Ashley Rankin on Launching an Outdoor Brand for Women
Hear from the founder of Colorado-based Shredly on how she became an accidental entrepreneur and how mentorship paved the way for her success.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your company Shredly and why you started to start your business.
A. We started as a women specific mountain bike apparel brand but very quickly realized that. Mountain bike translated into so many other things so we like to call ourselves a women’s adventure apparel brand and we are a small business started out of Colorado. We currently are just a team of two so we are small but mighty. We actually were born on Kickstarter so we’re one of those brands that started from an idea that grew into a business eventually so this is our. This will be our eighth season and I started shortly when I had a full time job. It kind of transitioned into a part time job and now I have been full time for about four years.
Q. You are a Colorado native. Talk about what made you first fall in love with the outdoors and how that has informed creating Shredly and how you make business decisions with regard to the products?
A. So that’s a funny question to answer as an adult because I never had to really reflect on on this until I started this business. But I grew up in a town called basalt. Well really Carbondale, Colorado. And I grew up on top of the mountain so I didn’t I didn’t live in town and I had an older sister and a younger brother and we literally spent all the time outside. So because we were so far from town our summers were spent know we felt like the poor children of the sticks stuck up on top of this mountain. But looking back that was so incredible because we spent our days just playing next door like we had this big piece of property next door and we built bike trails in it and there were there were like five other kids on our street and they would dig holes and we’d put wood across the hole and you’d ride your bike across this like manmade bridge and so we just grew up doing things like that outside. But I was also this I left to paint my nails. I loved makeup. I loved to curl my hair so I literally was like outside playing in the dirt doing all of these things with curled hair and makeup and nails and outfits and so it’s kind of perfect actually what I’m doing now because it’s all those things combined.
So that was just part of my childhood. I didn’t realize that that wasn’t normal. You know I grew up with such a close relationship with the outdoors that that’s where I feel comfortable that’s where I feel at home. But I have this other side to me that I’m not. You know I would I didn’t think that that was weird back then but it’s this interesting juxtaposition of being super overly girly and then really unrefined as well. So I do think that that definitely shaped what I have become and my inspiration for this later in life because I also say I did girls like riding my bike around the neighborhood.
We we played outside as a family we ski. My dad was a ski patrolman. And so we definitely had. Access to all of these outdoor activities but I wouldn’t say that any of them shaped me like I wouldn’t have called myself a mountain biker then I didn’t really call myself a skier I was just you know a girl from Colorado that grew up doing all of those things. And so when it came time to choose the activities as I was growing up that I really loved, biking really wasn’t my thing until after college. I remember riding with my family I got a hand-me-down bike from my mom and I got the hand-me-down shorts from my mom we’re rich like these terrible pair of black really tight shorts that didn’t even have a closure and then there was just an elastic waistband in the back and I couldn’t. And then I’m a really good team person so I couldn’t even get them up over my butt which was saying something so I didn’t have much of a button so I kind of just remember hating the functionality and it wasn’t something that motivated me to learn to do the sport more but then I I had this experience where I started dirt biking actually after college and I would like putting on the gear was this experience so you’d you’d put on these like brightly colored like very technical pants and crazy jerseys and like these boots and just getting dressed made you feel like a bad ass even if you didn’t even know how to ride ride a dirt bike and so that was my experience that I then realized I thought was lacking from mountain biking so when I had graduated from school and had a little bit of disposable income when it came time to buy a new bike my girlfriends and I lamented about how we couldn’t find any shorts that we liked.
And I had gone to school for apparel design and production and so I had this well I should probably preface all of that with I thought I wanted to be a high end couture designer. So going from that little girl that liked playing outside dressed as I was I really always thought I was meant to live in the city. So I ended up going to school for apparel design and production and I also got a degree in business marketing and so after school I went into business marketing. So then fast forward to where I just was and I was buying that first bike. I had the experience with apparel design and production and I knew what I wanted my shorts to look like and so my girlfriends and I kind of together combined what we thought would be like the perfect most comfortable most fun pair of mountain bike shorts. And I just couldn’t get this idea out of my head it literally kept me awake at night for too long. So that’s really where studly was first born was kind of just out of necessity and brainstorming with girlfriends and then one thing led to another. And I kind of just thought like why I want cute shorts and I want my girlfriends to have cute shorts so maybe we’ll do this thing where you know where we all get cute shorts and I didn’t really realize what that would eventually turn into.
Q. So now that you’re a pro at starting a business creating products, what would be some advice that you would give to another person that is looking to start their own business in general but also specifically within the outdoor industry?
