“No” was a word Ty Haney heard frequently as she began pitching Texas-based DTC brand Outdoor Voices to investors. But she turned negativity into opportunity, refining her brand vision and ultimately filling the gap she saw in the activewear space. At the heart of OV is optimism, human (not super-human), and the notion that activity is fun for all. Here, Ty explains OV's community strategy, why she ignores the competition and how she's managed to build a burgeoning brand and community all around the concept of "doing things."
Where did the Inspiration for Outdoor Voices come from?
I grew up a competitive athlete, but after high school when I was at Parsons in NYC and had less time and less motivation, my outlook on activity changed. I didn’t resonate anymore with the “harder, better, faster” mentality towards activity, and instead, I was going for very recreationally-paced jogs and searching for activity for fun. I realized that there was a hole in the activewear space and an opportunity to create a brand that flips the idea of what an athlete should look like and prioritizes freeing fitness from performance and moving for FUN. We call it #DoingThings and we’re on a mission to get the world moving.
What was the initial response from investors when you first started pitching OV?
"I started getting product on wives of investors and they loved it."
I heard “no” a lot. At first, the men in investor meeting rooms didn’t see a need for OV when they had Nike, Under Armour, etc. It was definitely difficult to deal with that level of rejection, but I learned how to take each of those moments as an opportunity to refine my vision for the brand and work to turn “no” into “yes.” I started getting product on wives of investors and they loved it. Go figure that a woman who understands boob, butt, and bounce management would make better products for women.
What’s your strategy to attract and engage your community?
Our main platform is Instagram, and our strategy is to activate locally and amplify digitally so that whether you connect with us in real life at one of our events or you discovered us on Instagram, you feel like you’re a part of the OV community.
You started as a digital-first brand back in 2014 but have since expanded into multiple storefronts and major retailers. Has this always been part of your plan?
Retail has always been a part of our roadmap. It’s important for us to be able to have multiple touchpoints with our community and establish IRL relationships because that’s really where we see the stickiness of our brand come to play. Whether it’s a 500+ person yoga class in Austin or a 100 person joggers club in NYC. Today, through our nine shops spanning across the country and more retail locations to come in 2019, we've proven that our retail footprint is an incredible way to establish and build human-to-human relationships with our community.
Any new products you’re working on?
Our focus this summer is on The Exercise Dress, a style that is extremely unique and created by OV. It’s a simple piece, but it can be worn to and from all your recreational activities like bird watching to jogging to rollerblading. You’ll see us build a lot more brand equity around this piece with new colorways launching as well as utilizing user-generated content from our community that showcases that you can do anything in a dress.
What core values make OV a challenger brand?
Our number one value is Human, not Superhuman. It’s about being real and relating to people on the same level. Activity is democratic, and we are the resource that is bringing people of all levels and backgrounds together to explore new things and embrace being a beginner. We’d never think of photoshopping and it’s clear to me that more companies need to be less precious with the content they put out into the world.
How do you compete with other lifestyle brands and the challenges in your industry?
"We have blinders on as to what everyone else is doing and believe in creating the rules to our own game."
We have blinders on as to what everyone else is doing and believe in creating the rules to our own game. From our view, we’re not up against or competing with anyone else other than people’s own negative perceptions of themselves. A lot of the growth for OV and community that’s been established can be attributed to the optimism we project. There’s a lot of negativity in the world, people are looking to optimistic and enthusiastic sources that are focused on making progress in dark times. The future is very much built by optimists. We’re letting our community tell us what we can do for them versus what they can do for us — whether that be through new product, in real-life activations, or education on playgrounds that they haven’t heard of before. We’re just getting started!