Tyler Haney is the founder of Outdoor Voices, an activewear company based in New York City. Haney founded the brand in 2014 at the age of 24, after studying design and business at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Haney grew up in Boulder, Colorado and spent most of her childhood outside, going on hikes and playing various sports throughout school. Recreation was built into her everyday life, and though she was participating in competitive sports, she also knew that being active could be just for fun as well.
While a student at Parsons, Haney found herself sick of wearing the same shiny black spandex. She wanted activewear items that were made out of a functional material and could be incorporated into her everyday wardrobe. She began researching technical yarns and found a fabric mill at a tradeshow who agreed to help her develop a new fabric. Haney ended up creating her first fabric called ‘textured compression’, which manages sweat, creates a flattering fit, and is made in a wide range of colors. By the time she graduated college, Haney had developed five different garments, which eventually turned into Outdoor Voices’ first activewear essentials kit.
Haney now has 60 people working full-time for Outdoor Voices, with six shops in the United States and more to come. We spoke about raising money from investors and the changes she wants to see in the industry.
How did you convince investors that there was a market for your product and that you would be successful?
I believed from day one that Outdoor Voices has the potential to be great. I heard “no” a lot in the early days of pitching OV to investors. It was a huge challenge to deal with that level of rejection, but I learned how to take each of those moments as an opportunity to refine my vision for the brand and work to turn the “no’s” into “yeses”. I think that ultimately, the rejection was a good thing. It helped me build a stronger brand and figure out exactly how to communicate what I envisioned for OV.
In 2017 you moved from NYC to Austin, Texas. What do you love about working in Austin and what do you miss about NYC?
I still split my time between Austin and New York, but in the last year or so it’s skewed more towards Austin. I feel really lucky that I get to spend time in both places. Austin has an incredible energy and a super recreational vibe. It’s the kind of place where you can go for a dip first thing in the morning, bike to work, and go for a jog on the way home. New York is under-the-radar recreational. The best way to get around there is by walking, so activity is naturally a part of daily life.
A lot of businesses struggle with making the exact right amount of inventory. How do you measure your demand and know how much product to produce every season?
We’ve had some practice over the past few years, which definitely helps, but it’s always hard to get it exactly right! We look at how previous collections were received by customers and that informs how much inventory we buy in future collections. Part of it comes down to gut, too. If our design team is super excited about something from the very beginning, that’s usually a good indicator that the rest of the team—and, down the line, our customers—will be excited as well.
What about the apparel industry do you want to change?
Fashion has historically been built around the idea of exclusivity. Aspiration was the goal with models, imagery, availability, and prices. It’s nice to be part of a suite of brands—like Glossier, Away, and even Sweetgreen in the food space—that are flipping that on its head and celebrating inclusivity and community. There’s still a lot to work towards though, and it’s been exciting to challenge the team to push the boundaries of what they’re used to seeing.
Who are some business owners you look up to? Do you have any mentors?
Jane Fonda is the original recreationalist and has always been a huge influence. Watching her Workout videos growing up is one of the reasons that I’ve always made activity part of my daily life. I also have enormous respect for Mickey Drexler and Jean Touitou for careers building such groundbreaking businesses. Jean is an investor in OV and we had the pleasure of working together on a collaboration last year.
What’s one talent you have that you’re proud of?
I have a mean jump shot. I used to play basketball growing up, and I still like to get out on the court every now and then and show the rest of the OV team what’s up.
What advice do you have for a young person interested in starting their own company?
My mom had this saying when I was little: “TYB, baby,” which stands for “Try your best.” Building a business requires dedication and tenacity! I’d say that as long as you believe in what you’re creating and TYB, you’ll have a leg up. ♦