Monthly Archives: May 2009

Reflections and Lessons from Two Years as an Entrepreneur

Last week someone commented on a blog entry I posted almost a year ago.  Not only did this person’s user name give me a big smile (frankelstache), the comment they left did as well.  “I googled something for a work project and ended up here. Fu&*ing a’, man. Very inspiring and wise words. I know it’s been a year since you wrote this, but I hope things are only looking up.  Good luck.”

I re-read that blog entry and preceded to re-read every post I’ve made in the last year plus of blogging.  It has been two years since the red shirt experience that launched me into the crazy world of entrepreneurship.  Over the past 24 months, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  I have met many new friends and become even closer to current ones.  And I have most definitely learned a thing or two…or three.  I have learned a lot about starting a company (Lesson #1:  It’s all about cash flow).  But more importantly, I have learned a lot about life.  In looking back on my blog entries, I realized I had many nuggets of wisdom (is that arrogant to deem my own words wise?) hidden in my ramblings.  Here are five of my favorites.

1) Don’t sit around waiting for your real life to begin.  Your real life is now.

2) It is not about what keeps you up at night, it is what gets you out of bed in the morning.

3) A random high 5 can go a long way in someone’s day.

4) When it comes to positive change, the responsibility is all of ours.

5) Regardless of your situation, you can always find a few sources of optimism and things for which to be grateful.

If you have some similar words of wisdom to share, I would love to hear them.

It’s Like an Eye Opener

Wednesday was the first day for one of our summer interns, Brian.  I have known Brian for a long time; probably dating back to when he was 7.  He is Mike’s younger cousin, and I am very close with the entire family.  In fact, his parents were one of the first very smart people to invest in Atayne.

I must note that Brian being an intern is not at all a case of nepotism.  He is a great kid (well, I guess I have to call him a man now), and he is the reason we decided to bring on interns this summer.  It was a thought in my mind, but he reached out to me this spring saying he would love the opportunity to intern with Atayne.  I offered him a position and then decided to explore bringing on a couple other college students.

While one of the reasons for the intern program is to help me cross off some things on my “To Do List” that have been piling up the last 2 years, there is also another major reason for it.  I want to expose some young, energetic minds to the idea that business can be a tool for positive change.  Maybe one of the Atayne interns will go on to start the next Stonyfield Farms, Ben & Jerry’s, Honest Tea, or Atayne.

As part of Brian’s first day, I had him devote most of it to reviewing some great resources to help get him in the Atayne frame of mind.  One thing in particular I had Brian watch was the Story of Stuff .  If you have not seen it yet, it is well worth the 20 minutes.  As Brian said, “At first I was like, great this thing is 20 minutes…. but once it started I got into it.  It was really good.”

After watching the movie, Brian dug a little deeper.  He went to the Another Way section of the website and eventually made his way to the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.  He started to explore the database, entering products that he uses daily, from toothpaste to soap.  He soon realized that most of the products he used had pretty high toxicity levels.  One thing he found very interesting is that sunscreen, a product designed to help prevent skin cancer, contains a lot of chemicals that are linked to cancer.  As Brian put it, “It seems counter productive. It’s like an eye opener.”

If that is the only thing that Brian learns this summer, the internship program was a success in my book.  Brian learned something in one day, that unfortunately, most adults never have their eyes opened to.  I would encourage everyone to follow Brian’s lead.  Learn about and pay attention to what is in the products you buy.  From food and clothing to furniture and toys, it sometimes is mind boggling when you consider all the harmful materials and chemicals with which we surround ourselves and our children.

On a positive note, there are companies who are making products that aren’t so harmful to people and the planet.  Learn a few chemicals to avoid (we try to avoid parabens, for one) and make your job easier by shopping at a retailer with knowledgeable staff.

The Point of View is the Point

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?  I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
-RFK

In my last post, I mentioned that Atayne will be expanding the graphics we offer with the launch of version 2.0 of our tops.  This is something that has generated a lot of excitement from the Atayne community.  We know people’s active pursuits are about more than just running and include cycling, hiking, yoga, paddling, rock climbing, rowing, skiing…the list goes on and on.

