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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Off the gymnastics mat, Leanne Wong inspires gymnasts with ‘Bowtique’ business

She started her entrepreneurial career at 18 years old

Leanne Wong poses with fans holding her bow after the NCAA Gainesville Regional Championship on Sunday, April 7, 2024.
Leanne Wong poses with fans holding her bow after the NCAA Gainesville Regional Championship on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

Heading to the U.S. Championships at 15 years old in 2018 to compete against some of the best gymnasts in the world, UF senior gymnast Leanne Wong discovered her newest fashion accessory: a bow. 

When she began to match her bows with her competition leotards, the outcomes were similar to what she’s finding with UF gymnastics: success. 

However, it wasn't until her fashion and interior design class that the accessory turned into a hobby. One of her projects required her to design her own outfit on paper and make one of the items. She chose a bow.

“I started wearing [the bow] every day with all the different outfits,” Wong said. “Then I realized, I [could] make a lot more colors.”

Despite her newfound interests, her passion for design came unexpectedly when she endured strict measures in high school, which forced her to find new outlets if she wanted to be successful in balancing both her academic and athletic careers. 

Wong’s problem stemmed from struggling to earn enough credits in high school. She usually only attended half of the day due to gymnastics training, mostly taking online classes. Wong took all of the online elective credits at her school, and it still wasn't enough to make up for her time missing physical education. 

Since there were no eligible elective classes left in her district, she branched out to a neighboring district and found her fashion and interior design class. 

As Wong competed in meets, she wore her bow tucked behind her bun. This not only extended her fruitful personality but also built her character as young girls admired her success. 

“Seeing so many young girls wear my bows now, I realize how much of an inspiration I am to them as a role model, " Wong said. “It’s amazing to be in this position because I was once in their shoes looking up to other gymnasts.” 

In 2021, Wong wanted to engage in an entrepreneurial career making bows. 

She didn’t start selling her bows until winter break of her freshman year in December of 2021, she said, after she had won her first two world medals at the World Championships. 

Wong spent the entire winter break getting her store set up and worked to launch her website from there, she said. This was the first time she sold any bows in person. 

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As a profound student athlete and the CEO of her business, Leanne Wong Bowtique, Wong has a huge load to balance. While she is the face of her company, her mom Bee Ding didn’t hesitate to help and provide support. Her father and two younger brothers help to ensure everything operates smoothly while making the bows. 

Wong’s driven work ethic shows to have been determined by her parents who were both scientists. Her father was also a medical doctor following his scientific aspirations. 

“The amount of work we put in is a lot if you think about the whole process, " Ding said. “Somebody has to make the initial, which is individually hand-placed so the two brothers are behind those and my husband when [he] has time.”

Little girls and other gymnasts started asking about her bows and if she could make them. Wong is smart at marketing herself, and she started wearing them to elite meets where large crowds would see them, Ding said. 

Reaching for the stars and working to compete at the next level all dwell down to trusting the process. Wong co-wrote “My Journey: Trust the Process” with her mom that showcases her journey as a gymnast with the hopes of inspiring others. 

“We talk about how I reached the highest level of the sport and some background on how I started gymnastics,” Wong said. “All the ups and downs I went through to reach the highest level, how I chose the University of Florida … how I started my business and the life lessons I learned from the time I started gymnastics to right before college.”

Wong’s journey at UF has led her to a tremendous career as a gymnast. She’s earned a 10 in every apparatus through her three seasons as a Gator. In the 2024 season, she earned a 10 during her floor performance against LSU Feb. 23. Her performance marked the final routine of the meet and clinched the victory over the Tigers.

“To see Leanne truly carve a new path for future gymnasts behind her is really inspiring,” said Florida head coach Jenny Rowland. “I am extremely in awe and truly have a lot of respect for what she does and how she does it.”

It’s not easy being a student-athlete at a No. 1 academic university at a top-tier athletic program, Rowland said. 

As the junior continues her success and paves a path for young girls who look up to her and future gymnasts, she remains on humble ground.

“I’m just super grateful for the coaches and my teammates who have been helpful in helping me balance both elite and college gymnastics and bouncing back and forth between the two,” Wong said. 

Next, the Gators will head to Fort Worth, Texas, April 18-20 for the NCAA Championships.

Contact Alyssa Britton-Harr at Follow her on X @abrittonharr

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Alyssa Britton-Harr

Alyssa Britton-Harr is a second-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spending time with her friends. 

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