Kristy Scrymgeour: Women Trailblazers
"I'm fairly optimistic. If times get tough, I always have in my head - just keep going - you will make it work, and if that doesn't work then you move to what will work. That's all you can do."
KRISTY SCRYMGEOUR : High School Science Teacher : Professional Cyclist : Team Director : Entrepreneur: Velocio Co-Creator : Community Leader : Activist
I had the opportunity to have a phone interview with Kristy today. When I first reached out to her inquiring if she would be interested in doing an interview for a blog series I am doing, I admit I was nervous. Not necessarily talking with Kristy, I have always found her to be an engaging and inviting woman to chat with. Honestly? I was nervous at the mere prospect of reaching out to a woman asking for her time to answer my questions. Lately I have been struck and enchanted with anyone brave enough to go out on their own, leaders, doers, creators - trailblazers. I thought it would be a sincere attribute to look at the person behind the team, behind the bike, behind the business, behind the career and get to know them, their goals and their success and lessons. Gladly she happily accepted. We set a day and time and I called from Chicago to New York City.
Your journey really has been amazing. If you had to give a book description of your journey how would it read?
Thats a good and hard question. I think looking back, I never really had a plan. To be a professional cyclist, to run a team and then to start an apparel brand. None of it was part of a plan. I graduated from university as a high school science teacher but I really only taught for a year before I took off to the other side of the world to race my bike. I loved teaching and working with kids but when I began racing, I a had feeling I would never go back to it. Somehow the world of bike racing had captured me, and 20 years I'm still involved. I didn't plan any of it. I just seemed to follow new ideas to the next project.
What does success mean to you?
Actually I've never really been totally driven to be personally successful. More so I think I followed my passion. I fell into bike racing and really loved it. But when I do start something I tend to put everything into it. I think passion is what drives me more than success.
What drew you to Velocio?
It was an inspiration that grew as I was working with teams. During the years with Highroad and then running my own team, a big conversation was always surrounding the apparel. The fit, the performance of the fabric and the design. It continually became more apparent that the choice for women was very minimal. You could see apparel improving for women in yoga and running but there was a gap in the market when it came to cycling. Part of the passion in working in women's cycling was the goal of trying to grow the sport and possibilities for women. I figured that if women had beautiful, nicely cut, high quality clothing to wear it could be part of the excitement of going for a ride. We all know it's so much nicer riding when you look and feel great in your kit.
What has been the biggest challenge running your own line?
(Laughing) Living like a student! Anyone who's started a business knows how hard it is when you start from scratch. But I have two great partners. We knew from the beginning that the first few years were going to be a lot of work for very little financial reward and always with he risk of it not working. But it's also exciting being able to create something and see it come to life and we always had faith that we could make it work.
Who has been a woman mentor that has inspired you along the way?
It's more of a collective, of friends and family. My circle of friends and family, just knowing they are there for me has been the best inspiration. For me it's not really about a 'role model' but about supporting each other. There are so many women out there doing great things! And it's happening all around - and you see it - you see the possibilities and that is inspiring. Social media has been wonderful for women, and any minority sport or group for that matter, because there was a time when women didn't have a collective voice at our fingertips, and now we have the opportunity of knowing what else is going on and be able to encourage and support each others ideas.
When you're brainstorming for new kit ideas and design what has been a good source of inspiration?
Our goal from the beginning was about the fit and performance of the apparel and then creating a classic design that could be worn anywhere and stay fashionable from season to season. A classic look and sustainability is the foundation. But the magic behind the design really comes from my partner Brad. He's a very talented designer! We throw our ideas and opinions at him but he puts it all together.
If you could go back, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't get into your 40's and still be living like a student!....But no, not really. I am always really appreciative of the life I've been able to live through cycling. I love where I've ended up. When you choose to be a female bike racer and continue a career in women's cycling, you do it because you love it, not for the money. And of course, to try to make it better for the next generation of women. I've had great opportunities to meet so many wonderful people and live in so many different places. Building a business and seeing it grow is rewarding. I'm where I want to be right now.
What was the best advice you were given when you were first starting out?
Honestly - there wasn't really a lot of time for advice when we started Velocio. I called Brad up and I said, so what do think of this idea? And he said, yes let's do it. And that was that. We were up and going.
Personal or professional motto:
Oh, you know I don't really have a go-to motto. I guess my motto is just to stay optimistic. If times get tough, I always have in my head - just keep going - make it work.
Have you ever felt any adversity you have had to over come as a woman in your industry?
Ya, I think it's always a bit of a fight. Right from the beginning you're pushing for women - finding sponsorship in a world where investing in women is not the norm. But theres is so much good that is happening, more positive growth and our voices are being heard. I believe if you surround yourself with like-minded people who have a similar stance it seems possible. Like many parts of society, cycling has been a man's world and we have to keep pushing to change that.
What's the first thing you do every morning?
I know I shouldn't. But, I check my email. When you're running a business that is global or a team that's racing all over the world, you really have to wake up and see what's going on.
What does the world need more of? Less of?
More empathy! More real understanding of other people's experiences and points of view. What the current election in the US has made so clear, is that as a society, we are so polarized. We need to check ourselves and really make an effort to put ourselves in each other's shoes. For example, it's easy for us to simply say, 'I'm not racist' and just be done with it. But if you've never truly had to deal with racism against you then you don't know what that means and how it affects your life. We all need to learn to try to understand what something really means before we comment or force our opinion on others. And less of? Less hate and less judgement.
How do you reconnect?
Bike riding. There's nothing better than a bike ride with a good friend for clearing your mind and getting renewed energy. A ride followed by coffee of course. Things that have been on your mind or bugging you, all of a sudden seem so manageable. Also when home in Australia, diving in the ocean does the same thing.
What else needs to be said? This lady is pretty rad. Thank you Kristy, for your voice, for your continued passion and enthusiasm. I believe Kristy is right. Great things are happening in the female industry of cycling. Let us continue to be a collective voice, and come together when we can.