You May Know (Issue #2): Sally Bergesen

I hope you all enjoyed my conversation with the witty and talented, Mark Remy. If you haven't read it, catch up here. Today's article is about a person who has inspired me through her dedication to every runner; from the first-timer to the 4:15 miler; and the rights of runners, from what may would say is a one-sided, corporate system.

Ladies & Gentlemen: Sally Bergesen; founder of Oiselle Clothing.

Time to fly! But, first a selfie. Credit: Sally Bergesen

What can I say about her that you don't already know? I mean, she and Oiselle have just been crushing it since coming out of the gate in 2007. Not only do they have an ultra passionate fanbase, Sally has developed Oiselle to compete on a global level by ensnaring some of the greatest female athletes of our time; Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher (from the infamous swoosh), as well as a deep lineup of additional, highly competitive, elite athletes. 

To be honest, initially Sally took me by surprise. I had sort of heard of Oiselle, but knowing it was primarily a women's apparel line, I didn't pay much attention. But, then during a Ragnar Relay, my friend, Jillian (a diehard Oiselle fan) and I started talking about it. Jillian was so jazzed about Oiselle I had to see what all  the hoopla was about. Upon researching them, I started following Sally on Twitter, and I was immediately impressed. 

First, Sally leaves it all out there, which is refreshing to see from the head of a company, addressing her brand and audience from the ground up. To her, it's not about being behind a desk, reviewing P&L reports and barking orders. Sally's on the front line, either working at the store, writing a blog post, answering tweets (thank you) or leading a local run. 

Secondly, she doesn't mince words about the rights of all athletes and rallies against the corporate machines in the track and field category. She sees the biz for what it is and doesn't stand for it, putting her running family first and business second. If that doesn't inspire you, I'm not certain anything will.

Third, Sally's accessibility is unparalleled. As mentioned above, Sally is one of us. It's no doubt that thanks to her accessibility, Oiselle enjoys one of the most passionate  fan bases in the category.

Welcome! Credit: Sally Bergesen

Sally took some time out her busy day to give me some insight on her thoughts on running, the industry and what it means to have a passionate following.

JS: What does running mean to you?

SB: Freedom and friendship

JS: How did you start running? What was your motivation?

SB: I wanted to quit smoking. And I was dating a guy who was an athlete, so I wanted to impress him.

JS: Given your busy schedule of running and work, how do you manage to get in the miles?

SB: I block off time on my calendar for weekly workouts. Either Tuesday or Wednesday morning is always sacred time - and my team knows not to book me during that period.

JS: Is running a family affair?

SB: Yes, but we rarely do it together, except the occasional fun run. My husband has his weekly running buddy, my older daughter runs track and I do my thing with my group...running friends and co-workers.

JS: What's your take on jogging v. running? 

SB: Both are great! The label is not important. Getting out there is. 

JS: Fave race? Fave distance?

SB: I like the half marathon. All of April we're running a Full Half Challenge at Oiselle - to dispel the myth that a half marathon is "just a half." It's a full 13.1 miles!

JS: What are your future running goals? Are you training for anything coming up?

SB: I'd like to do Beat the Bridge 8k on May 15th and some other runs this summer.

JS: Your brand has quite a passionate following. How do you think brands need to act in the era of passionate and vocal fans?

SB: Just like people, brands can be mindful. I, myself am a passionate and vocal fan of the things I believe in, and the companies I support. So, it's relatively easy to translate that to Oiselle. Just being a team of women that are inclusive (what I'm calling "outclusive") has been a powerful starting point. Taking the good ideas and wishes of the team to a bigger, cultural dialogue is exciting to me. A unified group of people, even a small group, has the power to change the world. 

JS: Finally, you're a great champion of the relationship athletes have with brands, rather than just a paid endorsement approach. How do you think that has helped Oiselle in the space?

SB: Our interest in our athletes is so much more than a contract. They are relationships. And like any good relationship, they have to go both ways to be a win-win. This deeper level of engagement is both more difficult and more rewarding. I want to continue to do the hard but good things. There are too many brands that still solely value an athlete by their ability to be ranked and win races. We're much more interested in the full story of an athlete's life, and we're finding our community feels the same way. Athletes who compete only and don't share their story are missing a big opportunity for personal growth, connection and yes - sponsorship value. 

Author's note: That last answer got me right in the heart. 

Again, I'd like to thank Sally for her time in giving us a little insight on what makes her tick. If you aren't already following her on Twitter, I strongly urge you to start. She's pretty awesome, gang. 

The next installment of the "You May Know" series will be focused on one of the most well known running personalities on the planet. Chances are, if you've been to a major race, you've probably already been part of his loveably, albeit poorly-framed selfies.

Until next time, run fast. Run smart.