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How a 24-year-old graduate built a $100 million company competing with top brands

Outdoor Voices became popular with a product that bridges the gap between activewear and everyday fashion. They built a cult around their mission to get the world moving by simply #DoingThings. And, it’s not surprising that the company managed to disrupt not only athleisure but the fashion industry as a whole.

In 2013, Tyler Haney was a 24-year-old graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York.

One day she went out for a run simply to clear her head when she suddenly realized that her workout outfits looked and felt like they were made for competitive athletes. And here is how the idea of an athletic wear brand for everyday activities like walking the dog or hiking with friends was born.

She immediately began researching and hunting down fabrics from mills that are technical fabrics but didn’t look and feel technical.

When Haney made the first prototype – now known as an OV Kit – her friends insisted on having their own, and soon a company was born.

Since then, Outdoor Voices has raised close to $60 million from investors and has around 350 employees.

Related story: Moiz Ali Built a $100M Business in 2.5 Years — After Reading the Axe’s Deodorant Label

Bridging the gap between existing markets

In a highly competitive market with big brands leading the way for decades, Haney saw an opportunity and grabbed it.

The first big differentiation is clearly in the target market. Outdoor Voices aims at people who are active but who are not defined by it.

That’s just the opposite of what brands like Nike and Under Armour. They focus on professionals, while Outdoors Voices focuses on recreationals.

Outdoor Voices also differentiate themselves from pure specialty brands like Lululemon for yoga clothes and Babolat for performance tennis gear by focusing on being active and doing things instead of performing a specific task.

Second, Outdoor Voices expanded its reach to people looking for clothing that combined straightforward activewear and everyday clothes.

Their clothing is made from the same kind of material as other activewear, making them odor-resistant and form-fitting. Still, it is designed to be fashionable enough to wear beyond fitness activities.

Being situated between two existing and competitive markets is difficult. But Outdoor Voices nailed it by having the functionality of the activewear and attractiveness of a fashion brand.

Have a mission that unlocks new kinds of behavior

Outdoor Voices has been on a mission to get the world moving. Being active doesn’t always have to mean you’re an athlete. It’s about doing things with moderation, ease, humor, and delight.

While other activewear brands, like Nike or Under Armour, use high-performance Olympians in shiny, neon mesh, or spandex to communicate their messages, Outdoor Voices focuses on everyday people being active in accessible ways.

Tap into a community that isn’t being represented

Bridging the gap between active and recreational apparel, Outdoor Voices has tapped into a community of people who would otherwise be ignored by most activewear brands. Instead of hosting 10K races or Spartan Runs, they invest in more social, casual events, like group dog runs or outdoor yoga. That gives their customers a way to engage with the brand at their own pace, without feeling the pressure to be athletes and high performers (something Nike and other activewear brands promote).

Brilliant use of influencers and social media to reach their communities

Social is a big thing for them. Their first massive social campaign involved about 300 influencers with an active following that got everyone to talk about the brand.

People post with their hashtag “Doing Things to show how they use Outdoor Voices products in their daily lives. They feature everything from yoga and hiking to weight-lifting and running.

This not only acts as promotion for the brand but also helps customers feel like they’re a part of a larger community.

With a huge army of passionate customers, it is easy to spread the word out like wildfire.

Related story: Humans crave an experience, not a product – a brilliant idea that costs $0.12

Key takeaways

It’s not pure luck that made Outdoor Voices famous. They’ve got it all to disrupt the market and become a major player in athleisure.

Product market fit is key

Outdoor Voices found a place between two highly competitive markets and created a product that fit the need of customers who weren’t hardcore athletes and wanted fashionable activewear.

To find a market fit, you need to create a product, that solve a problem and then show your customers how it solves it.

Differentiation is key

Positioning yourself as a brand serving a particular market segment is key to success. You can’t please everyone and you don’t have to. You just have to find a place in the market that is entirely yours. Just like Outdoor Voices rejected athletes and high performance to target recreationals.

Focus on digital

From the beginning, Outdoor Voices has predominantly been an ecommerce brand, while their competitors typically depend on physical retail locations. Their online business accounts for 70 percent of sales. They have physical locations, too, but their selling is focused almost completely online. This gives them a huge competitive advantage because their rivals are not optimized enough for online customers.

Build an active community on social media

Depending on your brand and products, social media might be your best performing marketing channel. It’s all about the right message and creating a sense of community. Getting people to promote your brand through user-generated content is the ultimate goal of every brand, and it can only be achieved with a great product and raving customers.

Our expert team can help you with anything related to selling online and growing your business, like boosting conversion, improving your shopping experience, recommending solutions for taxes, payments, shipping, and software integrations.

We also stand out from the crowd with ongoing content resources, like our Ecommerce Empire series, and our offering of growth and launch services where you will work with a dedicated ecommerce expert to help you plan for success.

Write us at info@airdesigns.us or set a quick call with us to to discuss your most urgent needs for the holiday season.

Elena Velikova

Elena Velikova

Co-founder & CEO

Success stories6 min read

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