The Triathlon Brand Reinventing Sportswear For Women. Meet THREO.
"We've had some great moments, with fantastic industry reviews, being stocked in incredible shops around the world, and with Olympic gold medal winning athletes wearing our kit (not just once but three times! Kelly Holmes, Helen Glover and Amy Williams) - which is not bad work for a startup company run by two working mums and entirely self funded."
This is an exciting moment for Words Do The Talking as we are interviewing our all time favourite sports brand THREO. Innovative, unbelievably cool, stylish... We could go on and on and on (!).
We explore how business owners Laura and Rhian have found their brand's journey 4 years in, how their experience in competitive sports has shaped what they do and how empowering women through sports and sportswear starts with THREO.
Read on for some serious business inspiration, must-read tips and advice you can apply to your own business straight away and a heads up on which triathlon kit you really should be sporting.
Q. Tell us about your triathlon clothing brand THREO and what makes it different.
A. Laura: We didn’t feel there was a brand out there which catered for the needs of women like us, who love getting outdoors and being active, doing crazy long rides and races and who needed top quality, durable kit.
Just because we had a love and a passion for sport and needed technical clothing to support us, it didn't mean we wanted to sacrifice looking stylish whilst we did it.
Our continued emphasis on our customer, what they need and the quality of our kit is what makes THREO different. We know exactly what our customers are looking for and we are prepared to spend the time creating it. We don't simply tweak male products and existing designs to fit women, we start with them.
We cut our own patterns, based on our experience racing and training in the kit as we understand what each item needs to do and how to do it. Most brands all use the same template and cut, and just change the pattern or colours without giving any real thought to the underlying fit and function. There are hours and hours of thought and experience in each item.
Q. What's the story behind the name THREO?
A. Laura: THREO is an old English word for ‘three’, and it’s the feminine version so we thought that was appropriate! It also encompasses our racing philosophy ‘train hard race easy’, which emphasises the fact that you are always rewarded by the effort you put in.
To us, the race is meant to be the fun bit at the end of the months of hard training. We wanted to encourage women to enjoy racing and being competitive and for our brand to reflect that.
Q. Are there any brands you'd love to collaborate with?
A. Rhian: We'd love to team up with a bike brand. Cycling is traditionally such a male dominated industry, with brands not seeming to consider women when making the product nor including them in any marketing materials, so we would love to work with a well known bike brand, like Pinarello.
Pinarello make great bikes, which incidentally are brilliant for women given the frame sizing, but they don't have a history or a reputation for even considering women in sport, and really messed up last year when their marketing featured a reference to a woman who wanted an e-bike just to 'keep up with her boyfriend' and we'd love to go in there, to try help turn that around and put women in cycling at the forefront of their mind.
And to show them that they would need an e-bike themselves to keep up with the women in our THREO community!
Q. What else, apart from designing and selling perfect-fit triathlon gear, makes you both tick?
A. Rhian: We're genuinely passionate about encouraging women in sport and empowering them through their involvement in a sporting community. So we are often found at events or on the bike leading sessions. That, and time with our families (we're trying to ensure they grow up to love being active as much as we do) is all we really need to be having a good time!
Q. Greatest moments of THREO's journey so far?
A. Rhian: Every time we see a woman racing in it, or see a picture on instagram of someone taking part in an endurance event in THREO, we feel the proudest we possibly can. We've had some great moments, with fantastic industry reviews, being stocked in incredible shops around the world, and with Olympic gold medal winning athletes wearing our kit (not just once but three times! Kelly Holmes, Helen Glover and Amy Williams) - which is not bad work for a startup company run by two working mums and entirely self funded - but to see women pushing themselves beyond their own expectations and choosing to do it supported by THREO will never stop being a fantastic moment for us.
Q. Where do you get the inspiration for the design of your cycling, running and swimming products?
A. Laura: We wanted to make bright, bold kit that was feminine, but not 'girly' and we wanted it to be instantly identifiable. We felt that there were a lot of women like us out there, but that it was sometimes hard to connect with each other, so we wanted our brand to have such a strong identity so that if you saw another woman wearing it you would know that this was someone you could identify with... that you could cycle up, say hello and ride with her for a bit!
