E P I S O D E 3 4
Soj Jibowu of Varlo Apparel | Extraordinary Athletes Doing Extraordinary Things
In honor of Black History month, we are highlighting extraordinary athletes doing extraordinary things. In this episode of The Run Wave Podcast, Kim chats with Soj Jibowu, Founder of Varlo Apparel, a cycling and triathlon apparel brand.
VARLO’s mission is simple: “To provide the best products by never sacrificing quality and executing upon innovation. We seek to inspire the spirit and empower the will of every athlete to shatter goals and create a new reality of what is achievable.”
Learn more about this new and up and coming, black owned, multi-sport apparel brand, as Kim chats with the founder Soj about everything from manufacturing to the signing pro triathletes.
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LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE ON: APPLE | SPOTIFY | GOOGLE | STITCHER | IHEARTRADIO | AMAZON MUSIC | PANDORASponsored By:E P I S O D E 42On this episode of The Run Wave Podcast, the Run Crew Series continues with Baltimore based crew, A Tribe Called Run. This crew was...
[00:00:00] Kim: [00:00:00] Extraordinary athletes doing extraordinary things, featuring Soj, founder of Varlo Apparel.
[00:00:18] Okay. Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Run Wave Podcast. I am your host Kim. If this is your first time tuning in, welcome to the show. If you are a return listener, welcome back to the show. I truly appreciate you tuning in week after week, if you haven’t already done. So please be sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app.
[00:00:43] So you are notified each and every time I upload a new episode. Also make sure you’re following us on Instagram. It’s @therunwave, Twitter @therunwave, Facebook @ The Run Wave. And if you want to watch the show on YouTube, you can search for the The Run Wave, [00:01:00] but it’s on my YouTube channel straight Kim. So you can find the show there.
[00:01:04] It is February. And as we all know, it’s black history month. Although we celebrate us each and every month, but for this month, I wanted to highlight extraordinary athletes who are doing extraordinary things. And first up on this show, I have. he is the founder of Barlow, a pero, which is a cycling and triathlete brand.
[00:01:30] So they mainly sell clothing for triathlons and cycling, and they also have a line of accessories as well. They have a pretty dope ambassador program, which we will chat about on the show as well as they have sponsored athletes, which is great for a new up and coming brand. So. Let’s get into the interview.
[00:01:54] All right, please. Welcome SIJ Jabbar, founder of Varlo Apparel to The [00:02:00] Run Wave Podcast. How are you?
[00:02:01] Soj Jibowu: [00:02:01] I’m doing really well. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. I
[00:02:04] Kim: [00:02:04] appreciate it. Of course. Thank you for being on the show. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you originally from?
[00:02:14] Soj Jibowu: [00:02:14] Yeah, so I was born in Nigeria.
[00:02:17] And then my parents, we migrated to immigrated to the country where about five years old. And we were in Huntsville, Alabama. Uh, they were in college, ended up in Michigan and then, um, where I went to college myself and then moved to Philadelphia, probably like right around six, seven years ago. I know
[00:02:38] Kim: [00:02:38] one person in Huntsville, Alabama.
[00:02:40] No one person. She’s like my online friend, we read books together, but that’s crazy. But how did, I’ve never heard of a Nigerian being in Huntsville, Alabama? How did that come about?
[00:02:52] Soj Jibowu: [00:02:52] It’s it’s really funny. Like I asked my parents the same thing I go, why Huntsville, you know, um, And it actually turns [00:03:00] out that at the time when my parents were, um, in Nigeria, there were all these agricultural scholarships for, um, for students abroad.
[00:03:09] And so my father had applied for them and he was one of the ones that selected to go to Alabama a and M university. And so I remember being, I remember actually being, um, in Alabama and just seeing a lot of Nigerians, there’s obviously like a lot of Nigerian friends that. You know, you called everyone uncle.
[00:03:29] And, um, and I thought it was normal until I grew up and I would tell them like, Oh yeah, I was in Huntsville, Alabama. And they were like, what? Like, why are you there?
[00:03:41] Kim: [00:03:41] Yeah, because that’s like a, that it’s a pretty small, not a huge town, not tiny, tiny, but pretty small town. Right.
[00:03:47] Soj Jibowu: [00:03:47] It’s a fairly small town. I mean, it’s, um, I think nowadays, if you tell anyone know Huntsville, Alabama, they say, Oh, that sort of space and rocket center is that’s where NASA is.
[00:03:55] Right. You, uh, kindly reply. Yes. That’s exactly where it is. [00:04:00] So, um, but, um, I mean, it was, uh, you know, I think ultimately going to Michigan where I did a lot of my growing up where I went to college, but my collegiate career, and then afterwards, um, you know, still lived for probably like eight years or maybe it was.
[00:04:19] Nine years after college to eventually move to the East coast. It’s been fun. It’s been a pretty fun road of travel and getting to see and explore and meeting different people from different areas. It’s been fun. So
[00:04:31] Kim: [00:04:31] how long have you been in Philly?
[00:04:33] Soj Jibowu: [00:04:33] Uh, I’ve been in Philly roughly six years, seven years.
[00:04:37] I’d say, um, I remember when I moved, it was like in January because my birthday was right around the same time and it was super cold and, and Philly has been awesome. I think the East coast in general has been awesome. And Philly you you’re in between DC, Maryland, and New York. So you have all this like cross migration of like a culture from these like cities.
