November 17, 2022

The Future of Endurance Sports is Female

And I’ve got five points to prove it

Something special is happening here. Women are stepping into their power.

It’s a thought I have often these days. Like on November 7th when Vic Brumfield became CEO of USA Triathlon, the first female leader in its 40-year history. Or when Chelsea Sodaro openly talked about motherhood moments after winning the Ironman World Championship. But it stood out in stark relief like never before during Feisty Media’s Outspoken Summit, our designated leadership gathering for women in endurance sports. 

The stage had been set, literally, throughout the weekend with endurance sports leaders sharing their hard-earned wisdom on how to take your passion and do the practical: finance it, market it and make money doing it.  

As we neared the conclusion of the Summit Sunday morning, we challenged attendees to put their goals to paper, draw up timelines, and set up rewards for meeting stepping-stone goals along the way. 

Then one by one, they stood and shared their visions, an hour filled with once repressed hope set free. They expressed gratitude for the relationships they formed over the weekend, for the safe place to dream big and to be among others who would be both brutally honest and relentlessly kind. There were tears.

Something special is happening here. Women are stepping into their power. I locked eyes with Kathryn, our Feisty Chief of Staff, both of us welling up ourselves. She felt it too.

Preparing for Flight

Six weeks ago, I almost canceled the 5th edition of the Outspoken Women in Endurance Sports Summit. It was clear that we were not going to make a profit. I surmised that maybe women just weren’t interested in building their businesses at this time. It has been a weird few years. We’ve had to cancel events before, going into Covid, coming out of Covid and now we are facing a recession. Maybe it’s a case of the right concept at the wrong time. This happens a lot when you run a business. 

 

I made the decision to go ahead with the Summit with what I’ve come to call my “entrepreneurial brain.” It made zero financial sense. Our Feisty business isn’t in a place where we can float a Summit right now, but somewhere deep in my gut, I just felt it was the right thing to do. Supporting entrepreneurs and business owners is part of our mission and if we are committed to that, we should do it. I had an instinct and I followed it. We moved forward with the Summit.

I’d be lying if I said this was comfortable. It’s been a while since I’ve committed to a business direction by jumping off a cliff and trying to build a plane before we hit the ground. But that’s what we did. And now coming out of the Summit I can tell you, our plane is assembled and ready for the next flight.

 

And it’s not just my plane. It’s a fleet, pulling feats in formation they may have only dared to dream before learning to trust that they could fly. Okay, that’s heavy-handed in the metaphor department. But I believe in my gut that the future of women in the endurance sports business is bright. I believe that each and every woman who attended will find her voice and build her organization over the coming year. 

 

Here’s why: 

  • The Outspoken women were both fiercely independent and also sought to connect and network–an extremely powerful combination. Many of our attendees came alone, traveling across the country, business plans in tow. That alone is an act of bravery. But these women were not only eager to hone their skills, but also to connect with others and collaborate. Well before we hit the ground in Tempe, Arizona, the Outspoken attendees were flooding our GroupMe chat, making plans to eat, drink, workout, and brainstorm. As I scroll through the app four days later, I see the conversations are ongoing. Connections made, connections kept. Power in numbers.
  • The Outspoken women had a high level of willingness to do the work. We intentionally created the flow of the weekend to include speakers and panels that would inspire us and help us work on our mindset, paired with workshops that would teach practical skills like how to write well or create a marketing plan or pitch deck. People engaged in the sessions, asked questions, and actually did the worksheets. They weren’t scrolling on their phones or “phoning it in” when it came time to put hard concepts to paper. To run a business well, you need to hold on to the bigger vision daily while also getting sh*t done in a practical way. These women displayed those skills in spades.
  • The Outspoken women were willing to learn and share their voices in balance. Someone once told me that the reason he doesn’t speak up in groups (despite being one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known) is because he already knows what he thinks and when he stays quiet, he learns what others think, which allows him to grow. That was an important lesson for my younger self who tended to share her thoughts with anyone who would listen. On the flip side, if we never speak up, we will never get what we want or need and if we are trying to run a business, that’s a problem. Finding the balance is important, and the majority of our attendees showed remarkable acumen here that will serve them well going forward.
  • The Outspoken women displayed a blend of humility and inner strength. It takes humility to fly across the country and learn from a group of strangers. It takes strength to share your business goals with those strangers and accept feedback. But humility and strength are needed for what I consider to be the most important piece of all: collaboration. 
  • The Outspoken women were collaborative. I’ve had business partnerships go well and I’ve had business partnerships go badly. Most of them are a bit of both, but I still believe to my core that by working with others, we can have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people. And for two and a half days, I watched as 60 women collaborated in order to help each other create, evolve, and plan strategies for their coaching, events, or brick-and-mortar businesses. 

And so when Kathryn and I met eyes in the final session, it was because we both knew- it’s happening. The future holds many women-led businesses in the endurance sports space. The future is female. The future is feisty. And I am here for it. 

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