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Sky Highs and Humble Pies of 2015

Dec 23, 2015

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I have found that life doesn’t usually resemble the high-polish holiday letters that are piling up in my home. And so as a 2015 wrap up, I’m returning to my 2012 form, recapping our year of Sky Highs and Humble Pies … or, “the year that was, warts and all.”

By and large, 2015 was a solid year. Thanks to you all, our bird continued to gain altitude – even while sustaining some turbulence. Here’s looking back to the start of this year:

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HIGH
In January, I was thrilled to be able to persuade my friend and mentor Atsuko Tamura, to join Oiselle as our President. As she told me early on in our work together, “As a founder and CEO, you will have people above you, and people you need to manage and lead – but you won’t have many who sit next to you, that you can talk openly with.” After being that sounding board for a year, I am so grateful to have Atsuko jump in feet first in the co-pilot seat at Oiselle.

HIGH
We have an incredible group of retail partners! And we will continue to deepen our relationship with them in 2016 and beyond, including Title Nine, REI (new for 2016!), MEC (in Canada), Fleet Feet stores, Running Warehouse, and many, many independent run specialty stores (like “my” local running store Super Jock ‘n’ Jill) and women’s specific athletic boutiques.

HUMBLE
Market shakeout. I fell in love with the sport via locally-owned run specialty shops. But the market is moving fast, and the way people buy product is changing at warp speed. Many small shops have been purchased by RSG, a holding company that is rebranding them to Jack Rabbit  – a group that offers payment and financial terms that, for small brands like Oiselle, make it economically unfeasible. Then there’s Amazon, doing what they do, with the ability to out-price and out-logistics anyone and everyone. And the whole industry was saddened at the loss and bankruptcy of CitySports in the Northeast, a market that seems to be struggling more than others in the US. All of this has led us to make some good but hard choices for our brand: we’ve opted out of big box retail and will continue to pull back from places where we know that quality, customer service, and fair business practices are not as aligned with our own. While it sounds simple, saying “no” to money (even what we deem “unwise money”) is difficult for a small, growing business to do. We are humbled but invigorated by this challenge, and are even more committed to investing time and resources to our ongoing retail partners.

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HIGH AND HUMBLE
Our first physical store. Nothing will give us more clarity on our customer experience than having a store of our own. We’re happy to say this flagship “jewel box” is hitting its stride, but retail is a hard business – and we’ve learned a lot. There were plenty of ups, downs, and high wire moments getting this baby open. Bottom line: nothing can replace 3-D retailing. Store has given me the opportunity to get back to my roots – of talking 1:1 with women when I used to go to marathon expos. It’s our living laboratory, where we can take real-time input from women customers (the good, bad and ugly) and put those changes into our garments within a matter of days. (Oiselle Store on Facebook)

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HIGH
Stephanie and Baby Lucy. The Nest is growing! We were so happy to welcome Stephanie Peters, our new Product Line Manager, to Oiselle early in the year. She already had “baby on board” so to speak, so welcoming little Lucy into the world was pure celebration.

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HIGH
Team! Team! Team! Oiselle = Team, and we were honored to have +1,000 more women join our Volée this past summer. With team leaders Kristin Metcalf and Heather Stephens guiding us all, it’s been inspirational to connect with a wide swath of women from all over the country. My favorite part of what we do is the organic nature of this community. “Your vibe attracts your tribe” is what a friend told me – and all I can say is “yes” and “I love this tribe!” Where will Volée fly next? Details on how to join in 2016 will be coming in January. Be sure to subscribe to our email list to hear first! 

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HIGH
There were some phenomenal moments in the Spring track season… among others, Lauren Wallace winning the 1000m Indoor Championship, and Kerri Gallagher getting 3rd in the 1500m Final at Outdoor Nationals and moving on to fly fast at the Worlds’ Team.

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HIGH
Kara’s flight. As we all know, the life of the pro runner is never assured. Injuries, competition, the fine line of high mileage and rest/recovery. We’ve watched Kara face them all – with courage and determination. This Fall, the results started coming together and it’s been a heart-out-of-chest joy to see her flying. Her wins over the past few months of the Big Sur Half and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half have been stunning. Not surprising, but just stunning and beautiful to watch. Oiselle, along with the thousands of other Kara fans, are completely “head up, wings out” for her Olympic Marathon Trials moment in February!

