As our sixth birthday approaches, we’re excited to celebrate and reflect on the last year, which has been a year filled with HUGE wins and some speed bumps too. Over the last year – with fearless leader Cassie Abel at the helm – Wild Rye was featured in Forbes, became a certified B Corp, doubled down on reducing its environmental impact, partnered with Ladies AllRide, sponsored the Red Bull Formation, launched at Nordstrom and expanded into every single REI store, joined the P.O.W. Bike Alliance, and raised close to $20k for Planned Parenthood…all while rocking some truly kickass new overalls.
Whew, pretty wild stuff for only being six years old.
We sat down with Cassie to review some of the highlights and stress-hive inducing lows that she’s experienced over the last year. In this interview, we talk about rapid growth and the challenges that come along with it, why being a community-centric company is so important, and how she sees Wild Rye continuing to make a difference in the industry.
Q: THIS YEAR HAS CLEARLY BEEN HUGE FOR THE BRAND, WHAT ARE A FEW MOMENTS THAT FEEL TRULY PIVOTAL?
A: Oh geez haha, that’s honestly a hard one to answer. This year has been a series of huge moments for Wild Rye. That sounds like a brag but it’s not! Well, not entirely. We’ve been working our tails off to serve our people and the planet better and are eternally proud of the milestones we’ve made. [insert: celebrate emoji] Wild Rye has always aspired to be more than a pretty face…ahem, a pretty pair of bike shorts. We’re a vehicle for change — with goals to change how women-identifying adventurers are welcomed into the outdoors, supported and respected. This is of course, all while protecting the places we play every step of the way.
- On the business front: Moving into a new office space and hiring three more full-time employees and countless (rad) freelancers, being featured on Forbes, and launching our lifestyle line, the Freyah MTB pant and so much more. Bridging that gap from technical riding gear to day-to-day clothing while staying true to ourselves was a challenge we welcomed with open arms. Like you overalls-owners know, the product didn’t disappoint and as a result, our overalls have quickly become one of our top sellers. Stand by for a growing active lifestyle collection in seasons to come. ;)
- On the community front: with everything happening in the US and the world right now, really stepping up and putting our money where our mouth is is the most gratifying part of running Wild Rye. It’s been a tough year for women and we’re proud to be one of (if not the) loudest outdoor brand standing up for reproductive healthcare rights. Since our first Fragile Like Bomb benefit tank through our third launch of our Bikes, Baddies, Brews and NO Bans benefit tee we’ve raised close to 20k for Planned Parenthood and local Abortion Funds.
- On the badassery front: Two major partnerships stand out. Partnering with Lindsey Richter and Ladies AllRide has been a two-year work in progress! I am so proud to be aligned with the work she does to empower women nation-wide. Secondly our partnership with Red Bull Formation (as cheesy as it sounds) was something out of a dream. I’d put all things Red Bull on a pedestal, seemingly out of reach, so when we had the opportunity to support this event I had to pinch myself. Then, being there in person, watching the progression of all the incredible athletes over the course of the week was endlessly inspiring. These women are BAD-A$$.
- On the fashion front: Getting into Nordstroms was HUGE. Selling in such a massive and well-known retailer is an incredible vote of confidence in our product! Why is the Nordstrom partnership so important to us? It allows us to reach an entirely new customer demographic who are just dipping their toes in outdoor and adventure sports. Our hope with this opportunity is to reach even more women who deserve a welcoming access point to try mountain biking, skiing or other outdoor adventure sports!
- On the collab front: This marks our second year of collaboration with Pivot Cycles and our 5th year of collaboration with everyone’s favorite headwear and accessories brand, Skida (not one, but two fall collaborations coming soon)!
- On the women front: Our efforts to make progress for women are an all-day, every-day effort. But we’re so excited that this year marks our fifth year of the Women-Led Wednesday effort. When we launched the holiday back in 2018, we never dreamed it would grow to support so many women-led brands. But here we are. We can’t wait to share what’s in store for this year's holiday season. In the meantime, if you know any women-led brands that should get involved, please direct them here!
Q: TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT COME ALONG WITH RAPID GROWTH AND HOW YOU OVERCAME THEM
A: While the last year has been filled with so many reasons to celebrate, it’s also been the hardest year of my professional life. This is where I get real. We’ve encountered countless delays with transportation and supply chain. We’ve pulled our hair out over seemingly endless warehouse mistakes. We’ve let down some key retailers with late deliveries which has been painful for me as a leader. I’ve learned so much, but not without some pretty serious stress (hello, stress-induced hives!) Additionally, as the world reopens and there’s reason to travel for business again, I’ve had to truly learn what it is to be a working parent of a toddler. I’ve agonized over “do I go to xyz work event that has the potential to change the trajectory of my business” or stick close to home to be available for my family (always feels like I’m disappointing someone). Pile on the fear of an impending recession all while fundraising and committing to our growth, it’s been a doozy. Finally, and far from the least important, is the constant pain of the state of our country and news cycle. The disrespect of humans here in the USA, from bans on reproductive rights, trans bans, threats to gay marriage and LGBTQ+ rights, the pillaging of our planet, I personally (likely like many of you) have felt this pain and suffering deeply, sometimes to a paralyzing degree.
Q: WILD RYE RECENTLY BECAME B CORP CERTIFIED, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY THAT WAS SUCH AN IMPORTANT STEP FOR YOU?
A: When I first heard about B Corp several years ago, I assumed that it was a sustainability certification like Climate Neutral (which is also super rad), but as I dug in I learned it encompasses so much more than that. B Corp certifies a brand’s commitment to its people (from factory worker to in-house team), its community (in our case, WOMEN!), in addition to a clean, sustainable supply chain. I believe so strongly in this certification for countless reasons, but in our case, it ensures protections as we grow, take on investors and so much uncertainty yet to come. It serves as our north star when making big (and small) business decisions!
Q: THERE ARE A LOT TO CHOOSE FROM, BUT WHAT MOMENT FROM THE PAST YEAR ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
A: There are so many moments I have been so proud of. I was proud when Nordstrom placed its first PO, proud of the Forbes piece, proud to become B Corp certified, SO proud to hire each and every one of our current (and past) employees, proud to partner with SheJumps, Ladies AllRide and Red Bull Formation, and proud to continue welcoming even more women into the outdoors. But honestly, I'm most proud, every time one of you writes in to let us know how much of a difference we’re making for YOU.
Q: IT’S BEEN A PRETTY REMARKABLE 6 YEARS, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR WILD RYE IN THE FUTURE?
A: The goals are endless, but in broad strokes, my ultimate goal for Wild Rye is to be THE go-to outdoor and adventure sports apparel brand for women-identifying adventurers; giving back and supporting our communities every step of the way. As we grow, we hope to broaden our communities, continue our work to do better by the planet, and lift up our entire Wild Rye fam including customers, employees, pro-teamers, partners, and beyond! We have work to do, but I deeply believe we’re on the right path thanks to your support.
Finally, while we started as a mountain bike and snow-sports soft goods brand, as we grow, you’ll notice we’ve added and will continue to add more bike and ski adjacent pieces to complete your adventurous lifestyles. We are also continuing to expand our size range to include and embrace more bodies and reinforce our belief that the outdoors are for everyone.
Thank you for being part of our amazing community and growing with us through both the challenges and successes. We couldn't do this without you. We look forward to another incredible six years of outdoor adventures!
WRITTEN BY REN EGNEW