So hopefully you’ve heard by now that Kara Goucher is joining Oiselle.
When I think about Kara's running career, one of my strongest memories is her marathon debut in NYC where she was pressing the leaders deep into the race and dropped a 2:25. Right then, I knew US marathoning had a new icon. And yet, as with most celebrities and sports heroes, I knew my place in relation to an icon. I could picture myself standing in line to get Kara’s autograph, but could I see myself going on a long run with her?
Oiselle has always been about building a community of women (and some bro birds) centered on an athletic lifestyle, to inspire and conspire with each other. Yes, we love to watch the best of the best on TV, but the strength of our sisterhood is often more grassroots. Would Kara Goucher the medalist, the Olympian, the US Champion be a fit for us, and us for her?
So in January when I heard Kara was able to look at other sponsors, I didn’t think to put our hat in the ring. Partly because Lauren Fleshman and I were happy with our current elite team. But also because I knew we couldn’t compete financially with the shoe companies.
And then I get an email from her.
She loves Oiselle and what we stand for?!
Right then, I had a small desire to drop the microphone and walk offstage. Kara loves Oiselle?! I was star struck, honored....I still thought this might be a futile effort ("you realize we can’t outbid a $27 billion dollar company?")
When we talked on the phone, the conversation flowed. She was smart, funny, articulate. And little by little that distance between me and the icon began to shrink. I could feel her energy – and began to see the edges of a new picture. One she was creating with Adam and Colt in Boulder, and her former coach, Mark Wetmore.
Fleshman and I ruminated on whether this could work, and ultimately the answer was yes. We wanted to make room for powerful women on the start line of our company. After all, while we hate to admit, we’re familiar with the stereotypes…i.e., that things get messy when you have too many strong B’s at the top. And that women often tear each other down, right when we should be building each other up. One reason we find it hard to deal with the old boys' club is that we aren’t very good at putting together the new girls' club. I’d like to prove that theory wrong. I want to continue building the new girls’ club – where strong yet different personalities can complement rather than compete. So we decided to get to the heart of the matter. Soon Kara and her family were on a plane to Seattle...
Fleshman and Goucher...my sister heroes!
We had a great weekend planned, with many of our athletes, employees, and investors coming together for a reunion and I knew Kara could feel the community we were building at Oiselle. As we talked, I could sense she wanted more purpose in her running. And I found myself wanting Oiselle to be the place where that happened. The day Kara left, we discussed how the logistics of the deal would be really difficult...potentially impossible...but we agreed that we had already fallen in love a little, and so we both wanted to take next steps.
Kara visits Seattle -- and meets the flock
Of course, one of those was: did she like the gear? It wouldn’t be authentic unless Oiselle made her feel strong, confident, comfortable, empowered. So I was elated when Kara told me, “I’m obsessed with your clothes. I absolutely love them!” Deal or no deal, it got me fired up.
At that point, it felt like we were moving in unison. All the conversations had taken place between her and my team, and the rest was about honoring the process. When you read her blog, you’ll see “follow your heart” is her mantra. I now see that phrase in a new light. When it comes down to it, following your heart can be flippin' hard -- and scary. Turns out you have to not only follow your heart's desire, but run straight toward it.
Not surprisingly, Kara had a lot of offers handed to her. We weren’t able to match her highest one, but in the end, that wasn’t what Kara was looking for. And in the end, she is exactly what Oiselle was looking for. What I’m looking for. I’m so proud to call Kara a valued teammate, business partner, and friend.
We are going on a very long run with Kara Goucher.