Starting a company with your Olympian Sister.

Wes Felix is CEO and co-founder of Saysh, a lifestyle brand that creates products by and for women. He’s also the founder and managing partner of boutique sports management agency Evolve. He created and launched Saysh with his sister, Allyson Felix, the most decorated Olympic track and field athlete in the world—and who’s faced many challenges of her own throughout her career.

But what starting a sports management agency taught me is that at the end of the day, it's just people.

Wes FelixCo-founder and CEO, Saysh

Transcription

Katie Hankinson (00:01):

Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson and I’m Mickey Cloud. Welcome to Building While Flying The Sasha Group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.

Mickey Cloud (00:20):

Awesome. Wes, thanks so much for, uh, joining us on building while flying

Wes Felix (00:25):

Thanks so much for having me.

Mickey Cloud (00:25):

Much for having me. Yeah, well, Wes Felix is co-founder and CEO of Saysh, the lifestyle brand that creates community and products for and by women as well as, as well as the being the founder and managing partner at evolve, a boutique sports management agency, which has an emphasis on Olympics sports. Um, so Wes, you co-founded saysh with your sister, Allyson, Felix, who’s, you know, the most decorated track and field athlete in, in, in us history. And, and y’all launched this company earlier the summer kinda ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. So I guess this is my first question is could you give us a little background to what Saysh offers and, and then how the launch has gone?

Wes Felix (01:00):

Yeah, definitely. So, yeah, as you were kinda mentioning, you know, is a, it’s a women’s lifestyle brand that is rooted and built on the foundation of community. And for us, that just means that we really wanna find a way to make sure that we’re separating our customers from our community. And we look at our community as people that we’re able to give to, and our customers, people that we, you know, immensely value, but also we have a transactional relationship with, and I think just like in real life, transactional relationships, it doesn’t mean that they’re unhealthy or bad, but they’re probably not your favorite, you know, you don’t necessarily marry your wife because of the transaction, hopefully. Um, but you know, it’s, it’s, it’s somewhat a relationship that we feel like we can really give to. So community is, is incredibly important to us. Uh, but our first physical product that we offer is a women’s lifestyle sneaker. Um, and so, you know, we don’t look at it as a running shoe. We look at it as a shoe that really aims to meet women, right, where they’re at solve the problems that they actually have, not kinda news seed problems that I think a lot of times footwear brands, um, create that are maybe based more on, on males needs instead of, um, female needs. So that’s what we do. We make shoes and community. Awesome.

Mickey Cloud (02:21):

Awesome. Well, even hearing you talk about kind of the difference in a transactional relationship and, you know, community relationship. I, I, I’m hearing the language of kind of the athlete representation as well. Uh, and I know you kind of come from that as, as first part of career. So I guess what learnings from kind of representing Olympic athletes and their on field and off field kind of opportunities, how, how is that transferred, I guess, into your role as kind of product a CEO of a product and lifestyle brand and, and what maybe have you kind of learned by trial, by fire, in getting safe up and running?

Wes Felix (02:53):

Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, not having the background as, you know, a trained CEO, not an MBA, um, didn’t go, you know, the traditional routes of, of, uh, consulting and, you know, like the whole thing, but, but what starting a sports management agency taught me is that at the end of the day, it’s, it’s just people and people have those needs, um, whatever they are and whether you’re, you know, know the most decorated athlete in history in a particular event or someone who’s standing in the stands and they never been to an event or a woman who’s buying sneakers for the first time, cause she always wears sandals. Um, it all still comes back to the same thing you wanna feel seen and known and understood. And so I think like that sports background taught me that part of it, um, that, you know, somebody that the whole world may really, really admire. They still have really sad days and they have, uh, tough times just like everybody else does. And, um, we all kind of have the same problems at, at our core. And so how do you really connect on those on those real things?

