Blyss Running, the Asheville, NC-based maker of women’s athletic apparel, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month with a. series of special events that celebrate entrepreneur Alyson Neel’s underground cult favorite for many women runners.
Neel’s story is one of mentorship and small business success: she is an alumna of two Mountain BizWorks’ programs, Foundations and Alpine, as well as the Waypoint Accelerator (a program created by the Growing Outdoors Partnership of WNC and managed by Mountain BizWorks). Blyss Running is also a member of Outdoor Gear Builders, which connects the outdoor gear industry in Western North Carolina.
To celebrate her customers, mentors and friends who have cheered her along the course, Neel is announcing a fifth-anniversary sale (October 23-25), a giveaway of five $50 gift cards and a new design which will be available just in time for cold winter runs or hikes: the Relay Skirted Tight.
Although Neel has a background in fashion and merchandising, she nearly missed out on the sport that inspired her to start her company. Her love for running began in her early 40s and she quickly progressed to long-distance running, including a marathon to celebrate her 44th birthday. Although she experienced joy and newfound confidence from the sport, Neel did not find running apparel on the market that suited her needs. She wanted functional pockets for her phone and keys, longer lengths that didn’t ride up, higher waistbands, and stylish prints.
In 2015, Neel produced her first design, and soon began selling her Blyss Running skirts, crops and shorts at running expos throughout the United States. Determined to manufacture her running apparel line domestically, Neel partners with a manufacturer based in Pennsylvania.
This past year, Neel has dealt with the challenges facing many small business owners as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – cancelled events, manufacturers pivoting to produce PPE and customers who are tightening up their budgets. But the outdoor-focused fitness industry has been one of the most resilient this year, as Americans head outside in droves for recreation and relief. Blyss Running has found other ways to successfully connect with an already devoted following of runners – through email marketing and on social media platforms.
As Neel reflects on the challenges of 2020 and being a small business owner, she says she’s just grateful.
“It’s awesome to have so many runners who love the clothes and have stuck with us during this challenging year,” she says. “I’m excited for races to come back and to see the Blyss Running community in person again!”