It surprises me (although it shouldn’t) that we’re sometimes asked the question, “Why do your shirts all have sayings, statements, or symbols?”  To us, it’s kind of like asking why does your country have a constitution and a flag?

Here is the thing: the point of view is the point.

To us, the alignment of technical excellence with environmental and social consciousness without an obvious point of view is like a beautifully engineered and handcrafted sailboat without a rudder.  Plain and simple, our products wouldn’t exist without the point of view.  In fact, everything we do, we do with a point of view.

  • We don’t just make athletic gear; we make athletic gear from trash.
  • We are not just building a company; we are gathering a community of people who blend determination with talent and set a course toward ambitious dreams.
  • We don’t chase cheap labor around the globe; we look for factories in our backyard to create jobs for the community that is buying our products.
  • We don’t just go out for a run, bike ride, or stroll en route to the gym or yoga; we pick up trash along the way.

There are thousands upon thousands of people who pass day-by-day with plain old shirts emblazoned with the marks and logos of multi-million dollar corporations. But then, there are those, like you and me, with something to say.  It is we, who when united in a shared point of view, create the winds of change.

That’s my point of view, I welcome yours.

POV (Point of View) Top Version 2.0

Last week I took one of the new Atayne fit samples out for a run.  Not only was this the first run in version 2.0 of our performance tops, it was my first run in several weeks.  I have been struggling with pain in the patella tendon in my left knee.  I have tried a number of things to solve the problem from the standard R.I.C.E. and stretching to ART (Active Release Techniques), foam rolling, and yoga.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to shake it.  I know I should go see a physical therapist, but as an entrepreneur who has not seen a pay check in 2 years, I do not have extra cash lying around or good health insurance.  (If anyone knows or is a physical therapist in Southern Maine who might want to cut a financially poor, but energetically rich entrepreneur a deal, I would love an intro!)

Anyway, back to test run.  As expected, the fabric was great.  It was comfortable, breathable, and dried very quickly.  While people may question a late April run in Maine as a test for these things, the weather that day proved to be good test conditions.  It was sunny and in the mid-80s F so I was able to get a decent sweat on.

Fabric and fit aside, there are a couple things about version 2.0 of our POV tops that I am especially excited about.

Women's 4Rs POV Top
Women’s 4Rs POV Top

First, we are using a new process for our shirt graphics that will allow us to offer many more designs.  The graphics will span across a range of active pursuits: running, cycling, yoga, mountain biking, hiking, etc.  One thing will remain the same though: staying true to our current 4Rs and RHTL graphics, all designs will express an environmental message while promoting an active lifestyle.  Our opinion is you should promote your values and not a multi-million dollar brand.

Second, our tops will include one of the most innovative developments in environmentally-friendly performance gear.  We call it the loop and it works like this. Play hard.  Rinse top in the shower.  Hang to dry.  Repeat.  Okay, so maybe it is not that innovative, but the simplicity of it is pure genius.  Here is why.

The Loop
The Loop

Studies show that 80% of the energy used by apparel over the course of its life comes from consumer care.   This means that the most effective thing that can be done to reduce the impact of apparel on the environment is to design it to be able to be washed and dried less.  Whether people actually hang the tops from the loop is not necessary.  It is just as effective if it serves as a reminder to hang to dry.  Remember: Don’t be a Dupe, Use the Loop.

Right now we are on schedule to launch Version 2.0 of our POV tops in late August/early September.

On another note, a couple months ago I shared the preliminary designs for our 2009 line .  For those of you who may be wondering about the status of the other items, we have had to delay the launch of our men’s and women’s bottoms.  Unfortunately, the economy made it too risky to invest the money to bring these to market.  If things continue on the current upswing, we hope to be able to launch them in Spring 2010.

If anyone has thoughts about other environmental “innovations” or point of view graphics, I would love to hear them.