Wild Rye co-founder and CEO, Cassie Abel, sat down with the team behind Blister's Bikes & Big Ideas podcast to talk all things mountain biking. Wild Rye is known as company that creates apparel for women-identifying outdoor-lovers — from beginners to pros — regardless of age, background, size, or skill level. But as you are about to hear, Cassie is not only running a women’s apparel company, she is working to change the entire business landscape for women.
Catch part of her interview below and tune into the full episode here.
Q: What is Wild Rye?
A: Wild Rye launched in 2016 and we craft beautiful and technical mountain apparel for all who identify as women. We specialize in mountain bike and snow sports, first and foremost, but as we grow, we’re starting to push more into outdoor lifestyle.
Q: Why the name ‘Wild Rye’?
A: That’s a very good question. We actually launched under the name Buttermilk Mountain Apparel and very quickly received a cease and desist order; a very friendly one. But we had one week to change our name before winter inventory trims were finalized, which ended up being a blessing in disguise. I like the name Wild Rye way better than Buttermilk; it’s way more fitting for us. We like the idea of being wild but Wild Rye is a grass that grows at elevation and we are lovers of the high alpine, from snow sports to mountain biking and adventuring. As stressful as that week was, it definitely happened for a reason and we’re well on our way.
Q: What are some of the challenges of operating out of Sun Valley?
A: I mean, lots and lots. I could go on for days. So, hiring is challenging, housing is challenging; that’s nothing that’s going to surprise anyone. We were doing all of our shipping out of our office right here in Sun Valley. Up until about two months ago, we were hand packing and hand shipping every single order. Our post office gave us hell. Every time we’d drop off a bin of orders, that was really challenging from a morale standpoint; whoever had to drop the bin off at the post office was going to get an earful from whoever was behind the counter about how they don’t want to scan all of these packages, it’s too busy etc. We also had challenges getting our inventory in here. We found that the freight trucks only showed up to town once a week, so we had orders that were delayed, delayed, delayed for various reasons and find out that it’s stuck in Jerome, ID - an hour and a half away - and it won’t be delivered for another week. It’s so close yet so far away. I had my husband and myself driving down to Jerome in our truck to pick up pallets of bike shorts to just get them live. So, not without its challenges but I wouldn't do it anywhere else. It is such a special place and one of those places you have the support of a community. So many amazing brands were born here or have grown up here.
Q: What is Women Led Wednesday and what is the motivation behind it?
A: A day (much like Small Business Saturday) that's dedicated to elevating women-business leaders through collective purchasing. Women-Led Wednesday occurs annually the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I think it was 2018 when I started Women Led Wednesday. From my perspective, I felt like one of the challenges for women getting onto boards and into leadership roles is the right experience and women are more apt to bring other women up the ladder if there’s women in leadership. And women in leadership happens either when women start a brand or they have the opportunity to climb the ladder. I thought that if the general consumer made a point to shop women-led brands, and really financially support those women who are already in leadership even if they are at smaller brands, the more opportunities they are going to have to hire and bring those women up the ladder. It’s no secret that funding is incredibly lopsided in terms of supporting male-led brands vs women-led brands. So there were all of these intersections that pointed to ‘support women-led brands and we get more women in leadership.’ So, that’s where it came from.
Q: Tell us about the Pivot x Wild Rye Collaboration:
A: We just launched a collab with Pivot Cycles, which is exciting for me personally and for the brand. Like you said, I feel like we were thought of as “oh, the women-led brand with cute things on their shorts.” Pivot came to us and said “We’ve actually ridden your shorts, we’ve tested them, they are the most durable shorts we’ve ever ridden, and we want to do a collab with you because we value quality and precision and performance above all else. You guys are a good match for us." So that is exciting for us because I feel like we’re being acknowledged for more than just llamas on shorts, by the bike industry.
To learn more about Cassie's background, her thoughts on sustainability and how participating in the Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship is helping to push business forward, listen to the full episode here!