[00:05:00] [00:05:00] And, um, you just don’t get that in Michigan. And so it’s been awesome. It’s really been a lot of fun.
[00:05:06] Kim: [00:05:06] One of my good friends that I met through running she’s actually from Michigan. And she always tells me these little stories about, you know, the city and things that, cause I grew up in New York. So we really don’t know anything about the, like the Midwest.
[00:05:19] So it’s, it’s interesting to see how different people grow up in different areas. And we all come together somehow.
[00:05:25] Soj Jibowu: [00:05:25] Yeah. It’s it is funny, right. Because, um, And it’s funny you say like the Midwest, because I think nowadays, like when I, when I do meet people, I’m talking to them about like Michigan or anything in the Midwest, or they’re very like aloof, like, Oh yeah.
[00:05:40] At somewhere like anything like, uh, West of Pennsylvania to like Las Vegas, like all that stuff. Like no one really knows where it is. It’s like, you know, like where’s Missouri somewhere in the middle, somewhere in the middle, but, um, but yeah, that’s funny. So,
[00:05:58] Kim: [00:05:58] what is your background in [00:06:00] sports? Because I know you’re a triathlete, but a lot of us segue into triathlon from another sport.
[00:06:06] So what did you do prior to becoming a triathlon?
[00:06:10] Soj Jibowu: [00:06:10] Yeah. Um, so prior to trapline in college, I was, I ran track and field and, um, I just, I, I loved it. I wasn’t always good at track and field, which is so ironic. I, I actually remember running when I was in junior high and was terrible, like the slowest kid on the team and like the guy that was like, the coach would be like, ah, let’s put you in the four by four.
[00:06:35] Right. And, um, somewhere right around high school, I don’t know what happened. Like body just kicked in and, um, the lights started to work and was fortunate enough to go to central Michigan on scholarship, which was great. Uh, learned a lot. Um, you know, you know, I, I, you know, just discipline, um, regimen, you learn all these skills and like collegiate sport and, um, [00:07:00] post-college for me, I, you know, you just can’t go, you can’t go to the track and be like, Hey, you own a ratio, a 400.
[00:07:09] So, so I was just picking up like running five Ks and, um, 10 Ks, just community runs and, um, Eventually, I think someone, um, when I moved to, well, I, I remember seeing a race in Chicago once. Like it was, um, an ITU event. I was there to visit a buddy of mine and there was this huge event going on. I had no clue what it was, but I remember seeing people with like these bikes that look like spaceships.
[00:07:37] And I was like, what is, what is that kind of like, I want that, you know, and these people with like negative, like body fat on them. Right. And I’m just like, who are these people what’s going on? And, um, I dunno, just, I remember watching the race like these, you know, all these athletes are common names now.
[00:07:56] Like, uh, the Brown Mola, all these guys, they, you know, jump in [00:08:00] Lake Michigan, they swim and I’m like, Oh my goodness, this is insane. And eventually said, I’ve got to try this road. It off eventually found myself in, uh, in Philly. And you know, obviously you, you end up meeting like-minded people that are in sports.
[00:08:15] And here, a lot of my friends that I had met were in triathlon, so eventually got into it and, um, you know, uh, I had some struggles early on, but stuck it through and here I am. Um, you know, years later I am right.
[00:08:31] Kim: [00:08:31] So what type of events have you participated in, in triathlon?
[00:08:36] Soj Jibowu: [00:08:36] Um, I think my, my first race was a super sprint.
[00:08:40] Um, I’ve done, you know, super sprint sprints, Olympics, um, halfs I’ve I’ve yet to do a full, um, I, you know, I will do a full, but just to have yet to, and, um, you know, it was just, it’s been fun. I think. If I were to say what I’ve enjoyed the most. I [00:09:00] think that balances training, um, hours and commitment with just like, again, that, that being that speed demon person in the back of my mind, I love going fast.
[00:09:11] Love, love going fast. So, um, I love sprints just because it’s like. I don’t know, like, I feel like you can actually sprint in a sprint. Like you can be like mile two of the run part and you are like spreading against someone racing them. I, I liked that. I I’ve just not built that endurance yet for long course.
[00:09:30] So, um, I think Olympics and sprints are just awesome. They’re just fun to me.
[00:09:36] Kim: [00:09:36] I think when you’re doing a sprint as well, like your adrenaline is just constantly going, like when you’re doing like a 70.3, you had that break on the bike and you’re going, but you’re like cruising, but like a sprint is like, you’re on it.
[00:09:49] Soj Jibowu: [00:09:49] It is. It is go, go, go, go, go. And, um, I think like in a sprint, for instance, a sprint is the only out of the, the, [00:10:00] the, the courses or the, the lengths. The sprint is the only one where I feel very, very confident going all out in the swim because I can, I’m not, I’m not, um, a swimmer by, um, by background.
[00:10:15] So typically I can serve like energy and just kind of like, you know, Like kind of walk it until later on. Yeah. The swim is the only, uh, the swim in a sprint. Like the only distance that I feel like I can go all out in and I can go out on the bike and then, you know, sprint over, put on my shoes and just put it in the fifth gear and just have some fun.