Mickey Cloud (04:02):

Yep. And I think the having community be so central to the brand, um, you know, I’d be, I’m curious, I guess, learn more about you, you know, you guys have launched as a purpose driven brand and that’s on your website and you talk about kind of harnessing maybe the change that Allyson has created and, and, and access to maternity leave for athletes and, and just access to healthcare for, for black mothers and, and kind of broadening that the impact she’s already made. And now you’re kind of addressing kind of just inequality with female creativity and athleticism in, in general, I, on a macro level, that makes a ton of sense to me just knowing Allyson’s kind of, she generated a ton of publicity when she walked away from Nike cuz of Nike’s limited maternity leave policies. And, and, but in the micro for you kind of in the running of the company day today, how does having kind of that purpose guide you as a, as a CEO?

Wes Felix (04:51):

Yeah, I think it, you know, it’s a also question because, you know, managing with her every step of the way and as her brother got to go through it intimately, you know, and be able to not just say like, Hey, had a tough conversation with Nike today. Here’s the news. Yeah. Talk to you tomorrow. Um, but to really sit there in it with her as like, as she’s scared as the tears are, are there. And, and then also, you know, by being business partners at Sage, but also on our, um, on the sports side, when Allyson doesn’t get paid, I don’t get paid. So there was also the real, like fear there as we’re going through this. And, and I think what it showed me was an experience that I don’t know that I ever, I don’t think I would ever have an experience with Nike’s maternity Paul just individually on my own, but by getting to go through that with her, um, I got to feel it and I will never get to feel it to the same degree that, you know, a woman will be able to, or hopefully won’t have to feel it.

Wes Felix (05:55):

I’ll never understand it to that degree, but I did get to understand it in a way that I never could have possibly imagined. And so day to day, um, I actually, I, I feel like I have a decent understanding of, of what a lot of women are afraid of and where as men, we have these massive blind spots to like what’s actually going on out there, um, and what people are doing. And I talk with my team about it every day. Cause what we try to do is not just build a team that’s only women. Um, we try to have a diverse team and you know, and we always say, it’s not that we are only gonna hire women, but like what we need to make sure that we do is that we are interviewing all of the candidates. So that means, you know, male, female, different races, sexual preferences, like we wanna make sure we’re talking to everyone.

Wes Felix (06:45):

And then we work with the best person, you know, for the job. Um, and at times like that’s ended up where we have men on our team, which great, but there’s also still the conversation that we have a lot that are like, Hey guys, like, this is what you need to be aware of. Um, these are things that, that are a bit different. So in the day to day, you know, we just say like our mission starts right inside of, um, right inside of our team, right inside of our building. And we’ve gotta like preach it and live it there. Then we take it to everyone else, but it’s gotta start with us.

Mickey Cloud (07:21):

Yep. Well you all, you, you brought up kind of my, you already talked about, I guess a little bit of that relationship, that big brother, little sister relationship you’ve got with with Allyson, but, and, and how you went through that, you know, very public, but also very, you know, private, um, you know, like, I guess break up with Nike and, and, and, and everything and the contract negotiation, all that entailed, but I guess how how’s maybe your relationship with Allyson evolved over time, um, from when you guys were growing up to now, you know, to business partners for most, most, most, most of your adult life. And then I guess, how do you keep family and business separate or do you even try to, like, I’m curious kind of how that relationship has,

Wes Felix (08:00):

Has evolved? Yeah, no, it’s like, it’s a really interesting relationship that I think we don’t realize how special, um, it really is. And a lot of times, you know, I think of just the siblings that have worked together, created together, you know, over the years. And I think of, you know, in film, it seems like you have a lot of like sibling directors and, you know, I always kind of thought those things that was like, that’s interesting. Like it’s just kinda weird. I don’t know. It seemed like it was always brothers. Like, it was just seemed a little bit weird. Yep. Um, but what I realized with Allyson and I is that we, we, we just speak the same language. We get it, we know each other very, very well, uh, that are probably gonna know anyone else. And, and so, you know, it, it just allows us to kind of finish each other’s sentences.

