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'They are building f------ rockets. That is insane': Outdoor Voices CEO looks to Elon Musk for inspiration in her quest to build the world's largest athletics brand

Outdoor Voices

  • Outdoor Voices is an athletic wear company founded by 29-year-old entrepreneur Tyler Haney.
  • The brand considers itself "technical apparel for recreation," meaning the clothing is made for sweating in but can be suitable for any activity.
  • Haney counts friend Elon Musk as one of her main mentors. "He's extremely creative. It's insane just to see how ambitious of a thinker he is," she said in a recent interview with Business Insider.

29-year-old Tyler Haney has an anything-is-possible approach to business, so it's fitting that she counts Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, among her mentors.  

"He's extremely creative," she said. "It's insane just to see how ambitious of a thinker he is. I went into the rocket factory and they are building f------ rockets. That is insane."

Haney founded her athletic wear label, Outdoor Voices, in 2014, fresh out of Parsons School of Art and Design in New York City, where she studied business. At the time, she had one goal, and that was for her company to become the world's No. 1 athletics brand.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, she explained how challenging it was to find investment at the start. She said it was difficult to turn up at predominantly male offices as a young female entrepreneur and convince them that something needed to exist in athletic wear that wasn't Nike or Under Armour.

"I had a list of people, mostly in the tech world, that I admired," she said. "I would just focus on getting into their offices."

Her first major breakthrough came when she decided to ship products to the investors' wives, who gave positive feedback and convinced their husbands that it was a good product.

"That was really the key to early efforts," she said.

Tyler Haney

In the past five years, Haney has built up the brand to become a major player in the athletic wear market. It now boasts an 80-person team of predominantly women, six stores, and $56.4 million in venture funding. It counts Google Ventures, which is now GV, as one of its key investors.

The clothing has evolved to become more technical and specific to each activity, like tennis, running, spinning, yoga, and hiking. This is not athleisure, she says — this apparel is designed to "sweat in." 

The company now plans to roll out eight more stores in the United States and is still set on its the quest to overtake Nike and Lululemon.

Haney has complete conviction in setting ambitious goals, much like her mentor, Musk.

"He really pushes the team to think bigger, bigger, bigger," she said, referring to Musk's work at Tesla and SpaceX.

These are leadership skills she has gained from him, she said. 

"We are really building the rules for our own game here," Haney said. "I have no interest in building the next Nike. We are building Outdoor Voices, and it is going to be different than Nike, Under Armour, and Lululemon."

"Leaning into that and having the confidence to do so, has been awesome," she said.  "I think I've become more confident by just having people like Elon as mentors."

Despite persistent rumors in the press, Haney says that she and Musk are just friends and have not dated in the past. They are were introduced by a mutual friend at SXSW.

"When I've hung out with him, I always come back extremely energized," she said. 

SEE ALSO: Founder of venture-funded activewear startup Outdoor Voices explains why she doesn't want to build the next Nike and why she's inspired by Elon Musk

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