Backyard bliss Backyard bliss Backyard bliss

Kris Myllenbeck couldn't find a stylish wading pool on the market, so she took the plunge and made her own.

By David Volk | Photos courtesy of Kris Myllenbeck | May 13, 2024

When buying inflatable water toys for the junior set, the only style concern most buyers had is whether to go with sea creatures or polka dots. That all changed in 2015 when Kris Myllenbeck, ’06, a stylist for Nordstrom, went looking for a pool for her family with designs that would stand the test of time. She wasn’t happy with what she saw.

“I was trying to find something that was beautiful that didn’t look cartoony,” she says. She wanted a pool for her daughter, but she and her boyfriend wanted an accessory for their rooftop space that would be timeless. “I couldn’t find any.”

She rushed to fill the market niche, figuring it would be easy to call an inflatable pool maker and have it manufacture pools with her prints on them. Just one catch, though. “It’s not a thing.” So, she had to figure out how to find a factory in China that met her standards and learn how to navigate the world of importing and exporting.

Fortunately, the former UW business student who once convinced a local television station to hire her as an intern after the company cancelled its internship program wasn’t easily discouraged. In fact, her biggest concern through much of the process was that someone might beat her to market.

She did more than just add a splash of style, though. Myllenbeck and her boyfriend also created what seems to be a new industry standard with him replacing the three-ring pool with a two-ring version and her adding a stylish bag to fold it in a la Mac cosmetics.

Myllenbeck relied heavily on her chops as a stylist to create a press kit that attracted the interest of the likes of Architectural Digest and Dwell. She also reached out to influencers on Instagram.

Founder and creator of Mylle, Kris Myllenbeck, ’06, previously styled campaigns for Nordstrom, Nike and Microsoft.

Seven years and one pandemic later, her company, Mylle, offers a line of two-ring inflatables that come in 10 designs, retail for $100 to $125 and can be found at Nordstrom, West Elm and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The upgrade seems to have inspired renewed interest in a variety of permutations of plastic pools including waterslides, but she has no interest in that. She kept the word “pool” out of her company’s name because Mylle leaves her options open in much the same way that the Honest company’s name does for its product line. Most consumers would never buy lipstick from the company that makes Pampers, but they are happy to buy diapers, body wash and beauty products from Honest because it has a solid reputation.

“That’s kind of the idea with Mylle. This is our first product to get out there and launch the idea. The rest is bring out more products that are the same ethos of functional things made beautiful,” Myllenbeck said, adding, “Stay tuned for more functional things made beautiful. You’re going to want them so badly and I’m excited to sell them.”