Wes Felix (08:49):

There’s like a tremendous amount of, of trust there. And, um, and with the situation with Nike specifically, that’s why I believe we were able to make that change because there was trust, you know, and Allyson really trusted when I said like, I think we just need to sit tight. I think we need to wait. I think we need to hold it off on sharing this information, you know? Um, and with the other clients I represent, I think they trust me, but not like that. <laugh>, you know, it’s a very, very different level of trust, especially when you haven’t gotten a paycheck for two years. I don’t know that any of my other clients would, would stand by it. And you know, and now we look back and, and the greatest thing is the change that was created for those future female athletes who are now able to have that opportunity protect.

Wes Felix (09:36):

Um, and then when we started S you know, it was again, Allyson kind of trusted this crazy idea of like, what if we built it on our own. Um, and we, you know, had no idea how to build a shoot company. I think immediately everyone was like, oh, great. You’re trying to take on Nike. And it’s like, no, not at all. Yeah. So big, you know, like it’s, it’s, we’re, we’re not talking in the same realms at all, but it’s, um, it is something that I think we are able to create the change that we want to see in the world. And that I think a lot of women, um, not only need but really want, and that biggest thing is, you know, it’s not, Hey, how can we make a shoe that’s more comfortable? Or, uh, how do we make a shoe? That’s, you know, like it’s only made for women.

Wes Felix (10:24):

It’s not those kind of like high level things. I think any shoe company can do that. I think the difference is we’re just trying to do it. We’re actually trying to say like, Hey, that shoe that you’re wearing, it’s based on a man’s foot and it’s not gonna cause you, you know, you’re still gonna be able to walk in it. You’re still gonna be able to run in it. It’s you’re gonna be okay. We’re not saying it’s a bad shoe. We are saying, though, it wasn’t made specifically for you. Um, it wasn’t made with you in mine. Um, and we are making something that is all about. Yep. And that’s it. And we get a lot of men that are like, well, when are you making men’s shoes? <laugh> and you know, our response is, we’re not, you know, that’s not the plan, but you can wear these shoes.

Wes Felix (11:08):

I wear them, you know, I just, I just have to size up. And instead of wearing my usual, men’s 10, I need to be in a women’s 11. And, um, you know, Allyson’s been doing that her whole life, so right. That’s, that’s not a new experience for her. It’s not a new experience for women. It’s a new experience for guys and it’s really confusing for us. And the questions are like, unbelievable. And I’m like, you just sized up. They’re like, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, but these are women shoes. I’m like, <affirmative>. Yeah. So, and they’re like, but what do I, but how so, what am I supposed to do? And I’m like, you, you just get size and how big, and they’re gonna feel like shoes and they’re gonna feel different in certain ways. And I love that too. When I put the shoe on it is it is more snug on me throughout like my midfoot. And, um, there are differences to it that I, that I actually really feel. Um, and that’s something that, that I’m really proud of that, that it does feel different. And I hope that that difference that I feel means that when a woman puts it on it, like hugs her in a way that she’s never really experienced

Mickey Cloud (12:14):

Before. That’s awesome. That’s such an awesome decision for that product experience. Um, and so I, I guess maybe I I’d ask, I’d like to ask about kind of the product launch next, where, you know, you’ve, you’ve launched a lifestyle sneaker, but Allyson also ran, she was the first Olympic runner I think, to run in her race spikes. Right. And so I guess talk about that decision. And, and was there any try of connection you were trying to make to the brand with the fact that she was running in her own race, you know, in her own spikes, but then you guys were also launched the, the O oh one, the, the lifestyle sneaker.

