Monday, November 7, 2016

Women Involved Series: Ashley Rankin

I am Ashley Rankin, owner and founder of SHREDLY. I grew up outside the small town of Carbondale in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. I always thought that I was a city girl at heart and couldn’t wait to move out of the country and into the city where I imagined I would live in an apartment and work for a high-end clothing label.

When I moved away from home for college I started to realize how much I loved where I was from and how deeply the mountains and the outdoors were part of my soul. By the time I graduated I couldn’t wait to get back to the mountains. Equipped with degrees Apparel Design and Production and Business Marketing I wasn’t entirely ready to give up my dream of being a designer but the opportunities seemed limited in the mountains to outdoor apparel of which I had no interest.

The city girl in me still wanted to design couture dresses and fabulous ready to wear. I ended up taking a job in real estate marketing and was happy living the young working life in Aspen, CO. Then I bought a new bike. I think this is the moment I accidentally became what I never thought I’d want to be - an outdoor apparel designer. After I bought my bike, I of course, wanted some cute new shorts to go with it. But I couldn’t find any that I liked. And neither could my girlfriends. And the shorts I was picturing were so dang cute I couldn’t stop thinking about them. For over a year. As 9-5, M-F started to loose it’s charm and it felt entirely unfair when powder days would fall on a weekday and it was too dark to ride my bike after work I started to dream about something else.

In this dream there was always a cute pair of shorts bouncing around. Little by little, bit by bit SHREDLY started to morph from an idea to an idea that I thought I should probably pursue. After a year of working a full-time job and SHREDLY all the rest of the time, I knew I needed more time during regular human-functioning hours to dedicate to SHREDLY. So I transitioned to a part-time job and 3 months later I started the Kickstarter campaign that was the official public debut of SHREDLY and what I felt like was the point of no return. I worked the part-time job for just under 2.5 more years before finally transitioning into SHREDLY full time. I have now been full-time for almost 2 years and am thankful every day for every decision that has brought me here! I love what I do and although I still spend powder days at my desk and it’s dark when I get off work it’s my choice and there's something different about the fairness of it all AND those cute shorts are bouncing around on trails all over the world, not just in my dreams anymore.!

Tell us about the start of your #bikelife-

My sister, brother, and I rode bikes with our neighbors around our subdivision, creating obstacles in open fields, on the tennis court, or in the playground, as far back as I can remember. I also remember family mountain bike rides. Real rides. Long rides. Hard rides where I kind of hated it if I’m being honest.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?

Although I was really fortunate to grow up in the mountains where skiing and riding or hiking were abundant I didn’t personally embrace mountain biking on my own accord until I was in college. It was then that I realized what an amazing place I had taken for granted throughout my entire childhood. I started to ski again (I was a snowboarder as soon as it was cool, duh) and mountain bike. I was motivated by being outside. Drinking beer and eating Taco Bell had to have its counter and I wasn’t much of a gym rat!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Cornering and obstacles. I still think these are challenging! Taking clinics and learning how to properly position my body and becoming aware of habits I didn't know I had is by far what has improved my riding the most. I recommend everyone at all levels take clinics any chance they have. It’s a great way to realize what you know and are confident about and improve other areas. And no matter what, it never hurts to brush up on the basics every once in a while!

What do you love about riding your bike?

The free therapy! Being outside is when I feel the most like me. Like I am where I belong. And when I am outside riding a beautiful trial in awe of the amazing surroundings or smiling from ear to ear because the descent is all giggles I just don’t think it gets much better. Even on the days where motivation is low, and climbing is painful I always remind myself how much more fun I’m having than if I were at my desk! And I love that riding is such a "freedom" sport. It requires nothing but a functioning bike that can go as far and as long as you want it to. You don’t need a team or a buddy unless you want one!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

I currently ride a Yeti Beti sb5c. And I LOVE it. I chose this bike because the minute I got on it I was more comfortable than I had ever been on a bike. I didn’t know what I had been missing! I fall more and more in love with it every time I ride different terrain. It climbs beautifully. It descends like a bigger travel bike and has great response so I always feel like I’m in control of the bike, not holding on for dear life.