[00:10:37] Right. So yet to feel that confident in a, an Olympic or a, a long course race.
[00:10:43] Kim: [00:10:43] Now I saw that you did, um, AC 70.3.
[00:10:49] Soj Jibowu: [00:10:49] Yes. Yes, yes.
[00:10:50] Kim: [00:10:50] That one as
[00:10:51] Soj Jibowu: [00:10:51] well. Oh, goodness. Yeah. You were there. Okay.
[00:10:54] Kim: [00:10:54] No, I did the inaugural. I think he did it like last year, the year before, right? Correct. Correct. Correct. Yes, [00:11:00] I did the inaugural.
[00:11:00] How did you like that course?
[00:11:02] Soj Jibowu: [00:11:02] Um, the course is great. Like, um, so the course was great. I think for that particular, for that particular race, it was raining for the bike. Um, and so that was. That’s that was not fun. Um, stretch. I remember like after the race I had like, um, like water inside of my tires. So like I had to, like, you had to do this funky thing to drain the water out of your carbon tires, you know?
[00:11:31] And, um, but the other than that, the course itself is awesome. Um, because it’s the, the bike is super flat. You have one little technical. Portion. Um, and then the run is great because it’s your majority of it’s on the boardwalk. So you have great spectators. You can pull some energy from the crowd and, um, it’s, it’s awesome.
[00:11:53] It’s fun. It’s AC right. And so it draws a lot of people and it’s good times.
[00:11:57] Kim: [00:11:57] See, when I did that run on the boardwalk, it [00:12:00] was so hot that day I was miserable. It was like what I did, um, Ironman Eagle, man as well in Maryland. Yeah. That one was like 95 degrees as well on the run. I was miserable on both my races.
[00:12:14] So yeah, I’ve heard, I’ve heard
[00:12:16] Soj Jibowu: [00:12:16] that I’ve heard, um, in Maryland, uh, that is a very, very hot course
[00:12:21] Kim: [00:12:21] is absolutely miserable. And there’s no shade. It’s like, it’s a great course because it’s flat, you know, you can go fast on the bike and if you’re, if you can deal with the elements, you can succeed in the run.
[00:12:32] But yeah, it’s a little bit too hot for me.
[00:12:40] Soj Jibowu: [00:12:40] I actually signed up for it in 2020, but in lieu of COVID it was canceled. And I remember asking around, um, just, you know, in the triathlon community asking friends, I think I posted on Instagram, like, Oh, I’m signed up for this race. And everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, you’re going to burn up. It’s so hot. Like you so hot.
[00:12:58] Kim: [00:12:58] I remember my sun [00:13:00] burned, like. It was so bad. It was hurting. That’s how bad it was like two weeks after I was that that race was miserable. But if you, if you’re looking to do a full, they have the full as well on the same course. Oh, wow. Yeah. So that’s like a great first full to do.
[00:13:17] Soj Jibowu: [00:13:17] Yeah. I, you know, it’s funny.
[00:13:19] I was talking to someone and they were asking me like, Oh, do you have any long courses planned? Um, you know, And I, I go, man, you know, I think like in just everything going on, especially with like the brand and just running around. And, um, I probably have some time before I can muster up the, um, the time balance to train for a, like a proper long course race.
[00:13:45] Um, but you know, it’s definitely on my mind for the future to, to jump back in a 70.3 or tackle a long course for
[00:13:52] Kim: [00:13:52] sure. So let’s get into Vara. Lo lots of fun. Yeah. So when did [00:14:00] the idea come about to start a cycling triathlon apparel line?
[00:14:06] Soj Jibowu: [00:14:06] Um, it, that the idea probably came about like over like maybe over two years ago.
[00:14:12] And, um, I remember being, um, gosh, I think I was in, I was out West at an event. And I think it was like in, um, I want to say Boulder, Denver was where it was an Oregon. It was an Oregon that was in the vet in Oregon. And I think it was, uh, I remember being at the event. I remember like just looking around and I was like, man, like, huh, like.
[00:14:40] I wonder how many people are here. I wonder how many people come to them this event consistently. Right. And that was it. But then I remember also being at like, I think it was New Jersey state triathlon, or somewhere else, or maybe it was New York, it was New York triathlon. And I remember just, it really started to hit me where I was going.
[00:14:57] Okay. How many people come to this? What is the [00:15:00] global market? Like? What is the retention rate? Um, what, what is a trend for participants in this sport particularly, and then. I, you know, again, sort of asking like, um, product-related questions. Um, and I said, okay, like this, this could be something. I remember calling Jake my partner.
[00:15:20] I remember exactly I was in, um, I was in, I was in this office and I was talking to him about it and I go, and I was just rambling on rambling on. And he said, Hey, let’s do it. He goes, let’s do it. And, um, it kind of like snowballed to where we’re at right now.
[00:15:36] Kim: [00:15:36] Did you find it difficult, like to get into the door of starting a brand like this?
[00:15:43] Because there’s not that many, um, clothing brands, you know, for triathletes out there. So how was it for you guys starting up? Um,
[00:15:52] Soj Jibowu: [00:15:52] I think it was. It was, um, I think if I look back at it, like if we look back at it and we really go, okay, Hey, how did [00:16:00] we get to where we’re at right now? We can go, man. That was hard.
