Why woman-owned companies that produce triathlon and cycling clothes are winning

Coeur has attended many women's specific events like the Women’s Running and Fitness expo in Chicago. The show is produced by Formula 4 Media and it will try to help manufacturers and retailers target the estimate $9 billion women’s health and fitness market.

Consequently, we thought we’d take a moment to provide five reasons, endurance sports companies run by women are winning. As with every blog we post, this is only our opinion and we’re certainly open to other views. In addition, we’re not suggesting at all that this is a men against women game or that companies run by men can’t produce great gear.

That being said, we do think that there are some distinct differences in how women consumers think and it is likely that women-owned companies have something of an advantage when it comes to marketing to this group. So with that as context, here are our five reasons:

1. We don’t think business is a zero sum game and we actually admire some other women-owned companies.

Spoiler alert. At Coeur, we think Oiselle is pretty cool and, as Brand Betty says, “Bad Ass is Beautiful.” Ahh!! Holy smoke! Did you just mention two competitors by name? And by all that is good and right, how could you pay them a compliment? Are you insane? Isn’t that a marketing faux pas?? You’re doomed I tell you! Doomed! 

Actually, we don’t think we are. Now, we do think both companies have cool and interesting designs and we think their founders are pretty darn cool too. We also happen to think Coeur has a good thing going too (have you seen our seamless chamois?).  We also think there’s room for all of us. Business doesn’t have to be “war” and we don’t think it is a zero sum game. In fact, just the opposite. The more companies that are led by women, the greater the likelihood that the young lady thinking about entering her first triathlon or doing her first running event will find something that is perfect for her. And the more often her needs are met, the greater the likelihood that she’ll become an advocate for endurance sports and make health and fitness a permanent part of her life. To borrow a phrase, we believe that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” So if you’re a woman thinking about getting into the biz, give us a shout. We’re glad to share our lessons learned.

Book Cover A rising tide


2. We are Cyclists, Triathletes, Runners, and Swimmers. AKA..our customer.

Sure, we’re the same species. Men and women both have two arms, two legs and the majority of the pieces are the same. But in many other ways, we’re worlds apart. That’s why it’s tough for “non-women” (trying to not call anyone out here) to design women's cycling gear, triathlon clothing, running shorts etc. etc. The “non-women” rarely think about food when designing a garment. But culinary descriptors are among the first things women designers try to combat when laying out the pattern for their next garment. Make the leg holes too tight and you get the “Sausage Links”. Can’t have that. Reduce the stretchiness of the waist and….floomph! It’s a “Muffin Top”! And don’t even get us started on the issue related to the term “ham”!

The fact is that there are some very important things about a woman’s body that only a woman can truly know. Women who run companies that design endurance sports apparel know that to succeed, they need to make gear that, while superficially similar to a man’s garment is, in reality, world’s different.

3. We’re not just about the bottom line.

At Coeur, we’re proponents of a concept called Conscious Capitalism. One of the key tenants of this philosophy is that the sole purpose of a business is not to just maximize profits. Apologies to Mr. Friedman. Now a company needs to make a profit but that is not its Raison d'être. Along those lines, a person needs to eat to live but very few people feel eating is their primary purpose in life. We don’t think we’re alone in this belief. Many women-led companies share this or a similar philosophy. Maybe it’s our nurturing nature or some other maternal instinct in us but whatever it is, the idea of working toward a goal that is bigger than ourselves is very compelling. On a related, note, the ironic fact that appears to be coming out is that companies that focus on others more than they focus on their bottom line actually appear to provide disproportionately good returns on investment. Now to be clear, we didn’t invent Conscious Capitalism but we do think the concept resonates strongly with women.

4. We’re really social.

There’s a joke that goes “No one would run a marathon if they had to promise not to tell someone about it.” Funny right? And to a certain extent it’s true. Not just because people want to brag. Rather, when you experience something amazing, it’s just human nature to want to tell people about it. At Coeur, we think endurance sports provide an incredible number of amazing experiences. And women are (as a general rule) very interested in sharing and hearing about them.

5. We’re not trying to win.

Ok, full disclosure here. The only reason, we used the term “Winning” in the title of the post was to get your attention. For us, winning isn’t the main goal. Rather, it’s really about the inputs and the process. Take great ideas and add a lot of hard work and the results should take care of themselves. We’re not constantly obsessing over who we’re beating or who is beating us. We're just trying to make great gear and to inspire women to embrace a lifestyle of health and fitness.

In our humble opinion, it’s very similar to a race. If you train hard, recover properly, get your head right and then leave it all out on the race course, everything else will generally take care of itself.

Reginald Holden