20 Questions

The Young Founder of This Celebrity-Loved Activewear Company Shares Why You Should Always Trust Your Instincts

Ty Haney of Outdoor Voices says you shouldn't let your vision get lost amid advice, even from the most trusted sources.
The Young Founder of This Celebrity-Loved Activewear Company Shares Why You Should Always Trust Your Instincts
Image credit: Courtesy of Ty Haney
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
7 min read

Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.

Ty Haney wants you to get out of your inbox, offline and, in the parlance of her rapidly growing activewear brand Outdoor Voices, “Doing Things.”

The 29-year-old CEO and founder launched her business in 2014. Haney did not always set out to be an entrepreneur. Growing up in Colorado, she had dreams of medaling at the Olympics, either in track -- she specialized in hurdling -- or horse jumping.

She wanted to take her love of sports and the outdoors and create a brand that would inspire people to try something new and active, even if they didn’t view themselves as the best athlete.

Over the past four years, Haney has found high profile fans including Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow and raised $56.5 million in funding. The company now has a staff of 115 full-time employees, and by the end of 2018, it will have 11 shops across 10 cities.

We caught up with Haney to ask her 20 questions and find out what makes her tick.

1. How do you start your day?
When I wake up I do 30 grateful breaths while I'm still in bed. Basically you breathe in and think of something you're grateful for. It could be your second grade teacher. Then you breathe it out and you do it 30 times. The next thing I do is some sort of activity. Generally, it's a three-mile jog around Town Lake in Austin. Three miles seems to be the perfect amount to get your body moving in the morning.

2. How do you end your day?
I do legs up the wall. I ran cross country in high school and middle school and learned that trick then. Letting the blood flow come down, it definitely relaxes your nervous system. I do it for about 20 minutes.

3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
There's a Harvard professor named Youngme Moon. She wrote a book called Different. It's essentially how to zig when others zag and not looking to incumbents in the space or legacy brands to create your company, but rather creating your own rules and defining the space for yourself. It's fantastic.

4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's essentially like recess for your mind. It's a sci-fi book that I've loved. Particularly for people who are building companies on a startup team, taking a moment to let your mind go somewhere else is quite [helpful].

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Throughout the whole company there's three goals that we come back to consistently. Never more than that.

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an Olympic track star. I wanted to be a hurdler. Second to that I rode horses and wanted to be in the Olympics for horse jumping.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
Be nice to people and don't work with jerks.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
Definitely my mom. She had this saying, "TYB, baby!" And it stands for try your best. She was always pushing us out the door to go after anything [we wanted]. It's all about grit, persistence and unbounded enthusiasm for anything that you're doing and that's certainly helpful when you're building the business.

9. What’s a trip that changed you?
I went to Austin for the first time in 2015 for a Formula One race. Straight from the airport airport, I visited Barton Springs pool. It's this football field-sized natural spring-fed pool that stays the same temperature all year around, and while swimming in it, coming from New York, I was like, this is spiritual. Our headquarters is now in Austin.

10. What inspires you?
Seeing how our customers doing [athletic] things has inspired our community, then how people interpret it as a call to action. Our customer and community stories around [trying new things] and feeling strong, or not ever seeing themselves as an athlete, but Outdoor Voices showing them how they can incorporate exercise into their daily life stuff has been inspiring.

11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
It was called Cast Craft and it was a personal decoration for kids with broken bones. I made it in school. I ended up giving it to a classmate.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
I was a waitress at the Border Cafe in Harvard Square. I still look back at it as one of my favorite jobs. Learning how to relate to people and to sell to people was critical. The relationship piece in being a waitress, you have to deal with so many different types of people and that's really valuable over time.

13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
Never waste a crisis. Every crisis is an opportunity. That was from my Sweetgreen friends. The second one that I come back to on a weekly basis is compression of time creates value, and that was from Tom Meredith, who's on our board.

14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
To ask a lot of people for their opinions or their perspective. Early on I listened to too many people. I had a large network of people that I was seeking advice from but ultimately I fine-tuned that group of trusted advisers and also started to look inwards and trust myself and rely on my own instincts more.

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
I call it change the chemistry. If you're feeling stuck or frustrated, getting up, moving around, doing jumping jacks. At Outdoor Voices we play knockout in the parking lot to bring back that spark and energy and enthusiasm.

16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
There is an app called Elevate that is brain training [activities]. It has logic and math problems that are challenging. Fun apps like that keep me off social apps that we all spend too much time on.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
Aligning of people to their strengths is the key here, so that they enjoy coming to work every day and don't think about work and life as different but as one in the same.

18. How do you prevent burnout?
Being outside is better than being online or in the inbox. So we have that posted all throughout the office. In our all-hands meeting, I prescribe fun and doing things for our team and very much make it a point to encourage people to get out there and be doing things, even during the workday.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
A run every time. It could be as short as 15 to 20 minutes, but jogging and working up a sweat helps me think more clearly.

20. What are you learning now? Why is that important?
I am focusing on learning to be a better leader. I have a leadership coach and then I'm also taking voice lessons. My goal is to sing one song well. I've never really been a singer. But I think it's really important as you get older to learn new things.

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