A. That’s a good question. I think I could probably do an entire podcast on this! The advice that I would give based on what I wish I knew. But I think probably just from the top level I really think it’s important for people to know that you don’t have to be an expert and you don’t have to be a pro because I certainly was not. I really had no idea what I was doing I had a degree I had two very helpful degrees but I’ve never started a business before. I’d never actually worked in the apparel industry before aside from an internship and my education. And so I really have had to figure things out as I go and it’s probably to my advantage. One hundred percent it’s to my advantage that I didn’t know what I didn’t know because of me than I ever need to try and really I just I knew that I didn’t know what I was doing but I also had this realization that if I didn’t even try then that was failure. And so I might I might fail while trying but I would rather fail while trying than to just not try at all and so I kind of just went with that. And I’m so glad I did because like I said you just don’t have to be an expert in your area and at times it’s even really worked to my advantage because I have thought outside the box and I’ve been forced along the way to really just do things that make sense instead of doing things how they’ve always been done.
And I think how they’ve always been done in the past and I think that that unintentionally sometimes can be innovative right. And so I really see so many of my challenges as as opportunities. And it makes the path a little bit harder. Don’t get me wrong there’s been so many uphill battles and so many challenges but I am grateful for really my whole entire path of not knowing what I was doing and then and then just going for it. So I think that as long as you have a good idea and people ask me all the time like I want to start my own business but I just don’t know what it is. I think that’s great that people have the entrepreneurial spirit and I would never tell them to not run with that. But I think that if you have an idea but you don’t think you’re entrepreneurial that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all.
Q. You talked about your journey of entrepreneurship. Have you found role models or teachers or mentors that have been able to help you along that journey?
A. Yeah, oh my gosh definitely. I was so so fortunate. Well first of all, I think you should talk to anybody who’s willing to listen because you can learn so much from different people and they don’t even have to be anyone else that is successful in your same area or industry because everybody has such different stories. But, at first, I was kind of scared to talk to people about what I was doing unless they were specifically someone who had experience in doing something similar because I didn’t want anyone to take my idea. Now I’m much more open. I’ll talk to anyone who’s willing to listen and I pump them for information. And so I was so grateful in the beginning that I got a really excellent mentor in the industry. She’s I still work we still work together but she’s my production manager my technical designer and pretty much just all things expert when it comes to production. So she’s like an angel. So I’m so grateful to have her. But aside from her just overall people are really interested to hear the story. And I’ve had mentors in so many different ways. I’m like I’ll meet somebody on the plane and you know learn about what they’re doing in their CEO for this company or that company in a completely unrelated industry and I’ll talk to them and learn things from them. So I think that part of I didn’t have just one mentor I’ve had so many. And part of that is just really being open and listening and and learning from other people and in talking to them and my peers too like I get so much motivation from my peers that really I have used that as a source of mentorship because we only have the capacity for so much as individuals and so I really I draw on feedback and inspiration from from my peers and really view that as as a mentor which I feel like is maybe a little bit unconventional but that’s been a huge factor for me.
Q. Thinking about yourself as a mentor, what have you learned if anything regarding your mentorship style as well as your leadership style?
A. I guess that I would maybe kind of go back to what I already said that it’s I’m so humbled I guess to be considered a mentor or a leader. And I think that my takeaway from that is again like I was kind of an unexpected candidate to end up in this position because I didn’t come from the industry I hadn’t worked in the industry I wasn’t an expert racer not a professional mountain biker. None of those things aligned for what I think you would consider to be a natural leader. And so I think hope that’s inspirational for other people that you don’t have to be an expert in your area to be a leader. I think that you just have to be willing to see something that you want and go after that. And I think that you could apply that in so many different ways and so I think that leaders come in varying shapes and forms and you wouldn’t you know you don’t have to be the most vocal or the person at the top necessarily to blaze a new a new path.
Q. Tell us about your latest product launch. And I know that you’ve got something exciting with a partnership with us at Camber Outdoors.
A. So as I mentioned before being a women’s and venture apparel brand we very thoughtfully design all of our products to cross over into all adventures equally so while mountain bike is our backbone we’re so excited to be launching what we’re calling an athletic short this spring. And that’s what we’ve partnered with Camber Outdoors to do a custom print collaboration with Camber Outdoors. And so it’s not a bike specific short by any means it’s a lightweight shorter short. That’s going to be great for running hiking yoga and the gym. This is a product that has been a long time coming and people have been asking us for this. So we’re so excited to finally be launching it. And that will come along with we’re also doing a crop legging which is something that we’ve had a lot of requests for. So what we love about our customers is that they do you know they mountain bike but they also do a ton of other things. And so it’s really fun to be able to add more products for our customers to choose from but then also be launching new products that will broaden our horizons in terms of the product offerings that we offer to the broader public.