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HUMBLE
On the flip side, Kara’s early part of 2015 was incredibly tough, as she came forward and spoke out about what she knew and what she saw – as part of the Nike Oregon Project under Alberto Salazar. You can watch the BBC piece here. Along with Kara and many others, #cleansport is high on our list of things we want to see changed in Track & Field. And not being quiet about it is the only way things will change. Get informed, get involved… check out Lauren Fleshman’s blog post on why people do and don’t speak out about doping, including a link of resources at the bottom. 

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HUMBLE
Dealing with injury is part of what we do. From Mel Lawrence, Christine Babcock and Kate Grace, to Fleshman, Kara and Heather Lieberg – finding a way to deal with unforeseen events and health challenges was part of the journey. With injuries, we want 2015 to be the been-there-through-with-that and tee up 2016 as a year of major health. 

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HIGH
Bird Camp. We hosted a camp for many of our original Volée team members in Leavenworth, Washington. Running, eating, goal setting, yoga, hiking, tubing… it was an incredible 4 days led by our one and only Sarah Lesko who currently wears many hats at Oiselle, but “shenanigans” is the one that sticks because she puts the love in everything we do, and Bird Camp is the ultimate example.

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HUMBLE
Our superhero Lauren Fleshman came to grips with an Achilles injury that had, literally, been biting her heel for 2.5 years. Surgery at the end of the summer meant going under the knife for a pretty freaking gruesome procedure, but offering a ray of hope for 2016. The upside of her downtime has been the leadership role she’s taken in the sport as it pertains to athletes’ rights and the changes that are possible within the USATF. Read her great recap of the Annual Meeting here

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HIGH
In August we announced that Oiselle will be the official apparel sponsor for the Yale Women’s Cross Country and T&F teams. We’re incredibly honored by this opportunity – and by the women who sport Oiselle through training, and on the start line! 

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HIGH
Our very own “JJ” got married in September! Now Josh and Jacquelyn Scofield, we were honored to celebrate her big day in beautiful Roche Harbor. And Ben and Steph Bruce welcomed their 2nd addition to the family…hello Hudson!

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HIGH
Growing and Moving The Nest! Our staff grew this year, with lots of fantastic additions coming on… in addition to Atsuko and Stephanie, we had Valerie Woods, Maryann Harding, Christine Babcock, Beth McAlpine, Jenn Harowicz, Brenda Alvarez, and our store staff!

In fact, we’ve grown so much, we’re moving! In about March of 2016, The Nest will move its home to Magnuson Park in Seattle. Yep, “Parks & Rec” will be our landlords and we’ll be inside the park where runners frequent for workouts, races, and views of Lake Washington. Stay tuned for more info!

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HIGH
Out with a BANG… the California International Marathon “CIM” was an incredible event this year – with dozens of fasties looking to make the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying standard of sub-2:43 for the 26.2 distance. That’s ~6:12 pace yo! Having attempted the feat in 2013 at Chicago, but fallen short, our very own Mac was at it again, throwing her heart into training, and making it work with her full-time job and mom duty to PJ Robinson. When she crossed the line in 2:42:36 The Nest went nuts. We are so incredibly proud of her achievement, along with the three other Oiselle gals that qualified that day, Lyndy Davis, Shal Fullove, and Cynthia Fowler. I can’t wait to cheer these women on in LA. It’s going to be EPIC!

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HUMBLE – but So Grateful
Humble most accurately describes how I feel most days. Not like “darn we haven’t done much,” because believe me, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built. It’s more along the lines of holy Moses, growing a business is really hard work. And it stays hard for a long time. Back when we were tiny, it was the fight for survival. Life was tenuous. But just when things became less tenuous, they also became more significant and higher risk…bigger orders with factories, more people to lead and manage, deeper pitfalls, but also new opportunities and new friendships. Fortunately, I love it all. I love the good times, of course, but it’s the challenge that gets me fired up. It’s the search for meaning that lights me up!

I can’t thank you enough for being with us on this proverbial run. When I look back and think about day one, and just being a crazy woman with an obsession for better shorts, I realize how far we’ve come, together. I want to keep honoring that, in 2016 and beyond. Thank you friends. Let’s do this. Head up, wings out!

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