Wes Felix (12:46):

Yeah. Yeah. It, there was definitely a connection there. And I think like, just looking at the timing of all of this and as we were building it and what we were, you know, taking on, I think the initial people that we spoke with were just kind of like, Hey, are you sure? Like, <laugh>, you might be able to, but, uh, are you sure? And that was just around creating a lifestyle sneaker and trying to have it out and available for people to purchase, you know, by the time we had it out and available. Um, but along the way, we just looked at it and we were like, you know, how do we, we have to make a race, bike that for her to compete in, like there just isn’t there isn’t another way around it. We can’t say that like we’re meeting the needs of women and we’re trying to really like, do this for real. And she shows up in an Adidas racing by doing the Olympics. It just, doesn’t just doesn’t work. And for, you know, a startup that had not sold any product that, you know, didn’t know if we were even gonna make it to the start line to then go and take on that, um, traditional investment a

Mickey Cloud (13:52):

Lot on top of the initial product

Wes Felix (13:56):

Launch. Yeah. I get it. Totally. And then a super tiny team. Right. So like, it’s not like we could just say, okay, great product team. Like, let’s go get three more people. And we’ll, you know, like, so our same designer, same developer, um, worked on both products. But, um, our developer said like, we have to have experts who are of to actually, you know, we, we created the spike plate from the ground up. Um, so it’s completely unique to us. And, you know, we, we built it just like how all of the big companies would go and build theirs. Um, and so we had to go and get those experts to do that. And you guys who joined the team with us, Mike Friton and, and Larry Eisenach were like, absolutely incredible. Mike is he’s an old school footwear maker, like a true shoe dog. Um, he built shoes with bill Bowerman back in the shed at university of Oregon. Yeah. Worked at Nike for 31 years. You know, it’s just, uh, an incredible designer. So to be able to go on that journey with him and watch him make patterns. And, you know, when we, when we first went and really said, we’re gonna do it, we went to Mike and Mike, uh, helped to design the gold spike that Michael Johnson.

Mickey Cloud (15:13):

And we

Wes Felix (15:13):

Were like, you already like, have the most iconic spike, like ever, you know, like, so what if you just did it again before <laugh> and, um, and he was like, I like that. I like that. Let’s, let’s try that. Let’s try that. So that’s awesome. So we did, and yeah, and, you know, the design is, is beautiful. It’s, it’s unbelievably light. And I think, you know, as a, as a brand, so focus solely on women that, you know, launched in June and the Olympics are in July to have your first gold medal, um, as a brand, you know, within a couple months of exist, thing is incredibly rare, but also, you know, really, really cool. So, yeah, I’m glad we did it. I think it was a very, very important, necessary thing to help us launch the brand. And, and so what, we’re really what we’re about and how committed we are to, um, to meeting the needs of, of women and of our community.

Wes Felix (16:12):

You know, I always tell the story that at the beginning, the community started as just me and Allyson was a really small community. <laugh> her problem was that she didn’t have shoes to wear in the Olympics. And, you know, her community me responded and said like, all right, let’s, let’s figure it out. And we hope that that’s gonna be our path throughout our existence, that women can come to us and say like, this is my problem. Here’s where I feel overlooked. Here’s where I feel like I need more. Um, can you guys help? Like what, what do you think? And, you know, I just believe that if that’s how we’re gonna go about building our product roadmap and, and deciding what other products we create, it’s always gonna be rooted in, in, in a need that is real and authentic. It’s not just us pushing our own agenda. It’s it’s women having the freedom to tell us here’s what I

Mickey Cloud (17:02):

Want. Well, I love that. And I think that ti, like I can see where the collective membership, um, starts to play that role. So could you talk a little bit about, you know, you, you guys, didn’t just launch the shoe, um, you know, as a pro audit design for women, but there’s also kind of this membership component that you guys call the, the safe collective and members get access to events and virtual workouts and cooking classes and running groups, and so much kind of awesome access that I’m sure comes from like, oh, this is access to one of the, like one of the all time great athletes and, and <laugh>, but also, you know, to community and things like that. So you just talk about kind how that membership is part of, kind of that product strategy and product roadmap you just were kind of talking about.