[00:16:02] Like, that was, it’s still hard. It’s still hard. It’s still crazy hours. It’s still zombie moments where you’re like, I don’t know if I’m awake or if I’m asleep, what’s going on. Cause I, cause you’re like sleep is a rent. It doesn’t happen as much. Um, but you know, it was, I think the hardest part. It’s actually, it’s not even fair to say the hardest part.
[00:16:24] There’s a lot of hard parts, but, um, I think it was everything from like sourcing a manufacturer, building a relationship with the manufacturer, um, understanding the, um, the needs, understanding technical components of fabric. Build Garnet build, um, dyes to be used different, um, uh, styles of stitching. And that’s just on like the, uh, the product side, like the product technical side.
[00:16:51] The other side is like the actual marketplace itself to understand where you should allocate resources, how, um, how the [00:17:00] community will absorb product. Um, And, you know, the whole, gosh, the whole trend of it. It was it’s, it’s been, it’s been an interesting road, but I think ultimately we’re so like we’re so ingrained in it and we’re so just dug into it that we, you almost want to say, man, this was easy, but it wasn’t, but it wasn’t, it feels just natural though.
[00:17:22] I will say that it feels very, very natural.
[00:17:24] Kim: [00:17:24] So what’s the mission behind the brand.
[00:17:27] Soj Jibowu: [00:17:27] Yeah. Um, that’s a good question. And you know, the ultimate mission, um, is to build the will of athletes. Um, I think if you look at triathlon, triathlon is very, very interesting. It’s an interesting sport, uh, where you have these amazing talented athletes, like just.
[00:17:47] Insane talented. You can jump in Lake Michigan and you can swim, you know, um, you know, just about a mile and a half, you can, you know, um, turn around, get on a bike bike 20 [00:18:00] plus miles, you know, put on some shoes and sprint like, um, um, 6.2 miles to be able to do that. Um, at that level that you are able to see with athletes.
[00:18:12] It’s it’s astonishing. And I I’m from the field of like running a 446 seconds and people going, Oh my God, that’s so amazing. It’s so cool. And I’m like, nah, you got to look what these guys can do. And the one thing it’s, it’s difficult, it’s, it’s very, very difficult for athletes. Um, even if you’re a age group, amateur athlete, or you’re a, um, uh, a pro athlete seeking sponsorship, it’s just a tough road.
[00:18:37] So, um, The brand’s job is to instill the will of athletes to conquer those goals. Um, that’s what we focus on. Very, very, um, um, deeply, um, you know, with the brand, we always say like, Hey, if we, if we focus very, very narrow and deep, we’re able to really do what we want to do. [00:19:00] And as long as we focus on making the athletes, um, you know, empowering them, encouraging them, putting them on a platform where they can share their story.
[00:19:09] They can share, um, um, their, their path and continue to build upon that. I think that, you know, we’re going to have a very, very long road ahead of us and a very bright future.
[00:19:24] Kim: [00:19:24] So I was cruising your socials and I am loving just the whole aesthetic of your socials of your site, your brand as a whole. So are you. Heavily involved in the design process of your products?
[00:19:41] Soj Jibowu: [00:19:41] Yeah. Um, I would say, I would say yes. Um, especially as a startup, right? Like as a startup, it’s it is, um, we’re, we’re always looking at ways to become, like, to be efficient and, um, execute very, very well.
[00:19:56] So fortunately, um, I, I love design. [00:20:00] I love aesthetics. I love like the, the, the little minor details. Um, Jake, my business partner, um, he is a digital designer. Like that’s what he does. He’s an artist. And so when we first came up with the idea of the brand, um, there was a lot of thought that went into like the aesthetic.
[00:20:18] What, what emotion do we want people to feel and take from the brand? That’s really important to us. Um, And, you know, to make sure that we stay consistent with that. So we’ve, we’ve built mood boards after mood boards, after mood boards, and even coming up with the name of Barlow, it was not like a simple, it wasn’t like, Oh yeah, Barlow means this.
[00:20:38] Like let’s, let’s, you know, coin it, this, that, it was definitely a process behind it. And, um, you know, it’s just, it’s just been fun. It’s been, it’s been, it’s been a lot of fun. It really has been.
[00:20:51] Kim: [00:20:51] So since you brought that up, what does Barlow mean?
[00:20:55] Soj Jibowu: [00:20:55] Yeah, absolutely. Good question. So, um, Varlo can [00:21:00] be, you know, it’s derived from Valor, which means, you know, um, having courage, um, in, in the face of adversity, always staying forward for what’s to come for tomorrow.
[00:21:11] So one of our, um, if you look at, if you were going to our website, you’d probably see the word tomorrow mentioned like, I don’t know, like probably overviews, like tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, you know, conquering the goals of tomorrow, you know, the future awaits, you know, what’s to come tomorrow. Um, we’re, you know, we really want to just focus on, you know, achieving what is to come.
[00:21:34] And making sure people are empowered for what is to come the goals ahead to come the challenges ahead, staying the path of what’s to come tomorrow. Um, but when, and we also came up with the word Farlow, we, we, you know, there were some things that we wanted to make sure that we could, um, we would stick with, with the, with the word itself, we wanted to make sure that it was.
