Who She Is ... Susan Clayton is an inventor and is now CEO/Everything of RunMitts, the second company she started. She co-owned a hair salon for more than 25 years and that closed in 2022 so she could concentrate on her own dreams. She felt she needed to be more present with RunMitts to grow the business. She is the youngest of two — her brother is an oral surgeon and they were raised by a single mom who “gave us the drive to be successful no matter what challenges we faced.” 

The RunMitts elevator pitch: As a running coach, our founder could never find mittens that kept her fingers and thumbs warm, so she invented one. WhitePaws RunMitts are patented, convertible, thumbless on purpose with an inside heat pack pocket, providing warmth in motion.

Inspiration behind RunMitts … “I was a coach for an organization called Back on My Feet. We met at 5:30 a.m. and in the winter and I could never find mittens or gloves that kelp my fingers and thumbs warm, so I invented one.” After she was awarded a patent, she decided to start RunMitts, LLC and build the business. 

Her Mentor … Clayton says she has had so many mentors because she was completely out of her realm when she started RunMitts, but there is one person she goes back to time and time again. “Jim Peterson has been there for me since the beginning and I still call on him for advice.” 

Run specialty and women … “I just came from The Running Event in Austin, TX, and there were very few women and of them, even less women of color in business ownership that I saw.” 

Attracting more women to run spcialty … Simple: Hire them and listen to them. 

A women’s perspective in run specialty … “It’s hard to say whether I bring a different perspective to the business because most of the founders I am around are BIPOCs and since we have not had access to opportunities, we bring a different thought process to the way we approach business. I think we are more grateful and more humble. I think we appreciate every little thing that we get and make the most of it.” 

Advice for reaching women … Clayton says she received a great piece of advice from someone this summer and it was to lean into your female costumers. “They buy for the family, they look at tends, they shop more,” she was told. “I will buy something for myself and buy something for my partner as well. I know if I find something I like, I buy it in every color. A man will probably only buy one and it’s black.” 

Advice to other women … She tells women of any age to never think that they are too young or too old to start a new path. After all, she started RunMitts in her fifties because she came up with a solution to a problem she had while running and thought someone else would like them too. “Do it because you truly love it and not that you will become a virtual sensation or an overnight success,” Clayton advises. “Starting a business can be extremely hard and a lot of ugly crying nights, but the rewards of successfully building a company is so incredible. Most of all, don’t not do something because you’re scared, don’t be afraid of failing.” 

Her running history … Clayton finds herself walking more now because she really likes running with people, but unfortunately for one reason or another her pace has gotten so slow. “I get intimidated running with a group,” she admits, but she does walk really fast. “So when I go out with groups and stick with the walkers. I want to get back into running more and I know I will.”   

Her 2024 goals … “I’m working hard to get into more retailers and run specialty stores in 2024. I was part of the REI Path Ahead accelerator program and I took 2023 to get the business more organized and have better processes, now I need to implement them. I just hired someone to help, it’s just been me and I can’t continue this way.”