It took just a matter of months for Caroline-​​Christine Wil­helm, DMSB’10, to spot a hole in the retail market when she returned to her native Europe after working in New York City for a year.

A devotee of high-​​intensity exer­cise at stu­dios like Soul­Cycle and Physique 57, Wil­helm noticed that the col­orful pat­terned leg­gings and tops filling the New York stu­dios had not made their way to the other side of the pond. Instead a blur of black, gray, and white greeted her at her daily workout classes.

Wil­helm, encour­aged by class­mates’ praise of her sleek get-​​ups, set out to change that. In late July, she launched Copé Active, a London-​​based online bou­tique of U.S. and Aus­tralian luxury and designer active wear. “Think runway for the gym,” she said.

With one gluten-​​free café or green-​​juice bar opening after the next, and a rapidly growing fit­ness industry, I could see the trend toward a healthy lifestyle had come to Europe,” Wil­helm said during a phone inter­view from London this week. “With that comes the will­ing­ness to spend money on working out. It wasn’t that Euro­peans didn’t want to have fash­ion­able gym wear; they simply had no access to it. I there­fore made it my mis­sion to set up this platform.”

The North­eastern name opened so many doors for me in the busi­ness world.
— Caroline-​​Christine Wilhelm

The real-​​world expe­ri­ence woven into her aca­d­emic courses at North­eastern informed her every move. “We weren’t just looking at old case studies,” she said of her under­grad­uate years. “The coop expe­ri­ence was incor­po­rated in every class.”

In par­tic­ular, Wil­helm honed her market-​​research skills. Today she spends count­less hours on social media sites like Insta­gram as well as a myriad web­sites sleuthing out new brands, and travels weekly to show­rooms and active-​​wear fairs in the U.S. and Aus­tralia to select inven­tory. She and a small team then “test each item to the max”: How does it fit, look, breathe, and last? If it passes muster, she pens an exclu­sive Euro­pean deal and imports it.

Our com­pet­i­tive edge is that we guar­antee that we are the first to sell these items, and we deliver them quickly because they are stocked in our ware­house,” she said.

“Sweat Is Fat Crying”

Caroline-​​Christine Wil­helm

Caroline-​​​​Christine Wil­helm, DMSB’10, launched an online busi­ness to fill a gap she saw in the over­seas active-​​​​wear market. Photo by Copé Active.

Copé Active, which is self-​​funded, cur­rently fea­tures 15 niche designers, including BlueLif­eFit, Heroine Sport, La Vie Boheme, and Yeti. The shop has its own brand, too— black tanks let­tered with slo­gans such as “Sweat Is Fat Crying.” Expan­sion plans include opening fully stocked stores inside gyms in London, and then Berlin and Paris, two cities, Wil­helm explained, that are flooded with “expa­triots from the U.S” already com­mitted to studio workouts.

The site’s blog, pro­duced by two interns, uses the activewear as a spring­board to spread the company’s holistic vision. Recently addressed topics include “Tips to Unwind,”  “Favorite Food Apps,” and “The Truth Behind Fit­ness and Nutri­tion Myths.”

Young Global Leaders

Wil­helm credits North­eastern with helping her realize that vision. “The North­eastern name opened so many doors for me in the busi­ness world,” she says. She points to both men­tors and her role as a Young Global Leader as instru­mental in her devel­op­ment as an entre­pre­neur. YGL is an inter­na­tional net­work of recent grad­u­ates rep­re­senting 43 coun­tries who act as ambas­sadors for the school and advi­sors to uni­ver­sity lead­er­ship. Recent YGL meet­ings in London and Dubai, said Wil­helm, have pro­vided her with irre­place­able sup­port and instruction.

Having this group of extremely ambi­tious people sur­round you is so inspi­ra­tional,” she said. “Many of us are expe­ri­encing sim­ilar strug­gles, whether regarding tech­no­log­ical issues or bal­ancing supply and demand. I feel so empow­ered by this group.”

Join Caroline-​​Christine Wil­helm on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. EST, live on Northeastern’s Periscope (@Northeastern on Twitter) to learn about her busi­ness and to ask questions.