Wes Felix (17:39):

Yeah, definitely. And, you know, I always tell our team that like our, our collective membership, that is, that is our number one product. That is the most important thing that we do. Um, and it’s really, really hard, you know, and I think as we were talking about with the spike, taking on the project of launching the spike and having it ready to be at the level of competing in the Olympics, um, that was really, really hard, but then to throw another challenge on the team of, oh, and by the way, let’s also build a, a community membership, you know? And so, you know, I think of June 23rd and that day we announced to the world, we had a lifestyle shoe, a community platform, and a racing spike that was going in the Olympic trials. And, you know, I look at the team and just think like, I dunno how in the world, you guys pulled this off, but, but you did it.

Wes Felix (18:30):

And, you know, and for us, the collective is something that was incredibly important to me and Allyson to, to launch at the very beginning. I never want anyone to ever be able to say that collective was an afterthought. Um, and that’s why we had to work so hard to make sure that it was ready to go the day that we launched, because, you know, I think to say, Hey, we’re, we’re rooted in the foundation of community, like beautiful words, but not unique words. Um, I think you could most brands, especially DC brands. Like, that’s exactly what everybody’s gonna say. Um, and you know, know when it’s really hard, you don’t get 30 minutes to explain to them why community is different at Sage. Um, so first we can’t say we have to launch it at the same time. It has to be equal with our physical products.

Wes Felix (19:25):

Um, and that was very challenging. Um, but then also we wanted it to, as I mentioned earlier, we wanted to find a way to make sure we were differentiating between customer and community. That’s why we went with the paid membership model. Um, it was something where we would say, Hey, just because we have your email address, that doesn’t make you a part of our community, right. That makes you a customer and we value you and we treasure you, but that’s not community that’s customer. You know, I can go to my local grocery store and like give them my phone number to get my rewards thing. And like, we can call that community, but like, where do I go to, to enjoy Ralph’s community? Where do I find other likeminded shoppers, you know, at my grocery store, it’s just not, it’s not real community, it’s a collection of customers.

Wes Felix (20:12):

Um, and so that’s why we felt we had to do this, was it needed to, needed to be paid because we wanted to separate and differentiate, you know, from customer to community. We also want that community to be about a place where you can be seen by like-minded people. Yeah. Um, and that it comes for on Allyson’s experience of when she spoke out about Nike, what was most overwhelming to her and really her away where the other experience and she, that it was those women who came and told her, like, thank you. Yeah. I’m so happy that you spoke out because I can’t, I’m still under contract right now and I’m going through this and I can’t speak out. Um, but thank you for speaking out. Cause I wish I could. And that community, that form, that’s what really gave her and gave us the strength to keep on pushing and say, no, this is really, really important.

Wes Felix (21:09):

We’ve we’ve gotta do more here. Yeah. Um, and so we wanted to make sure that community was sacred for Sage. Um, but we also didn’t want anyone to feel like we were taking advantage of them. So that’s why we went with the idea of, you know, it’s $10 monthly for $150 annually. And the I response is like, no, no, no, you did the math <laugh>, you know, and I’m like, no, there’s let us finish. You know, that 50 annually also comes with a pair of shoes and, uh, the shoes retail for $150. So if you’re interested in shoes or you’re interested in community, we would like to make sure that you have both and you get to experience our, and it doesn’t really cost you extra. Um, but if you’re saying like, yeah, no interest in your physical products whatsoever at all, but this community seems cool then great. You can just join the community. That option is, is there for you. But, um, but yeah, we wanna, we wanna make sure that you have, you know, other like people that you can kinda go through that’s journey with. Cause it’s, it’s not easy.

Mickey Cloud (22:14):

Yeah. That’s, that’s awesome. Um, I, I also wanna ask about the, the name of the companys, where, how did y’all land on that for the brand? Is there kind of an origin story or where, where

Wes Felix (22:22):

Did it come from? Yeah, yeah, definitely. We, um, Saysh comes from the SA, uh, so to move back and forth, which is like, you know, typical probably any, any person who’s like, oh, we should, what is the word in French? You know, but for, for us, it, from this idea of, I just, I love the word wave. Um, and I just think it’s such a cool word. And, and I also love the way that that words are drawn visually. I write in all caps. So, you know, wave is the w is just two BS put together that a is an upside down V the V is a V you know, like you’ve got the exact same symbol just rotated. And then at the end you have this be with four lines and like, you couldn’t even go and break up those straight lines and separate them between all your bees.