We also take our inspiration from the races we have done, for example the aqua in our 2018 trisuit was inspired by the beautiful 'Lac du Verney' which is the swim part of the infamous Alp d'Huez triathlon which Rhian has done a couple of times now.
Q. I own the Holland Park Sports Crop Top in coral and a pair of the Heartbreak Hill Triathlon/Cycling Shorts and 3 years later after wearing them on repeat, they still look and feel epic. The quality is brilliant. Is quality a big part of THREO's mantra and brand mission?
A. Laura: Yes! 100%. We don't do anything unless we do it well. We felt existing kit brands shortchanged women in terms of fit and fabrics, for us – making the kit durable, with the best quality fabrics we can is at the forefront of everything we do.
Q. Unlike the triathlon amateurs here at Words Do The Talking, we hear you two are quite the pros... With rumours of the Olympics and Iron (WO)Man races. Please tell us more...
A. Rhian: We are both passionate about endurance sport and have been racing for over 35 years between us... so that's a lot of races! Laura is the iron woman out of the two, as I prefer the shorter distance races (although I did once do a 70.3 after some persuasion and hated it!).
I did indeed represent Great Britain at the Sydney Olympics, after racing middle distance at a national level from an early age, and have gone on to take various podium spots in triathlons since my first race in 2009.
With demanding careers, THREO and two children under 2 between us (and another on the way), competitive racing has taken a back seat for a couple of years, but we're both planning to stage our comebacks soon!
Q. What bikes do you ride? Any brands you'd recommend?
A. Rhian: I ride a Pinarello (hence why I was so disappointed in them recently... but I'm not yet rich enough to justify a change in bike, plus having recently moved to the Netherlands, my latest purchase is a bakfiets (a Dutch cargo bike) which I hare round the narrow Amsterdam streets on because my daughter shouts at me to go faster. I'm a great believer in that however many bikes you have, you're one short.
Laura: I have a Cannondale, although with a 1 year old and another baby on the way, it's mostly been set up on the turbo for a while. I'm looking forward to getting back out on it next year, and perhaps I will have to invest in a trailer or cargo bike too!
Q. From business idea through to fruition: how have you found your business journey so far? (Anything you know now you wish you knew in 2014?)
A. Laura: Its been great, its been impossibly hard at times, exhausting and exhilarating - pretty much just like any endurance race! I think if we knew how tough it was to break into an established (and at times) archaic industry we may not have given it a try, so I think the fact we didn't know a lot of things might have been a good thing!
A background in endurance sport has served us both well, as we know that we've got the strength to dig deep and carry on. And that after every uphill comes a glorious freewheeling descent, so that helps us continue!
Q. What's the one piece of THREO Sportswear you'd recommend to a first-time Threo shopper?
A. Rhian: Our tri-suit, it genuinely stands out in terms of fit and functionality, and was the answer to our own prayers. We designed it so that even the first-time triathlete, regardless of size or shape, speed or their perception of ability, would feel strong and confident on the start-line.
Q. What's next for THREO? And for you two race and training wise?
A. Rhian: Working on the next collection, improving our kit and building upon it - and looking to expand internationally. We want to be the number one brand for women in endurance sport.
Q. And lastly - where can we get our hands on what we believe is the most stylish, functional and multi-purpose sports and triathlon kit we've ever owned? (Sorry but we really are obsessed).
A. Laura: We are stocked online at www.threo.co.uk <http://www.threo.co.uk> (although we only have limited sizes left of our current collection), at VeloVixen, Sigma Sport, Kiwi Multisport in NZ and Spin Warriors in Singapore and Indonesia - and we are about to launch in the US.
Vital business tips to take away
1. Find a problem and fix it by making it quite literally your business
2. Always opt for quality when it comes to your products. Your customers deserve the best
3. When starting your business, ensure it's something you are passionate about
4. Keep innovating and adapting to stay at the top of your game. Soon you'll be known for this which will breed loyalty.
5. Train your body as much as you train your mind. Both will drive and support the other.
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Words Do The Talking
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