Outdoor Voices Founder Tyler Haney on Running, Rejection, and Having No Regrets
By Liza Darwin
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a marathon, sweating in spin class, or taking your dog for a walk: you’re Doing Things. And hopefully, you’re having fun while doing them. That’s the mission behind Outdoor Voices, an activewear brand that—shocker!—you’ll actually want to wear, regardless of whether you’re doing interval training or playing frisbee in the park.
After graduating from Parsons, the brand’s founder and Chief Jogger Babe (best job title ever?) Tyler Haney wanted to combine her sports-filled childhood with her fashion degree in a friendly, all-inclusive way. “All of the athletic apparel out there was made for really intense competition (or designed to look like it was, in shiny black and neon), and I couldn’t stop thinking about creating a brand that approached it differently,” she told us. Now, her instantly-recognizable leggings and crop tops are beloved by the likes of Lena Dunham, Chloe Moretz, and hoards of cool girls on your Instagram feed (speaking from experience, we can attest to its amazingness). See how Tyler made it here.
What were you like as a teen?
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and spent a ton of time outside. In high school, I played basketball and ran track (I was big on hurdling—faster than the boys!), and in my free time hiked the Flatirons and hung out with my friends. I shed a little bit of my crunchiness when I moved to New York for school, but on a good day you can still catch me in Chacos.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
I would tell my younger self to trust your gut and speak up more. There were a lot of decisions I made—like taking time off between high school and college—that some people told me weren’t the right thing to do, but I knew they were right for me.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
When I stopped playing sports competitively after school, being active took on a bit of a different meaning for me. It was more about playing pick-up with friends or jogging for the joy of it than trying to be the fastest or best. I wanted to create a brand that celebrated activity for fun. I launched Outdoor Voices out of school and haven’t looked back since. It’s been really cool to bring together a team—and a larger community—around what we’re building. What's one thing you wish had known then that you know now about having a career? You can’t do everything by yourself. It’s so important to build a team of people you trust around your vision to help bring it to life.
It’s hard not to take the business side of business—the haters, the doubters, the investors who don’t believe in you—personally. What’s your advice for dealing?
This comes back to trusting your gut. I was told “no” by a lot of investors in the early days (really, a lot). Instead of taking it personally and getting discouraged, I focused on turning every single "no" into a “yes,” and in the process refined my pitch, improved my process, and built the confidence to see my dream through.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My mom instilled a few things in us as kids that have stuck with me my entire life—and been a big part of the success of Outdoor Voices. She had this saying, “TYB, baby!" which is short for, "Try your best.” and used to say it to me and my siblings on our way out the door. It didn’t matter if we were going to school or soccer practice or a slumber party, she always encouraged us to give it our absolute best. That attitude informs the approach we use at Outdoor Voices: to take on everything we do with unbounded enthusiasm and persistence. So: TYB, baby!