At Oiselle, we’ve discovered that it’s like a dog year situation, where one year equals about seven. So it is with great effort that I reach back through the years, or twelve calendar months, to reflect on 2018. (And by the way, I’m now 121 years old).
At the end of 2017, and rolling into 2018, I felt like I was waking up from a hangover. The prior year had been a mix, but also a reckoning for me as I realized we needed to work harder at the unsexy things that make a business tick, including better margins, more efficient staffing, and smarter spending.
The reality is that a small growing business is in the fight for its life every moment of every dog year. And in 2018, we fought hard. And I’m happy to report we won this round. We are closing on our best year ever. We took care of those operational details, we grew by double digits, and ultimately soared to a triumphant finish.
Like the competitive runner in me, however, I find myself asking what more I can do, and scanning the horizon for that next race. And yet, I’m also learning to pause. To enjoy THIS moment, because yeah - well you know. The world is an uncertain place. One in which I hope we can all endure, and get by with a little help from our friends.
So as we wrapped up at The Nest last week before many went on holiday, we celebrated with an Ethiopian lunch organized by our own Dr. Lesko, a birthday celebration for President Atsuko, and some bonuses all around for a hard-fought and successful year.
And per usual, we reflected on our High Fives and Humble Pies... (a list that is by no means complete):
- Runway Slam - We love poetry slams. We love fashion shows. Why not do both? We started the year by providing space to hear the stories, songs, words of strong women athletes.
- Fabric Forward - our materials waste-reduction program that puts leftover fabric into new garments continued, with several styles launched in 2018, including the Anniversary Flyout Muscle Tank and the OG Roga Shorts.
- Allie Kieffer - Joined the O Team! She stormed onto the scene at the NYC Marathon in 2017 and solidified her position as one of the world’s best marathoners in the 2018 race, as 4th American and 7th Overall, and a new PR.
- New School - a recommitment to our brand and purpose... to build the sisterhood, design great product, and change the sport. The video tells the story.
- Big Birdcamp - Is what you get when you combine team and running and friendship and 260 women in one spot for three days... a supernova of #runlove and connection.
- Steadfast Partners - Our wholesale business grew and strengthened in 2018. Of note, REI now carries O in all stores. For those who want to touch, feel, try on #flystyle IRL, you can find us at REI, Nordstrom, Title Nine, and a fantastic family of run specialty shops around the country. Find a retailer.
- New Teammates! Oiselle Volée, the running team that welcomes all women continued to grow and thrive. So much so, that we have a HUGE announcement and fun things to unveil in January... oh yes, the rumors of a Team Shop are true. And we’ve got a full calendar of events for all the racing, meet ups, and slaying of goals! Pre-register to join here
- New Nesters - our family in Seattle welcomed new members, including Mo on the design team, Rebecca aka “Lilsheba” on the socials, Anita and Kelsea in customer care, and Tiffany in accounting.
- Wearable Statements - Who could forget Lauren Fleshman’s “no thank you” battle cry, or a Dissent Collar we can all wear, in support of RBG and women’s rights?
- Babies! Megan Rolland had....Triplets! And Lyndy Davis welcomed her wee bird, Quentin.
Cheered on our Sage Pros - Both Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman did big things within the sport, from Kara’s 4th Annual Podium Retreat in Boulder, and planning a HS Girls Camp for 2019, to Lauren’s growth of Wilder, a running + writing retreat that spanned both sides of the country this year!
- Marathon Debuts - They did it. Lesko covered the 26.2 at Marine Corps (your first marathon as a masters, why not?!) and Hannah absolutely crushed CIM with a 2:54!
- Great Product - All biases acknowledged, #flystyle flew to new heights in 2018. I’m especially proud of our Fall collection...the puffy, the outerwear, the wool jacquard, the new graphics. And if you liked 2018, oh man, 2019... one word: Moody Floral and ROGA with new pockets. (Oh heeeeyyyy...Victory Lap Sale, happening now)
- Tenacious Ten, 10K/10 Miler - It was our second year hosting Seattle, and our friends from around the country at our signature road race. A big shout out to Grant and Sarah at Snohomish Running Company for helping make the magic! (Don't miss 2019 Ten10...on 4/20!)
- Oiselle Store Crushed - Our flagship store had a killer year, thanks to the leadership of Val and Brenda and Rachel. They surpassed their revenue goal in September or something crazy, and most importantly, continued to be a good vibes machine for anyone who walks in the door - whether that’s helping them find the right fit, or fitting right into our weekly group run (every Thur, 6:30 pm, I wanna see you there!)
- #ItsARunnerThing Designs - The Watch Window, the Firecracker Reflective Collection, the #Outerwomen Outerwear, All the Pockets, the Yeti, and all the fun weird things that runners truly appreciate.
- Podium Project - We sponsored six incredible relay teams, trails and road, that went forth and truly did - own the podium.
- Size 14 in key styles - In 2018, we debuted 9 of our key styles in size 14, and in Spring 19, we’re doubling that to 18 styles. We’re far from finished, but we’re on a path, and we are especially interested in hearing feedback from customers who wear the larger sizes. Please drop us a note: https://www.oiselle.com/design-feedback
- Little Wing 2.0 and Mel podium at USA's - Mel Lawrence has been quietly moving up the ranks of the steeple and ran straight onto the podium at this year’s Track Nationals! And with the addition of Rebecca Mehra, Carrie Mack, and Maddie Strandemo, and Lauren Fleshman as coach and watch holder, this crew is revving up for big things!
- Two Throwers! This year, we welcomed Bethany Drake and Val Allman to the team. Head up, javelin and discus out!
- Bras for Girls - Our charity program that puts sports bras in the hands of girls who need it most, continued to roll along. With the help of the Volée, we donated over 2,000 bras in 2018 and will seek to double that in 2019.
- Said goodbye to a few athletes - We found ourselves face to face with the complexity of sponsoring athletes, competing with other brands, and how to navigate those changes with integrity.
- Technology - Growth is good, but it can also be a pain in the ass, especially when you outgrow your accounting software but can’t afford much downtime. We did it.
- Warehouse Trouble - Our warehouse, where we store all the beautiful #flystyle, and is a separate entity from Oiselle (a “3PL” as they say) filed for Chapter 11 this year. Yeah, that was a big deal. But thanks to the O Team, we transitioned to a new spot and all’s running smoothly now.
- Crowded House - it’s not just an 80’s band, but also the vibe at The Nest, as we grow, it’s become challenging to have a private meeting, take a call, or spread out in any way. We make it work - but we may very well have a move coming in 2019. Stay tuned!
My greatest thanks and gratitude go not only to our staff of 22 smart as hell women and 2 smart guys, but to the best community an athletic brand could ask for: our teammates, our believers, our #runfamily around the world. As we like to say, “happiness is a direction, not a place” and we’re grateful to be flying with you, in the direction of a big, beautiful future in which all girls and women can use sports to experience joy, connection, and confidence.