[00:21:54] Um, you know, short, we wanted to keep it as for, you know, four to five words or letters, excuse [00:22:00] me. And, um, a word that could be synonymous with the brand and synonymous with the, um, the aesthetic of the brand. Um, that was also important.
[00:22:12] Kim: [00:22:12] So I, you know, I spoke of the aesthetic, but I just love the way the clothes looks because so many brands they’re just, everything’s black.
[00:22:22] With extreme of dark color on it. And you know, I like to look good while I’m working out. I like to look good while I’m competing and your clothes make people look good. You have that pop of color in there. You have the different, you know, angles and, you know, just. And the camel I love, I love camel any color.
[00:22:40] Cammo like, I’m down for camera. And I saw that Ray camera. I was like, if I’m going to do another race, I need to be in that camera.
[00:22:47] Soj Jibowu: [00:22:47] Yeah. All right. Um, no, thank you for that. Thank you. And, um, It’s it’s really, it’s really funny. I will say that when we first launched, we said, okay, [00:23:00] we had an idea. We actually wanted to launch in 2020 in lieu of COVID.
[00:23:03] We did. And we said, we’re going to launch in September for the spring of 2021. And we figured like, okay, by, by the spring or September til, um, excuse me, by September, till the spring. We can, we can execute a couple of things. We can, we can release product, right? Our initial product, we can, um, we can gain a pretty size community.
[00:23:26] So we started an ambassador program. We could, uh, bring on some pro athletes, which we did. Um, we can, um, also try to expand our reach and getting a few publications. So we’ve been in world, textile, America. We’ve been in, um, triathlete magazine, Philadelphia magazine, and Durance biz. Out of the UK and, um, all things to get ready for the spring.
[00:23:50] So, and we’re almost here, right? Which is the end of March. Our new collection will we’ll launch. And what I’m getting at is [00:24:00] everything that we’ve done this far, even the first iteration of our products and design, it was more so to get ready for the spring, because what we believe is this is when. We will really get to kind of like present and say, okay, Hey, this is really what’s going on.
[00:24:15] This is take a look at these designs and take a look at this product and take a look at these fabrics that we’re using. Um, and you’ll be able to see a little bit more color of the brand itself.
[00:24:26] Kim: [00:24:26] Now speaking of your ambassador program, one it’s it’s working because one of your ambassadors actually hit me up Eric Logan.
[00:24:35] And he said, you know, you should check out this brand Rolla prowl. And I’m like, I’m never heard of this company. And this was like a few months ago, but you know, things. Things got busy and I couldn’t get in contact with you, but yes. How did that ambassador program come about and you know, what are the numbers on the program?
[00:24:52] Are you currently accepting more ambassadors?
[00:24:55] Soj Jibowu: [00:24:55] Yeah, no. Uh, thanks for that. And we, we are, um, it’s, it’s really [00:25:00] interesting. We initially thought, okay, we’re going to have in our ambassador program and we want to be able to bring in just good people. Just good. Wholesome people. That’s, that’s the criteria to be an ambassador with.
[00:25:11] Barlow’s like, you just gotta be a good person. And the importance of that is huge. Especially for a company that’s starting off. We look at it as a brand and we say, well, these are, these are the representatives of the brand when they’re out there racing, when they’re out there, um, networking with friends and they’re just, just living their lives.
[00:25:33] They are the brand. We are, they right? And, um, that’s it like, you know, I think we, we actually talked to every person that applies for ambassadorship when we just want to make sure like, Hey, here’s a good person. Here’s a good wholesome person. Um, but yeah, it’s been fun. Uh, we’ve been able to pull, I think right now we’re at like 60 plus domestic international ambassadors.
[00:25:58] Wow. And, uh, [00:26:00] just an awesome community of great people. People that are very, very, uh, just passionate kindhearted. Awesome people. I think that we have the best ambassadorship, um, group of people out there. When you talk about just good wholesome people that encourage one another, that, um, are kind of have each other’s back.
[00:26:20] You know, like if, um, people are having tough days on our private Facebook group, you’ll see the comments go back and forth and I’m, I’m so proud like of the people that we’ve been able to pull and. Just the community we’ve been able to build.
[00:26:33] Kim: [00:26:33] So what made you go guys pushed to launch in 2020? Because I, you know, a lot of online businesses are at the riving right now, but in our sport, we’re not really doing much racing at the moment.
[00:26:47] So how have you found it? I mean, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy, but you know, I’m sure. And the ambassador program I’m sure helps to get the word out, but has it been more difficult for you all doing during this time? [00:27:00] Um,
[00:27:00] Soj Jibowu: [00:27:00] no, I think, you know, when we launched in September, we, our expectations were relatively like just, um, modest.
[00:27:08] We, our expectations were basically just to achieve those four things, which was build an ambassador program, get a community out there, get into publications, get some pros on here. And then also, uh, start to reach out to clubs and teams for potential partnership and sponsorship for club, team apparel needs.
[00:27:26] Right. Um, those are that, that was it. Basically. We just said, okay, September, we’re going to do this stuff. We’re going to try to knock out these things. That’s it. As far as sales go, um, I can say that we’ve, we didn’t really put. We of course we want sales, right? We want people to wear our products, but we didn’t say, Hey, we have to meet these sales objectives.
