Monthly Archives: September 2008

Running With Tommy

Before I get into the meat of this entry, I want to point out two things.  First, I created a new page (4 Million Steps) in the blog.  I am going to use this to post, word for word, Tommy Neeson’s updates from the road.

Second, since Mike is now in house, he wants to join the blogging fun.  While I continue to focus on the trials and tribulations of growing Atayne, he will take a lighter approach.  I invite you to check out his blog, Polka Dot Shorts.  Just don’t forget about me!

Now on with the show…

Running With Tommy

Running With Tommy

This past Saturday, Mike, Paige (a.k.a. Paige T, a frequent commenter here), Andrew (one of Atayne’s newest friends), and I arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in Falls Church, VA at 8:30am to meet Tommy and start the day’s journey to Dale City.  This was just another day of running (Day 24 to be exact) for Tommy. But for us, it turned out to be an experience we will not soon forget.

For those of you that have not had the pleasure to meet Tommy, he looks like a runner.  He is on the short side (sorry Tommy! but then again most people are shorter than me), slim, and has a near perfect running stride.  To virtually meet Tommy, check out the video he just posted to his website.  I am not going to detail every step (about 39,000) of our run, but I will share a few highlights.

Before we started, I was adamant that Tommy would not push his jog stroller of stuff for one step on this day.  He had plenty more days of stroller pushing ahead of him, and a day off was well deserved.  I decided I would take the reins to start.  Pushing a jog stroller may seem easy, but let me tell you it is not.  The thing is loaded with 75 days worth of Tommy’s gear and supplies – shoes, shorts, shirts (6 from Atayne!), towels, gel packs, water, a camera, etc.  Bottom-line: it is heavy, especially when running up the rolling hills of Northern Virginia.

I pushed the stroller about 10 miles, while Andrew and Mike both did around 6.  One of us could have pushed it the whole way, but we all wanted to experience what Tommy does every day.  Our analysis: it is tough!  (To you parents, it may be obvious that none of us are fathers or we might have experienced this to a degree prior to Saturday.) Check out some of the action.  I apologize for the low quality footage.  Taking video while running is apparently an acquired skill.

Most of us enjoy the luxury of running on sidewalks or running paths.  Tommy faces new challenges on a daily basis.  Creating a running route in an unfamiliar area using Google Maps is not the easiest thing.  You never know what conditions you will encounter.  On this day we found ourselves running on Route 1, against speeding traffic with no shoulder.  Not the smartest thing to do, but we did not have much of a choice.  Yet, this is something that Tommy is facing nearly every day on his journey of 4 Million Steps —  all while pushing an overweight stroller that should have power steering.

I do not want to create the impression this was a miserable experience.  It was a blast, and I would do it again in a second.

At one point in the run, we stopped in front of a strip mall of stores because Tommy had to adjust the tape on his nipples. (Apparently he is a chronic nipple chafer.)  While stopped, a man approached and asked where we were headed. (It was more than just academic interest: this gentleman was the track coach at a high school in Springfield, VA.)  Tommy told the story, and the coach asked if he could write him a check on the spot.  I am not sure how much he gave, but I was impressed by this man’s spontaneous generosity.  Tommy said this was the 22nd time this had happened!

Why did I feel the need to write about Tommy again in my blog?  I think part of it is because Tommy’s journey is harder than I ever imagined.  He is not just running 30 miles a day, something a very small percentage of people could actually do.  He is doing it without a support vehicle and only a jog stroller.  And he is doing it in the face of frequent bad roads, no shoulders, and unhappy drivers.

A part of me left Tommy wondering, “Why the 4 Million Steps journey?”  Not that volunteering is always a selfish act, but he has nothing to gain.  He lost his daughter.  So why is he doing it?  I guess it comes down to my parting quote on my last blog, from my favorite author:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” ~Dr. Seuss.

Tommy cares an awful lot.  I think he wants to just make things better for the next family that has to deal with what his family had to face.  It’s just that simple.

Without knowing it, Tommy found a way to inspire me to do even more good for the environment and society through Atayne and my personal life (so please stay tuned).  And I hope he inspires you to do something that might push you out of your comfort zone, all for the joy of knowing you made a difference.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.” ~William James


Back from the Brief Silence

For those of you who follow my blog and look forward to my posts (I am pretty sure there are a few of you out there other than my mom, dad, and girlfriend), I apologize for the recent silence.  Despite the lack of noise on the blog, things have been very loud and exciting in the house of Atayne.

Inventorying in the basement

Inventorying in the basement

The day that I have anticipated for the last 15 months finally arrived: at 9:30am on Thursday, August 21 the first shipment of Atayne product arrived!  The following 4 days I spent nearly every waking hour inspecting and inventorying the shipment.  This was not and easy task as I was confined to a small room, in a basement.  Just one of the many joys of being an entrepreneur.

Plastic waste from a small product order

Plastic waste from a small product order

The shipment acceptance process was an eye opener.  Upon opening the first box, I realized that every shirt was individually wrapped in a plastic bag.  Every single shirt!  ”What waste,” is all I could think about as I opened each bag.  But then I realized this was yet another opportunity to create a positive change, industry-wide.  My goal is to work with my already socially responsible manufacturer to find a better way to ship, but still protect product from water damage during shipping.

My first thought, “How does Patagonia (one of the greenest companies out there) handle shipping?”  I soon learned from a former Patagonia employee that all Patagonia products are individually shipped in plastic (from manufacturing site to retail).  An opportunity for Atayne to raise the bar to benefit people and planet! I love it.

The Atayne Event Set

The Atayne Event Set

The following weekend (Labor Day) Atayne officially launched sales at the Virginia Beach Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon.  We loaded our event set and 5 bins of product into the Civic Hybrid (a very tight fit) and headed out for the weekend.

Not really knowing what to expect, I would say it turned out to be a great launch.  We sold Atayne tops to strangers who had never heard of Atayne — and who were not hard-core environmentalists.  People were genuinely excited about the brand and products. (Two people left our booth wearing the shirts. And several planned to wear them during the half-marathon.)

To my Atayne investors, nothing indicated excitement more than consumers willingness to pay full retail price for a premium top — in the face of heavily discounted apparel by brands like Nike and Brooks a few steps away, AND in the midst of an economic downturn.

On top of that we raised nearly $500 on behalf of Tommy Neeson.  Be sure to check in on Tommy. He is now in Connecticut, arriving in NYC on September 11.

Mike after the Dances with Dirt 50k Race

Mike after the Dances with Dirt 50k Race

And to cap off a busy 10 days, I (and Atayne) moved out of the basement!  We are now above ground with a great new home office and Mike is officially my sugar daddy (I think I should be scared).

On the horizon: Web sales coming as soon as we can get the technology sorted out as well as more events.  Make sure you check the schedule online so you can stop by and visit.

Once again thanks for everyone’s support.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax