Entrepreneurial Endeavors: The Interviews - Page 2
Jenn Hughes, 34, of Sammamish, WA
Run Pretty Far
Jenn, pictured with partner Greg Manciagli.
Co-founder, Run Pretty Far: Eye-catching women’s running apparel designed with bright colors and inspiring slogans.
1. How did you get into trail running?
My first trail race was a classic old school ultra in the middle of nowhere, just a small group of friends that wanted to see how much they could torture themselves on a Saturday. It was November, pouring down rain, freezing cold, and everyone was happily miserable. I loved every second of it and never looked back at the road. Since then I feel so blessed to have competed in international multi-day stage races, lots of adventure running with friends and my first 100 milers.
2. Tell me a bit about the history of Run Pretty Far.
As my life became increasingly immersed in running, I was struck by how boring the performance apparel options were. I’m a pretty plain Jane girl—wearing black or gray most of the time—but for race day or for a super long run, I wanted a great tee to lift my spirits. That’s where Run Pretty Far was born: the desire to have true performance options with a fabulous graphic, font, color or message. Luckily, I wasn’t the only running lady who wanted this. In just over two years we’ve had a huge response from our customers, retailers and the press.
3. Where did you pick up the skills to accomplish what you have with RPF? Have you had mentors along the way?
Well mostly, I just have too much chutzpah. I had worked at Nordstrom Corporate so I felt like I had an understanding of the retail world, combined with several years working in small businesses including owning one of my own. I’ve always been passionate about thoughtful consumer marketing and I knew that Run Pretty Far was a story that should and could be told.
I have not had any mentors yet with RPF. It’s been a find-my-own-way adventure. But, I have had many, many people who unfailingly believe in me. Friends, family, and customers that consistently encourage me and remind me how relevant RPF is. I would be lost without them.
4. Do you struggle to find time to run/train while also running a small business?
The first summer we were on the road, exhibiting at races up and down the west coast. My running became very spotty and as a result I felt like a fraud. I learned quickly that keeping my running up is crucial to my mental state, not to mention my backside. I am lucky to have an extremely patient and supportive partner that helps me find the time, but it does require a lot of creative hours to make it work.
5. What has been the most rewarding part of your work? How about the most challenging?
Even with a clear vision, it can take a while for concept and reality to coalesce. So one of the most rewarding things has been, after two years of work, starting to produce designs that are finally what I originally visualized RPF to be. However, since the first day, it has been wonderful to see how much RPF connects with women. I meet so many women that are inspired by our company message and that lights me up and makes me want to keep going.
The most challenging aspect is definitely financial. Trying to keep our personal life paid for while we throw every dollar back into the business adds a lot of daily stress. RPF is entirely self-funded with no investors and as a result that means we are usually very cash-flow poor. Both Greg (my partner) and I work lots of odd jobs to find a way to pay the mortgage.
6. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea, something that keeps coming back to you as viable in the marketplace, then find a way to cautiously vet it. Get feedback and be open to hearing what people have to say. At some point, though, you’ll have to take that leap where you say, “We’re doing this!” After that hold on, and get ready for your life to change.
Also, find a solid partner. I’ve started another business solo and it was lonely! The value of a teammate cannot be understated. It’s an around the clock, all-consuming adventure and going it alone is rough. Even if it’s not a full partner, find someone that will complement your strengths and work with you on the start-up.
Read on for a Q&A with Caleb Simpson of Bearded Brothers snackfood and energy-bar company ...