2011: “It’s one louder, isn’t it?”
2011 was another year at full volume. I’d say we were getting the hang of it (the start-up life), except that each year has been completely different. But what I always tell myself is that it beats working in a cubicle or counting the minutes ‘til quitting time (both of which I’ve done). In that respect, and others as well (like revenue and growth), 2011 was a rocking success. Although not entirely sad to be leaving it behind, 2011 had more highs than lows. So without further adieu, Oiselle’s Top 13 of 2011:
Our Elite and Ambassador Teams took off. 2011 saw a crazy amount of growth in our elite and ambassador teams, where we went from a handful of athletes, to more than fifty amazing women pursuing incredible goals, from the 800m to 100k ultras, all around the country. When I need a lift, I read their inspiring quotes (“You can’t fake your dreams.” True that Marci Klimek). And if you haven’t read Oiselle athlete Erin Ward’s blog posts about running the 2011 NYC Marathon, and rooming with the winner, do so immediately. I firmly believe this woman is the next David Sedaris. (Lastly, a special thanks to new staff member Kristin Metcalf, @kemetcalf, for being the organizational force behind our teams.)
There are too many team accomplishments to list; just a few: Jen “Blue Ribbon” Bigham, @jenbigham, of New York (left) who won 12 of her 17 road races (including a 5K PR of 16:40 and a Half PR of 1:18:05); and Marci Klimek (right) of Oregon won the Portland Marathon in 2:46. Two Oiselle athletes, Becki Michael, @beckimichael9, and Susan Empey will compete in this month’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.
We added depth to our investor bench. In early 2011, I was on a mission to find the right financing path for Oiselle, from self-funding (which was pretty much tapped out from the early days) to a full blown, multi-million dollar Venture Capital infusion. I feel incredibly lucky to have found the Angel Investor route, and the backers we have today. Our small group of athletically-minded friends who “get it” – and share our vision for thoughtfully aggressive growth (vs. getting big at the expense of everything else, including people, product and culture).
Among Oiselle’s investors are a sub-4 minute miler, NCAA Stand Out, and multi-time Boston finisher…not to mention killer Halloween costumers. (Top: Team Lesko, @boblesko and @drlesko, Bottom Right: Team Lesko in disguise. Bottom Left: Mason Reay, @runhydrated, suits up for the office run.)
Reconnecting with running’s inside story. 2011 was about getting back in touch with my inner super fan. Not just of the elite athletes who inspire us, but also of running culture itself…its players (hello @laurenfleshman), places (2011 USATF Nationals at Hayward Field, incredible!) and ambitions for change (the TFAA is redefining how elite track and field athletes make a living). I feel so fortunate to be a bit player in what I think is one of the most amazing sports in the world.
Star sighting! Yes, I interrupted Shalane Flanagan’s (@shalaneflanagan) lunch at a Portland restaurant so I could beg her for a fan photo. Can’t wait to watch her vie for the Olympic Team at the marathon trials later this month!
Oiselle.com growth and Social “Mania.” Oiselle.com, Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs, and my fave, Twitter, rose to the top as powerful ways to connect with YOU and create interesting, funny, enlightening friendships with runners all over the world. The ride has become about more than just the quest for better apparel…it’s now a multi-layered story that involves so many people who I consider part of our journey.
Rundies. The frenzy that surrounded our launch of day-of-the-week underwear for runners was a simple reminder that crazy ideas work. And that we want to continue to have fun, not take ourselves too seriously, and always cross pollinate the new with the old, the expected with the unexpected, and the real world with the runner world. We already have several surprises planned for 2012. So stay tuned for more apparel-inspired frivolity!
Finally…an out-of-house warehouse. Okay, this might only inspire us inside people, but it’s big. It means beginning this month, we will warehouse and distribute all of our apparel from a centralized facility that specializes in picking and packing. Believe me, this is a good thing for our customers too, who will find faster turnaround times and fewer errors.
Power of 9. I’ve long admired the company Title Nine (@titlenine). So it was a huge honor to get to work closely with Founder Missy Park on the creation of a special collection of graphic tees that celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Title IX Enactment. The law brought radical new levels of equality to women’s sports across the country, and kick started collegiate sports for women as we know them today. (The first styles of the collection debut in February…keep an eye on titlenine.com and oiselle.com to snag one of these limited edition designs.)
Second year of 100% growth. Bam. Crazy things happen when you keep doing what you love – and move fast. Without a doubt, this growth is directly attributable to our expanding team. 2011 was the year of building an amazing staff. Every day, I love coming to the office and working side by side with smart, interesting, fun, talented people who Oiselle is blessed to call its own.
Oiselle is now sold in 265 doors across US. We are incredibly grateful to be working with some of the best running stores in the country – as we remain committed to this channel…where runners get the best service and products to fuel their love of the sport. Many of our running store partners have been with us since the beginning, sharing our vision for new levels of style and quality.
Partnering with other start-ups. Nuun (@ministryofnuun), Picky Bars (@pickybars), Handful Bras (@handfulbra), Running Evolution (@runningevolution), Banana Blossom (@bananablossom), Kind Bars (@kindbars)…we love working with fellow start-ups and small companies as we all have similar missions to create something new and different – and have succeeded based on an authentic love of what we’re doing.
Food and drink for runners (and the occasional dog).
Solidifying the “Oiselle Core.” Being five years old also, thankfully, means that we know the styles you love best. As we move forward, my goal is to constantly innovate while also maintaining popular favorites, including the Roga Short, Lesley Knicker, all of our running tees, Hoodies, lightweight Jackets, arm warmers, and Rundies of course!
Pack leaders: Roga Shorts, Start Line Tee and Lesley Knickers
Updating my personal running journey. I’ve been a runner almost forever. For 20+ years it came easy: run almost every day, train with impunity, race well. 2011 was the year my body said “enough!” and forced me to rethink how I approach my sport. Although I went into it kicking and screaming, I am grateful for that message, as I’m now discovering the power of cross training and strengthening my body in ways I never did before (because I didn’t have to). This coming year, I plan to only run 4 days per week (as opposed to my usual 6) plus two days of cross training, to keep me fit and competing as long as I can lace my shoes.
Lucky 13…Running friends are forever. No explanation necessary, really. I would never have the courage to do what we do if it weren’t for the love, humor, companionship, silliness, passion, and kindness of my running friends. Love you guys. Let’s do this. Let’s turn up the volume to 12!
My Sarahs…Lesko and MacKay, as we game up for the Fremont 5K.
Beautiful runner women, getting ready to roll out on the Sunday Long Run.