You created SHREDLY because you saw a gap in what was being offered to women in terms of style, fit, and function. Why is it important that your apparel is multi-sport-use?

This is important because I think most women who mountain bike live multi-sport lifestyles. Even if riding bikes is our favorite we still hike, camp, raft, hit the beach, climb, golf, do yoga, run, etc. I knew when designing the original products that I would love to purchase something that I could use across the board instead of needing to buy something for each activity. I also knew that others would share this sentiment.

Why do you feel it is important that your items are made in the USA? Has it been easy for women to be encouraged to purchase items even if they may cost more than non-USA made products?
Producing in the USA felt like the right decision when starting SHREDY because it fit the core of the brand – boutique, thoughtful, friendly, and approachable. It is something that is personally appealing to me when shopping and it has been encouraged and praised by customers as well. While it’s not at the top of everyone’s list when making purchasing decisions it is appreciated by most and definitely a differentiator with the other brands in this category.

You also released a line of tights! Tell us about what inspired this product and who would be looking for them-
Yes! This seemed like a natural addition to SHREDLY. When the seasons change and short weather goes on vacation ladies still want their fun prints! And like I mentioned earlier – so many of us lead multi-sport lives that it seemed very natural that the SHREDLY short wearer would also be a legging or tight wearer.

What has been the biggest struggle starting your own business?
The fact that there are so many struggles? No, just kidding – while there are always challenges you learn to enjoy the art of keeping it together and finding satisfaction in learning along the way and problem solving instead of feeling beaten down. But I would say the biggest struggle is achieving true sustainability. It’s very challenging to start from scratch, building something from nothing. Especially without financial backing. It’s an incredible experience and really proves anything is possible but starting a business is one thing. Running a business is another. Then running a sustainable business and keeping it that way is a whole other ball game!

What has been the best thing?
Continuing to be inspired by and loving what I do. Feeling like I’m making a positive contribution to other peoples lives. When women are over the top excited about their cute new shorts or giddy while trying different patterns I am so happy! And women have shared that feeling good in their SHREDLY has given them confidence and encouraged them to ride more. I never thought that would have such an effect but I am over the moon when I hear this.

Tell us about the name, SHREDLY-

My girlfriend came up with it. She said “how about SHREDLY, for girly chicks who shred?” We kept the name and ditched the rest. The harsh word softened by the ‘ly’ seemed like the perfect fit for the products. Tough but girly.



What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling, especially mountain biking?
It’s scary! Going fast on a machine that you are not used to is scary! Even if you did it as a kid. I feel this same way about skateboards, surf boards, skiing, etc. If you didn’t grow up doing it or just haven’t done it in years, being attached to something that goes fast is scary! Then of course there are social issues as well. What if I’m not good? Will I look stupid trying? Who is going to teach me that won’t make me feel bad or not good enough? What if I get hurt? I think the emergence of women’s clinics is the perfect solution. They offer safe, encouraging, and fun environments for women to refresh or learn new skills. And they are strategic so you don’t just hop on a bike, go for it and hope for the best. You start with the fundamentals and work your way up. Just like you should with any new sport.

What could change in the industry (or locally) to encourage more women to be involved?
It has actually been awesome to see the changes taking place over the last five years that I’ve been in the industry. There are more options for women, there are products being designed specifically for women (not just color palettes), women + mountain biking is a common conversation, and the emergence of more high-school teams and youth programs is on the rise. Brands want to cater to women and want to support more women entering the sport. Removing any barriers to entry that would discourage women to ride is what I think the key is. So we need to make sure they have the products they want and need, and have access to the resources they need to learn and grow in the sport (clinics, riding groups, mentors, youth programs). I think an incredibly important area we need to focus on is youth and high school programs. Exposing younger girls to mountain biking will drastically encourage more girls to join the sport and in turn they’ll become women who will encourage other women and girls.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

It’s a super fun sport that is wildly liberating. You don’t need anyone but you to ride and that’s awesome. But when you’re riding together and just get to share the experience with someone or they conquer an obstacle for the first time or you ride a flowy section of trail in sync with your group, your heart is happy.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I like to say that I am a dishwasher loading savant.

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