Wes Felix (23:16):

And there’s just like so much symmetry to the sort wave. And I’m like, oh, I love it. But we can’t call our company wave. So what do we do? And I was just thinking like, what are different types of waves and it’s tsunami and all of the kinda, and I was just like on Wikipedia and then looked at types of waves and got to the last one. And then there was SA wave. And I was like, huh, that’s interesting. But it spelled the proper way. S E I C H E. And I was like, that’s a disaster, like SA on its own is hard enough what we landed on, but, you know, to try to spell it the French way, sounds like you’re doing too much. And so, you know, thought about the phone spelling of it and said like, okay, well the phone spelling works.

Wes Felix (24:00):

I think, I think that’ll, that’s possible. Yeah. Um, but it was really what blew it away for us was what the S wave is. And it’s found in enclosed bodies of water, so lakes or reservoirs, even a pool. And there’s either a seismic or ater pressure that moves the water to one side of that body of water. And the S wave is this, like, it’s like a unifying almost like community type wave. It’s not just like a big, powerful, violent title wave, you know, it’s this like big sweeping broad, but incredibly powerful wave that takes all of that water from one side and brings it back to the other. And it restores balance, um, in bodies of water, ands bodies of water. And as a brand, you know, I wish I could say that we would be restoring balance, um, cause it’s not the restoration of balance, but it is the aim is to create a balance.

Wes Felix (24:55):

Um, especially in, you know, in that consumer goods, like area where I think a lot of products are definitely focused on men, right. But by men created by men, even if their products are specifically, you know, uh, for women. So that’s, that’s where we came up with safe. Oh. And also there’s actually a really cool like piece to it. So when, when my mom named Alison she’s also into the visual, um, way that words are written. And so she decided to spell, Allyson’s a L L Y S O N. And she’s a school teacher. So you think that lined paper that you learned how to, how to write on, um, she wrote it out and you have the a is above the line. L is above the line. L is above the line, the Y that’s below the line and then S O so you have letters above the line, three letters above the line with the Y in the middle dropping below, almost like a Seesaw with, again, this balance. And I looked at the phonetic spelling of S I was like, oh, two letters above the line, two letters above the line with the Y in the middle.

Mickey Cloud (26:02):

That’s awesome. That, I mean, that, that’s a really cool story there. So many times you ask that a question to folks and it’s like, oh, it’s a name I liked. And then we like, this is working on multiple levels.

Wes Felix (26:13):

I love it. It’s better than we just, we just thought of a cool word. And then we looked it up in French. So <laugh>

Mickey Cloud (26:19):

Amazing. Awesome. Well, last question is we, we, you know, we love this kind of building while flying analogy, cuz it talks about, you know, the flexibility that you need to have while you’re, while you’re building a company, but also it’s, you know, important to kind of keep calm under pressure the way pilots do, right? Like they’ve got this checklist of things they need to do when they’re backs against the wall. So I’m curious, like if you’ve gotta make a tough decision, what’s your kind of internal pilots checklist or, you know, that helps you get through it.

Wes Felix (26:45):

Yeah. Yeah. The first thing for me is always just pause, like breathe. You don’t need to make this, this rash decision even no matter how quickly the decision needs to be made, if you can slow it down, there’s always gonna be enough room to first like pause and breathe. And then my next step is listen. So like listen to the people around you, um, whether they’re offering you advice on how to solve the problem or whether the person who’s coming to you with the problem, but like pause, take a breath, listen, shut your mouth. And then actually think of solutions and run through the check list. And for me, the checklist always starts and ends with our customer and you know, how is she going to feel about this? And it’s gotta start there and then we can go through all of the other things.

