Dressing for It Can Make All the Difference: The Evolution of A College Students Dream

Edited by: Vlada Taits

Finding the perfect athletic wear can be hard in the sea of brands who promise a similar outcome but are vastly different in their product composition. Tyler Haney, launched Outdoor Voices (OV) in 2013 at the age of 25 to provide a uniform for women while participating in a wide range of activities. Native to Boulder, Colorado, Haney grew up spending lots of time outdoors hiking, running, and staying active with her friends and family. She had participated competitively in high school athletics specifically in hurdles and expected to attend college on a running scholarship. Before signing the papers, Haney thought there was more in her future than becoming a professional athlete and she decided to take a year off and move to Boston. After about six months in Boston, she gravitated to New York City where Haney was attracted to the energy and made the decision to apply to Parsons School of Design. At Parsons, Haney studied business and design, a merge of her two passions but also found herself less inclined to go for a run and lacked the motivation to do so. Haney found herself looking for something different to workout in, something that made her feel good, and ready to move. She wanted workout wear that was not “black or neon” but something made out of quality material she could make her feel like her best self. This is where the idea for OV came to mind.  

The name "Outdoor Voices” Haney says “comes with a youthful spirit, from when your parents would tell you as a child to use your indoor voice, but how good it would feel when you used your outdoor voice”. A lot of Haney’s inspirations came from Boulder where so much time was spent outside taking part in different activities. The goal for OV was to create a few pieces of key athletic wear that could be worn hiking, biking, running, and going to the gym. She wanted it to be versatile but also accessible and did so by pricing it just below Lululemon. When Haney decided to run with this idea she signed herself up for Outdoor Retailer, a conference where she learned about different types of fabric and found a supplier that still works with the brand today! Haney refined the first warm-up pant and crop top several times and gave samples to her friends and family to test out before deciding on the first two items to sell. Haney wanted to “build a brand that approached activity in a happy way”. At the time she was designing her look, other retailers did not picture their models smiling or having fun, something that OV would approach differently. She quickly grew her product to include a sweatsuit and referred to the four pieces as a kit, which Haney would promote at trade shows. Soon after, J. Crew contacted Haney with an interest in her kits which encouraged her to make the move to Los Angeles where production of activewear was popular. Here, Haney produced 11,000 units for J. Crew and decided to launch a website in 2014 to provide her customers access to the product.

At this point OV was growing rapidly and Haney moved the team to their first office space in the Flatiron District in Manhattan. As her brand was getting settled, she went around pitching the idea of OV to investors to expand her brand. She found that many of these investors were male and could not see the difference between OV and Nike or Under Armour. Haney came up with the brilliant idea of sending the wives and girlfriends of these investors an OV kit. This idea was very successful and helped tremendously as Haney raised $11 million dollars for their Series A. As the company was getting bigger and Haney started thinking about next steps, while on vacation in Austin, Texas, Haney fell in love with the city and decided that it would be home to OV as it “supported the lifestyle of the brand, it would be the doing things city”. Haney wanted OV to be as much in person as it was online, so early on, she opened a brick-and-mortar store in Clarksville, Austin to enhance the “in real life” experience. Currently, there are 10 store locations open across the United States with more on the way.

Through her experience, Haney highlights some things she has learned. Be patient during the hiring process, Haney values the company culture, it is “important to go slow than to go fast”. She also notes that "a crisis can be your biggest opportunity, and use it to your advantage”. Finally, Haney reflects on a quote, “compression of time creates value”, meaning the faster you can test a product for failure, the quicker you know what works and what doesn’t. Haney focused on the “product, the value of the company, and then driving sales” and succeeded by doing so. Tyler Hanley is an example of what can happen if you believe in yourself and create something you are passionate about.

 

References 

Second Life Podcast With Hillary Kerr, Episode 90. Ty Haney.