As one of the most high-profile speakers ever at The Running Event, Allyson Felix – Olympian, entrepreneur and founder of lifestyle brand Saysh – will share her experience of building a brand anchored in values and community during her keynote “Daring to Do Things Differently” address at The Running Event 2022, November 29, in Austin, TX.
“I’ve been around the running community most of my life and my entire career,” says Felix. “Having the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at The Running Event is a surreal feeling and I’m excited to share my story on how I found my voice, am attempting to build a business in a different way and why community is what it’s all about.”
Felix’s keynote address – Tuesday, Nov. 29, 12:00 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center – will cover the last five years of her athletic career, another Olympic Gold medal, the birth of her daughter, the founding of her company, Saysh and a false start on her retirement. She will remind listeners how important it is to dream big, build differently and keep going — even when it feels like you’re facing a giant.
Running Insight caught up with her – figuratively, not literally, since we could never actually catch up to an Olympic runner – prior to TRE22 to gather some insight into her post-running career, the philosophy behind the Saysh brand and the message she wants to provide to the run specialty community in her keynote address.
Let’s start with the basics. You said at an event last year that you started Saysh because you didn’t see the company you believed needed to exist in the world. Can you expand on that a bit?
I saw a lot of companies that I felt were taking women for granted. Companies that loved having women as customers and saw opportunities for growth in their women’s business, but were not committed.
So is Saysh a sneaker company, an apparel company, a lifestyle brand or a hybrid?
Saysh is a lifestyle brand for women. We make sneakers made specifically for women’s feet.
What do you consider as your most significant business accomplishment to this point?
It’s hard to choose one, but they all come down to creating change. Saysh has just become the first female, black-owned footwear brand carried at Foot Locker. I’m really proud of that and proud of our team for putting it together.
What message would you like to send to the run specialty retailers about your brand and why they should consider bringing it into their stores?
Saysh exists to see your female customers better than any other running footwear brand ever has. Yes, we build our lasts based solely on women’s feet, but the cushioning is based on a woman’s body, the lacing system is based on a woman’s body, the packaging, the way we approach customer care, everything we do is based on her. I hope you’ll carry our shoes, because what we wake up to do is to provide her not only a better product, but a better feeling about herself when she puts our shoes on.
Are there any brands – both within or outside of the running business – that inspire you and serve as a model for what you are looking to do with Saysh?
I’m really inspired by what Athleta does and how they only speak to female customers. I’m also inspired by the women’s networking community CHIEF. There are so many inspirations, but those are just a couple.
For Women By Women is a Saysh mantra. How involved are you personally in the product design?
I made sure that I’m the sample size so that I can really feel every aspect of each of our footwear products and I’m very involved in the design and direction of our products.
Does your daughter have any input into the clothes you are designing yet?
Not yet, but hopefully soon!
What will be the product focus going into 2023 and beyond?
In 2023 we’re focusing on performance. It’s taken time to make sure we’re providing the best performance product for her possible, but we’re getting close and it’s all about performance.
You certainly made quite a splash with the Saysh Spikes at the Olympics. Are there more performance shoes in the works?
We don’t have more spikes planned at the moment, but winning a gold medal in Saysh spikes was incredibly special. It was historic and I’m sure we’ll show back up at the games again in the future.
What is your planned distribution strategy?
We will distribute through some wholesale partners and we’ll also distribute through our website. We’re really excited about our wholesale partners and can’t wait to get our product on new women and share our story with them.
Explain the concept behind and progress of the Saysh Collective?
The Saysh Collective is the foundation of our brand. It’s where we invite people in to experience belonging. We are rolling out new features and a new format in early 2023 — I think you are the first media that we’ve shared that with. The Collective means everything to me, it signifies all of the women that came along my side when I was at an extremely low point fighting for maternal protections. I was scared, lonely and women came alongside of me and lifted me. Our Collective is my thank you to them and it is a place where they can come and connect, experience classes and workshops and be fully themselves.
There’s also your Saysh Maternity Returns concept. Please explain that policy and how it is going.
The policy is going really well and we’ll be sharing new announcements on it soon. During pregnancy women’s feet can change size and many times it’s permanent. We don’t believe women should be punished for doing the most incredible thing on the planet, so if you own our shoe and your foot changes size we’ll send a new pair out to you. We hope it’s a reminder that we see you.
How are you personally and the Saysh brand making a statement for women’s rights, in the workplace and in the sports world?
We’re listening right now — doing our best to listen to our internal team and our customers on what they need from us. The world is so heavy right now for everyone, but even more so for women. We show up every day to remind women that they matter.
What will your message to attendees at The Running Event be in both your keynote and during the trade show?
I’ll be speaking about building community, staying resilient and creating change. How these things may seem out of reach, but we can each do them.
And what product will Saysh be showing at TRE?
We will be showing our first technical running shoe.
What are your thoughts on the diversity within the running business community and what are your goals on expanding DEI efforts within the industry?
I think we have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited for that work and Wes and I are eager to take it on. Sometimes it feels like the running community is very segregated based on the distance that you run. I want to champion efforts to bridge that gap more. We’re all runners and most of us probably love running for the exact same feeling.
What is your running routine like these days? Are you training for anything?
Well I’m just getting back into exercising post-retirement and the runs are getting longer by sprint standards, haha. I’m not training for anything at the moment, but have been thinking about challenging myself sometime in 2023.
What are your business goals for 2023 and what will it take to get there?
In 2023 we’re going to raise brand awareness by continuing to share the story of Saysh.
And finally, what are your personal goals for 2023 and what will it take to accomplish them?
Personally, I’m working on balance in my life. It’s so hard to try to do it all and I know that I can’t do it all at the same time, but I’m looking forward to a bit more balance in 2023.