers.
“I am excited for the distribution and future product potential that Locker Lifestyle has because there is a lot more to do,” Samardzija said.