Q. I’m super curious to know what this new product looks like and where can we actually purchase it?
A. It’s a shorter short. So it’s like mid thigh and what we love about it is that it has a yoga waistband. We kind of integrate that into a lot of our products. If you notice because you know everything’s about being comfortable so it has like a thick low rise yoga waistband and one of my favorite features is that it has a pocket but it has two pockets and one is your typical pocket that has you can fit money you’re like a key or chapstick in it. But we designed these shorts to have a pocket that will sit your phone which is not easy to find. And then when it comes to the pattern… So this one is really special to us and we knew we needed something that would that would be very synergistic with our relationship with Camber Outdoors so we picked a cascading mountain horizon print that is really fun and it speaks to how important the mountains and outdoor is to us and then one of the pillars Camber Outdoors which is the idea of getting more women involved in the outdoor industry. So we’re super excited about that. It’s actually launching in the next two weeks and you will be able to get it on Shredly.com exclusively.
Q. In the middle of running a business and launching new products how do you balance making time for yourself, making time for the outdoors and all the other things that you juggle personally and professionally?
A. It’s one of the things I’m honestly not great about that I’m trying so hard to find my own balance because they’re literally just not seem like there’s enough time in the day. And you have to be so incredibly motivated to you know run a business and keep it going that it’s a good thing right to have this drive and this ambition is a good thing. But I definitely have seen the potential for that to come crashing down because I think it’s actually really easy to lose yourself and all of that. And eight years has gone by really fast. And in looking at my life there could definitely be a better balance when it comes to time for friends and family and taking care of yourself. And I’ve really learned the value of how important it is to make the time to take care of yourself. It has to be a priority because everything else will very easily always be a priority and never leave time for that. So I’m not going to say I’m an expert at it by any means but last year my my New Year’s resolution was to say yes to know and just understand that it’s OK to not be able to do everything all the time. And it’s even OK. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good. But I’ve had to back down from some of my commitments and that does not ever feel good. But there’s you know you have to come to grips with reality sometimes and just be OK with the fact that you can’t do it all and you have to do your best but you have to have some boundaries and so all of that. Easier said than done but that’s a very long answer for your question. It’s really hard to fit it all in. And so I do find that kind of the constant a constant struggle. So having an awareness of it and doing little things like saying yes to no one being kind to yourself when you have to when you have to back down. I think that that that’s helpful.
Q. If you were to look back on your 20 or 21 year old self (in this notion of balance, career path, mentorship, leadership and doing what you love) what would that one piece of advice be for her?
A. First of all wear sunscreen more than you ever think you need to! Second… this is going to make me kind of sound like not a free spirit, but I really wish I was so caught up in the moment of like what this could be and it’s not like I had so much life ahead of me that I had all this time to just like do this and see where it would go. And so I’m 35 now and that is still very young but there are some realities that we have as women like if I want to get married and have children there is a time limit right. I do remember one else is doing and freeze my eggs so it’s a very interesting position because there are some very life altering decisions that you kind of have to be aware of that they’re important to you. So what I would say to my two year old self which my 22 year old self would be like Are you kidding me I don’t want to hear that at all is don’t forget don’t put so much on the back burner that you don’t know what’s important to you and what you want your life to really look like because I think I’ve always had this vision of what my life would be like when I was 35 when I was 40 and that felt so far away that I didn’t realize how quickly it was approaching and now I’m there. I would want someone who’s 22 to live like a complete free bird and free spirit. But that’s the time to do things I wish that I would like I still feel like I’m not person that says I want to travel the world and I want to do this and there’s so much I want to do before I have kids and now that’s a little bit different of a reality because owning a business is like having multiple children. So it’s interesting to do it in the order that I did it in because I definitely think it would be a challenge and I commend all of the women who are such superheroes that they manage to run a business and have a family at the same time because I feel completely overwhelmed by that possibility right now. So I think just like establishing the things that are really important to you in your life and kind of just always keeping them on your radar to to understand then I don’t know maybe you won’t let eight years fly by and be like what happened where did all that time go.
Q. How do people interact with your brand and stay up to date on all of the great things you guys are doing.
A. So our favorite platform is Instagram and you can also find us at Shredly MTV apparel on Facebook. And those are probably our two most active platforms and we would love to chat with you.