[00:27:48] We have these goals that we have to meet, and we have these metrics that we have to hit. Like, no, we didn’t use that focused on that. I think that the beauty of COVID is that it’s allowed kind of a reset to the [00:28:00] marketplace. I think the industry of triathlon cycling and swimming is competitive because there’s a lot of players there and we found ourselves in a very unique.
[00:28:09] Position where we were not here in 2019, we didn’t exist in 2019. So in 2019, if you look at like the, uh, what was occurring with the market and sales, it was a pretty robust year, especially around like Q3 and Q4. So if you were a brand in 2019, Come November and you had awesome sales. You probably made scalable expectations for a pretty robust 2020.
[00:28:35] We were not here. So we didn’t have that expectation. So what I’m saying is we weren’t affected as, um, we weren’t affected with the, the, the low point in 2020, like maybe some of our counterparts were, or maybe just the industry as a whole was, um, and it’s. You know, I think the beauty of triathlon is that there’s three [00:29:00] disciplines.
[00:29:00] Um, there’s swimming, there’s, um, um, running and there’s also cycling. There are three avenues to add value to the community. And then there’s the, uh, the fourth one, which is trapline as a whole. Um, so we’ve been able to stay pretty creative and stay really creative and, um, deliver some value and needs to the community.
[00:29:23] That’s just been, um, it’s been awesome to see. It’s been, uh, very rewarding. I’d say so
[00:29:29] Kim: [00:29:29] how does your clothing stack up against other brands? Because I know when I started, I probably shot out. At least four or five brands and one worked for me that I liked the quality of the clothes, the fit of the clothes they worked while I was actually working out and competing.
[00:29:47] So like what makes your clothing great? Why should we buy her?
[00:29:51] Soj Jibowu: [00:29:51] No, absolutely not. It’s great. Um, I think that the first thing that stands out whenever you are delivering anything, and even when [00:30:00] you. You walk up to someone and you say, Hey, how are you? My name is Sondra. Hey, my name is Kim over, you know, the first thing that people will receive will be the visual.
[00:30:10] Um, that’s the first thing that people take. And from that visual, it then trends into emotion, which is how does that, how does that make you feel? So again, we put a lot of focus on our visual aspect of not just the, the, the, um, The ethos of the brand, but our products. Right. Um, so if it looks good, you’ll feel good.
[00:30:29] So there’s a lot of emphasis there, but then when it comes to the actual quality of the product, like how does it, the sewing that you use, the padding that you use, um, the actual, uh, fabric that you use? I think we excelled there. Um, we found ourselves in a position where. We’ve we work with some pretty, um, awesome manufacturing partners.
[00:30:50] Like they are just awesome. And again, in light of COVID, we found ourselves in a position where we were able to, you know, work with people that maybe we’ve not [00:31:00] had the opportunity to work with before because of COVID. So I feel very confident and comfortable to say that, like our manufacturers that we work with.
[00:31:11] Um, they supply for everyone. They, they, you know, we have access to over 300 pieces of fabrics. We have access to over 40 different paddings, uh, elastic interface. Um, you know, all of our stitching is made with French interlock stitching. So that way, um, if you are transitioning from the swim to the bike, to the run, you’re not feeling that wear or that, um, Abration from areas where maybe the moisture management is more difficult.
[00:31:40] Where you’re probably more prone to have chafing. Right. And so we also have a lot of hydrophilic fabrics that we use. So if you are swimming, you’re able to repel moisture getting into the product, but then once you’re out of the water, um, the, the moisture kind of, you know, evaporate evaporates quickly, right?
[00:32:00] [00:31:59] So trapline is a very interesting sport, unlike, let’s say, um, Like basketball, hockey, or golf or something where you want to get in the water and you want to go really, really fast and water. Right. And so you don’t want the fabric to absorb a lot of moisture, but then once you get out of the water, you want the fabric to expel a lot of the moisture.
[00:32:19] Right. And so it’s a really tricky craft to do that really well. And so a lot of our fabrics, you know, they’re made with, um, ceramic material on the outside, uh, coal, black technology. Um, I mean, I can go on and on it’s it’s fun. It’s fun to me. Right. And so, uh, and, and we’re coming out with some really cool stuff, uh, probably that you could expect right around Q3 this year.
[00:32:43] Um, and so, yeah, a lot of fun. .
[00:32:46] Kim: [00:32:46] So you mentioned that you have been sponsoring pro athletes. How did, how does your sponsorship program work and what type of athletes are you looking to bring on to the company?
[00:32:58] Soj Jibowu: [00:32:58] Yeah, absolutely. [00:33:00] Um, you know, we, again, I think with our pro athletes kind of like similar to our ambassadors, we just want like good.
[00:33:08] Good people. Right. I was texting with one of the pros this morning about like sizing, like, Hey, like, you know, what do you think about this? Or what do you think about that? Right. Um, we have like this friendship relationship. It’s less of a, um, a business. Hey, you do this. I expect this. It’s more of like a, we’re all friends, to be honest with you.
[00:33:27] And. It’s it didn’t start that way, but that’s the relationship is that friendly open door. I call you, you call me what’s going on. Hey, my wife, Diane says, hi, you know, that type of relationship we, we are looking for, um, for future, um, sponsorship. That’s, uh, that’s the type of relationship we want. I think it, it does a lot because you know, our, our concern, I mean, I think like when you look at a lot of.