Wes Felix (27:35):

And so it could be something like global supply chain being messed up right now and starts with her. Okay. So what does she need? Would she rather us us fly this product over and get it to her sooner? Or would you rather us put it on the boat and it’s gonna take longer, but there’s that environmental impact that, you know, we’re not taking on the planet. And then I think my answer to that with global supply chain is, oh no, she’d rather us protect the environment. Great. So the next solution or possibility, is there a way that I can get her product fast and pre protect the environment? Right. What if I fly it and then pay for the carbon offset and like, yeah, that eats into our margin, but Hmm. That makes her really happy. And so then I can look at the situation and as long as I start it with her and end it with her, then I think, um, um, you know, doesn’t mean it’ll make it easy, but I think we’ll, we’ll be on the right track. Yep.

Mickey Cloud (28:31):

Amazing. Awesome. Well, Wes, thank you so much for, uh, your time today for sharing and uh, really, really, really love the conversation.

Wes Felix (28:38):

Yeah. Thank you so much. This has been great. Enjoyed talking with you.

Katie Hankinson (28:43):

Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting of you we’re getting ready to land, but before we do Mickey and I caught up on some of the themes and topics that stuck out to

Mickey Cloud (28:52):

Us, yes, we liken this to the post-game show where we break down the key lessons we all can benefit from, including us here at the Saha group here is the Saha sidebar.

Katie Hankinson (29:08):

Hey, Mickey, just listened to your conversation with Wes Felix from say shoes. Um, really cool brand.

Mickey Cloud (29:15):

Yeah. And just, you know, the, the, the Olympic glory that, that, that Wes and his sister represent, it was a really, really cool conversation,

Katie Hankinson (29:25):

Right? How cool to launch a shoe and then immediately win the Olympic gold medal medal with it. <laugh> what I mean, what more could you want from, well, a, your own Olympic dreams, but also for launching your first, uh, lifestyle product, and also what ambition and obviously successfully executed ambition, right? To launch the spike, the lifestyle shoot and the community all at the same time. <laugh>

Mickey Cloud (29:55):

Yep. Three different products that they had to launch at the same time. Um, and that’s truly building a about flying. Um, and, and yeah, I mean, I just loved the way Wes put it. He was like, we couldn’t announce that we were gonna have this shoe company and then show up in Adida spikes to run in the Olympics. Like, you’re just, it’s like, you’re not believing in yourself at that point. And yeah, hundred percent in the product you’re

Katie Hankinson (30:18):

Delivering. And also that we couldn’t launch a shoe company that we said was grounded in community and then like follow up in the rear with the launch, the community. Right, right. Um, and I thought that was a really good example of kind of follow through once you’ve made some statements and made a promise about what the brand’s about. Like actually walking the talk.

Mickey Cloud (30:41):

Yeah. Mean, I love, he talked about like the collective membership is their number one product. Like, you know, the shoes are gonna get a lot of the fanfare and it’s gonna be, you know, what will show up in fashion magazines or whatever, but it’s the, he, he said that, you know, the number one important thing for their company as a product, the most important thing is this is this collective. And I think that’s an interesting pattern we’ve seen with, uh, you know, with athletes a but then just broader market B around building a community and building kind of a membership that goes beyond just a single product.

Katie Hankinson (31:17):

Yeah. I mean, we obviously have the chat with the rein team, the kind of mega right. Uh, and squad, uh, company, which is also very much built around community. And I, I love it. I think it’s really interesting to see where brands are taking it. I think the, the big challenge, which both of these companies look like they’re doing is if you’re going to make the claim that your company is a truly community based brand, then you also have to do what, what, um, west did a really good job of distinguishing. You have to really build something that isn’t just about a collection of customers, who you label your community. It’s actually a group of people who are brought together and, and you create the conditions to lift them up, let them participate in, in kind of setting the tone and the rules of what it is that you are doing to kind of have a stake in what you’re doing. Is there something that little bit more involved than just being a simple customer?

