Monday, February 7, 2011

Part II: We've Come a Long Way Baby

[Previously on this blog....we left Nicole DeBoom's story just as the first running skirts were coming off the production line...]

Within twelve months Nicole had hung up her pro-shoes and switched gears to full time entrepreneur and amateur athlete.

“I was in the prime of my racing career,” Nicole says. “I could have done five more years. “

But not only was Nicole herself pro, she was married to a top-flight pro athlete, a world champion even, and she knew how much it would take to stay professional, and she knew those sacrifices (or perhaps that brand of selfishness) weren’t going to make her happy for the next years. A former competitive swimmer (she even made the ’88 Olympic trials), she loved swim coaching and getting involved with the kids’ lives. Not possible as a pro. Besides, kids are germ machines. Not just kids, their parents, and then, by extension, everyone who comes in contact with the parents. In other words, having a social life—haha, I don’t think so. As a pro, not only are you exhausting yourself with an intense workout schedule, even if you have the energy to go out, the risk of getting sick needs to be adjusted for at all times, as Nicole pointed out. You can’t even go out in cold season, and when people come over, all you notice is every time they cough or sneeze; and what they touch, so you can make a note not to touch it. Getting sick could be the end of your season. Getting sick could mean $10k down the drain, just for missing next weekend.

Nicole missed socializing. She missed having people around. And when she switched gears from athlete to entrepreneur, the #1 core value of her new company was (and still is) relationships. No surprise then that Skirt Sports’ brand mission is, “inspiring women to include fitness in their life”—because Nicole doesn’t want to just sell cool clothes (I’m wearing one of hers as I type, because I haven’t been able to bring myself to take it off yet after my xc ski this a.m.--I've even attached photographic evidence), she wants to make a difference in women’s lives.

Certainly clothes can make a difference to our attitude and the likelihood we’ll get out there—you know it’s true, when you have that adorable new something to wear, you want to get out there and feel good in it. Shallow?—maybe. On second thought, maybe not, because if it gets you out there, well that’s a pretty important result. But Nicole is not just inspiring women to get out there with fun designs, she’s taken her corporate mission many steps further.

So now the last fast forward…to 2011… After several years of bootstrapping and a couple of investor injections from family and friends, Skirt Sports is doing well enough to focus not just on improving its products, but on giving back to the community. In addition to their Skirt Chaser 5ks in Denver and Tempe, the company’s Kick Start Program gives women with barriers to fitness help in setting and reaching the goal of doing a 5k. Each of the fifteen women selected, in both Denver and Tempe (the communities where the program operates), are paired with a “personal motivator,” a women who is willing to share her energy and enthusiasm for running with the Kick Start participant, and be there all along the way providing company and encouragement.

Launching soon is the next, logical iteration of Kick Start, Nicole’s initiative called Kick it Forward, in which women who are not in one of the Skirt Sports geographical communities can also participate in a Kick Start type program, in which pairs of women, a personal motivator and one of her women-friends-in-need of support, apply together to be part of the program.

The programs are win-win-win-win (fear not—I will really cover all four wins). Women on both sides of the equation are benefiting—getting fit and feeling better about themselves on one side, and learning the important leadership skills of motivating and inspiring others on the other side—and that’s the just the first two “wins.” Participation in the program also comes with the third “win,” of the occasional discount on Skirt Sports products.

And the fourth win?—Skirt Sports is tapping into, increasing and leveraging the richest resource available to the company—“The biggest power we have found is the energy women have. They want to be a part of Skirt Sports.”

Do we have energy?? Indeed!

And, while we're on the topic of energy--don't forget to save a bit of that energy to write your 5-word RLAG memoir and be entered to win a $75 Skirt Sports gift certificate!