[00:33:54] Sponsorship opportunities. It’s very transactional where you could say, well, [00:34:00] I need reach content consistency for my brand. You can, you can give me that. That is the, uh, the transaction for that. I will do this for you. My concern, because I’ve been there. I’ve, I’ve been a track and field athlete. I’ve, I’ve competed at the highest of highest of levels.
[00:34:19] Um, I understand that the, the ultimate. Um, the ultimate thing that an athlete is thinking about is how well do I feel? Can I compete? What does my season look like? Uh, how can I avoid injuries? Um, how can I stay healthy? Um, am I doing all the right things to have adequate recovery for whatever my schedule is going to be for the year?
[00:34:46] Those are the things that I’m thinking about for my athletes to say, Hey, you know, can they perform well? Are they going to be able to, are they going to, are they going to be okay? Right. Um, I think it’s that personal. The concern that is, is, is massive. [00:35:00] Um, and I think your question about like, you know, what do we look for in athletes for a potential sponsors sponsorship?
[00:35:08] We just, we look for athletes that are just, you know, kind of aligned with our mission. We’re, we’re a young, fresh. Company. Um, we, we have a different way of thinking a different way of like, um, what, you know, our, I think our goals are maybe a little bit different. And so we are looking for athletes that are aligned to what we’re trying to do.
[00:35:32] Um, because that way the relationship is just solid. It’s pretty
[00:35:36] Kim: [00:35:36] seamless. Now, would you consider sponsoring some amateurs because there’s some images out there that are, you know, doing their thing and they look good in some Barlow, so, yeah,
[00:35:47] Soj Jibowu: [00:35:47] yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And without a doubt, without a doubt, I think, um, you know, a pro card is not necessarily like a, um, uh, a given, um, [00:36:00] Uh, criteria that you have to meet to be a sponsored athlete.
[00:36:04] Right? Um, I, I do believe that there are some other check boxes that we just want to make sure. And, you know, again, our, our thought is always, you know, um, the consistency part. And so consistency becomes like a really focal point. When we look at, you know, how, how the sponsorship relationship can work. And I think if, you know, it’s just like anything, right?
[00:36:27] Like if you look at athletes, what separates one good athlete from like an amazing, great athlete is that consistency, right? If I give you the ball at the, you know, you got two seconds left on the clock, you know, what are the odds that you’re going to take a shot and it’s going to actually go in is the consistency rate that that person has displayed in the past.
[00:36:48] So we do look for that consistency element with. I think any athlete that we would consider sponsoring, um, and, um, you know, you don’t have to have your pro card. You just have to be relatively consistent.
[00:37:00] [00:37:00] Kim: [00:37:00] Okay. Okay. So you hear that people persistent and hit upside should get in that, uh, get that sponsorship going.
[00:37:11] So I know you guys have. Other products you have flip-flops mugs journals, the laptop sleeve. I really liked that. And your hats, your hats with the print on the brim. Yeah. That’s dope. I love that. It’s fun stuff. Yeah. And you have towels, all kinds of stuff. So are you going to venture into or bring out any other products?
[00:37:33] I E for runners, because I’m a runner. Some don’t tights would be nice.
[00:37:39] Soj Jibowu: [00:37:39] Yes. Yes. I, we, we are. Um, and I think our ultimate goal when it comes to, uh, products and, um, you know, delivering value for, um, the community, we we’re constantly trying to balance out and again, as, um, I was talking to Jake, my partner this morning, I was like, Oh man, we’ve [00:38:00] been doing this.
[00:38:00] And he’s like, man, you know, like we’ve only been live for like maybe not even six months. And it’s like, what really? Like it’s we think about that sometimes. And so, um, we definitely have like a strategy, a plan as far as releasing products, you know, what stage we want to be within the organization to venture into this product line and this product line and this product line.
[00:38:22] Um, we stick to that pretty, um, It’s almost a religion to assess strategy. And, um, but those products are coming, running. Hats are coming. I’m
[00:38:34] Kim: [00:38:34] putting my vote in for the camel tights. So when those drop I’ll be your first order on that. What color, what color are you
[00:38:41] Soj Jibowu: [00:38:41] telling me? What color I’m
[00:38:42] Kim: [00:38:42] taking? I’m taking.
[00:38:43] I like the black and you know, like the, the subtle gray.
[00:38:48] Soj Jibowu: [00:38:48] I like that too. I
[00:38:49] Kim: [00:38:49] like that too. I don’t really wear white ties, but I like the white and gray that you have on your, uh, try kits. That would be dope as well. And my favorite color is red and blue. So [00:39:00] anything red and blue I buy. Okay.
[00:39:02] Soj Jibowu: [00:39:02] All right. Good to know.
[00:39:03] Good to know. Um, it’s, it’s really funny. I think like it’s, um, rehab like a, a call like, uh, with our ambassador team and we actually, uh, it was like a call of there’s a couple of them. Cause we were. Discussing women products. Right. And so everything that we do, the, the goal for everything that we roll out, it’s been well vetted.
[00:39:23] Uh, it’s been well, it’s not just, you know, like, Hey, we were thinking like, we should do this. It’s it’s we’ll we’ll do, um, for swimwear, we’ll do chlorine tests. We’ll do, um, washer, dryer tests. We will do, um, you know, a brace of tests. And then obviously we’ll do, you know, uh, calls where we’re just looking at color ways and all of those things.