Mickey Cloud (32:15):

Yeah. And I mean, the way he put it there was, was so, so articulate. Right. It’s just, you know, it’s the difference between a community and a collection of customers, right? Like, it’s that when you think about it that way, it’s like, yeah, that’s super fair. Like, you know, if we’re the same, if, if we’re just, we both like a certain chocolate, you know, candy bar, like there’s the only thing that holds us together is that we both like it, but there’s not like conditions and there’s not things that are bringing this together to your point. Like, there’s the, the ongoing programming that goes into it. Whether for, for them, whether it’s, you know, virtual, uh, classes, whether it’s running groups, mm-hmm, <affirmative> whether it’s cooking classes, whether it’s things that are part of a broader lifestyle, but, um, you know, they’ve got to show up for it and not just do it now at the lawn. It’s gotta be something they do, you know, month in, month out, year, over year.

Katie Hankinson (33:04):

Right. And it’s also, again, it’s like an emphasis on brand over product, right? Like the community is about what is, how do we build around the needs of women? And what does that look like across lifestyle, across wellness, across all the topics that they are obviously to discussing within the community piece. But it also opens up huge opportunity for product development. Like they may not only be making shoes, right. If, if they’re also thinking about making things, which are by women, for women, based on the problems that women are identifying as uniquely theirs kind of thing that doesn’t necessarily start and finish with, with, uh, the running spike and the lifestyle shoe. Right.

Mickey Cloud (33:43):

I also love how we talked about the pricing of it, right. Where he tells the story. He is like, you know, it’s either $10 a month or $150 annually. And people are just like, oh, well that math doesn’t check out. He’s like, well, you did let me finish. If you’re buying $150 annually, that also comes with a pair of shoes, which are valued $150, that retail for $150. But if we also want you to be a part of the community without having to buy the products, and so you can just pay and actually then therefore it’s a deal, you know, if you wanna go that route. So I loved the, like a, that they’ve already built into the model. Like, yes, people are going to pay for access to this membership. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> and B that like the, the pricing of it tells a story too.

Katie Hankinson (34:20):

Yeah. Super smart. I’m like, by the way, the shoes are pretty nice looking <laugh> I’m like it’s sold out. I, I love that they start with a women’s shoe and like the women’s shoe actually based on a woman’s butt rather than dudes,

Mickey Cloud (34:32):

But, and guys are so confused. They’re like, wait, but how do I wear it?

Katie Hankinson (34:38):

He’s like, uh, you just size up. Right. <laugh>

Mickey Cloud (34:43):

Um, so maybe our question for our, for our community of building while flying listeners is, um, is, yeah. What’s your favorite shoe? What’s your, uh, do you have a, do you have all time kick,

Katie Hankinson (34:58):

Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Mickey Cloud (35:10):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us, plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on building while flying or across brands, businesses, marketing, and more original music

Katie Hankinson (35:25):

By Fulton street music group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Creating a community first brand.

Wes Felix is CEO and co-founder of Saysh, a lifestyle brand that creates products by and for women. He’s also the founder and managing partner of boutique sports management agency Evolve. He created and launched Saysh with his sister, Allyson Felix, the most decorated Olympic track and field athlete in the world—and who’s faced many challenges of her own throughout her career.

In this episode of Building While Flying, Wes breaks down how he sees customers and community differently, how each is valuable to their business, and why their membership community is such a large pillar of Saysh. He also shares what it was like launching Saysh in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and why it was crucial for Allyson to run in her own brand’s running spikes for her events. Throughout the conversation, Wes emphasizes the importance of understanding the challenges women experience, and making sure Saysh is a brand and community that helps all women feel seen and understood.

Other in-flight topics:

  • How Saysh was started, and how they came up with the name
  • Customers vs. community
  • Balancing family and business
  • Launching products in time for the Tokyo Olympics
  • Importance of their membership community
  • …and more!

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