MAKING A SPLASH
Written by Claire Williams
For Emily Vaca, a St. Louis native and entrepreneur, kiddie pools are more than just child’s play
Emily Vaca says that the idea for Minnidip, her inflatable pool company, can be traced back to her childhood in St. Louis, where she’d look to escape the heat and humidity by splashing around in a large galvanized tub in her backyard. Those memories sparked an a-ha moment years later while staring at her rooftop deck on a steamy summer day as an adult living in Chicago. At that time, mini inflatable pools were kiddie-sized and sported graphics appealing to the younger set. Looking for something more suited to sipping bubbly than blowing bubbles, Vaca realized she couldn’t be the only city dweller with the same thought.
Drawing on years of experiences as an accomplished professional in design and branding, including working with clients such as Anheuser Busch, Kraft Foods, and Nike, Vaca self-funded the five-year effort it took to bring her first adult-oriented inflatable pool to market. Already a budding entrepreneur before taking the plunge into mini pools, Vaca rolled Minnidip’s pattern design, manufacturing, packaging, branding, content creation, and styling into La Vaca, a company she founded several years earlier as a side hustle focused on
wedding invitations, event design, and home décor DIYs.
During Minnidip’s first year, more than 500 pools sold online and in a Chicago boutique. After catching the eye of Target, who signed on as a retailer in 2018, by 2019, Minnidip experienced a 3000-percent growth spurt, selling 100,000 pools and grossing $2.8 million in sales. When Vaca appeared on QVC in 2019, Minnidip’s most popular design, “That’s Banana(s) Leaves,” sold out in nine minutes. The brand made it to New York Fashion Week that same year via a collaboration with playful fashion brand Alice + Olivia. Continually innovating, Vaca continues to add to her line, including pools with a first-of-its-kind tufted shape and creating vibrant new on-trend prints appealing to adult sensibilities.
While Vaca’s big idea started as the antithesis of the traditional kiddie pool, she has expanded her lineup of products to include whimsically-shaped splash pad sprinklers, DIPP!T ball pits, PUP DIP dog pools, floats, Minni-Coolers, and even chic Minni-Minni
pools to for posh pint-sized pool-goers. The pools’ popularity persists, evidenced by the fact that orders placed on Minnidip.com are limited to one Minnidip per person.