[00:39:44] But I can say that when we do hear things like, Oh, like cammo red on red and blue on blue, or like, you know, black on gray. Like the cool thing about us is that like, we do that stuff like tomorrow, like we’ll hear like ideas and we’ll be like, Oh, let’s [00:40:00] start work on that tomorrow. Like, let’s start working on that.
[00:40:02] Like, After lunch,
[00:40:06] Kim: [00:40:06] the need for those things is people want to look good while they’re working out. You know, I can’t buy one more pair of black tights.
[00:40:17] Soj Jibowu: [00:40:17] Well, it’s it’s yeah, yeah. It’s um, I think it’s good to be unique. I think it’s really going to be unique. It’s good to have unique products that, uh, that stand out a little bit because you know, um, how else.
[00:40:30] How else are you going to define yourself to be something different? Right.
[00:40:34] Kim: [00:40:34] You know what? I wish that I had when I was doing triathlons because I run in compression sleeves and I would race them, the compression sleeves. I was swimming them. Cause you can’t like put them all while you’re in transition.
[00:40:46] You’d be there all day. So I wish there was like some kind of waterproof transition sleeve that great material that dry quickly, that would be pretty amazing.
[00:41:00] [00:40:59] Soj Jibowu: [00:40:59] Interesting. Yeah, we just think, uh, I transitioned slate. I
[00:41:03] Kim: [00:41:03] know people probably thought I was crazy swimming in my sleep, but that’s what I had to do.
[00:41:08] Right. Because I needed to, I always have shin problems, so I have to run into compression sleeves though. Okay. Yeah, that would be interesting.
[00:41:15] Soj Jibowu: [00:41:15] Interesting, interesting. It’s um, Hmm. That’s something to think about. That’s like any like, um, little like ideas that come up where you’re like, Oh, like I never thought about that.
[00:41:29] Let’s, let’s put that in production. And I think the cool thing is that there’s nothing that we can’t create. Like we can create almost anything we can create VDI, we can create anything. And so it’s, it is so much fun. I think that’s the part that just kind of like, um, That creative element that just makes this like, you know, yeah.
[00:41:52] It’s, it’s, it’s hard waking up at four o’clock it’s hard going to bed at two o’clock and you’re kind of like, you know, you’re living on caffeine, but it’s so [00:42:00] much fun to be like, you know, you look at the color waves and you look at the designs and you’re like, Oh my gosh, like what? We just look what we have and you see the response from people.
[00:42:07] It’s insane.
[00:42:09] Kim: [00:42:09] So is there anything else that you want to share with our audience about Varlo?
[00:42:15] Soj Jibowu: [00:42:15] Yes, I would share that. Um, we are still taking ambassadors, so definitely go to varlosports.com, go all the way down to the footer of the page. You’ll see ambassadors click to apply. Um, uh, we are an awesome, awesome, awesome group of individuals.
[00:42:33] So we have a great community and Reggie Waller actually runs it. We are taking domestic and international ambassadors. And then also look for our spring collection that we’ll be launching, I will say end of March, early April. Um, that is going to be a ton of fun to roll out. So that’s coming relatively soon.
[00:42:53] Look for a sneak peak. Either on Instagram or Facebook. Uh, I think we’re probably going to drop a [00:43:00] teaser in the next coming weeks. So fun stuff and wait
[00:43:04] Kim: [00:43:04] to check it out. So I’m going to leave all of our Lowe’s information down below. You can scroll up right now to check out their website, their socials, make sure you follow them on Instagram.
[00:43:15] Their Instagram is dope. People you want to follow them? I just want to thank so much for being on the show. I love when I see. Entrepreneurs doing, you know, something, this is something big and you’re a black man. I love when I see black man doing a damn thing, he’s black people. If you’re listening and you got this far, he’s a black man.
[00:43:38] He mentioned he was from Nigeria and the top of the show. So yeah, I just love to see us doing it and you’re definitely doing it. And I know that there’ll be big things to come for ball Farlow in the
[00:43:50] Soj Jibowu: [00:43:50] future. Thank you. I really appreciate it. I got to share like a fun story that you brought that you mentioned.
[00:43:56] That’s so funny to me once, uh, one time we had, [00:44:00] um, I think our, it was like in September, our press release came out. We did a press release and the press releases, you know, black owned travel on cycling brand and, um, someone had shot a message to us. And I think they went to either our website or they were on our IAG or something.
[00:44:14] They were like, Hey. Is this really black owned or is this like this? I don’t believe is this really black owned? I shot the message to Jake, Jake and I are looking at it. I think I sent it to Reggie too. Oh man, this is plugging. And um, of course we respond to like, yeah, it is black owned, but you know, thanks for reaching out and your inquiry, but.
[00:44:37] Yeah, there’s black owned everyone,
[00:44:39] Kim: [00:44:39] but you know what it’s because in triathalon, we are the minority, we’re the minority and running as well. But in triathlon you can go to a race and you can count, you know, every black person I see. I say, Hey too. And you remember them because there’s like two or three of us there, you know?
[00:44:53] So. You know, it’s a good question to ask because you wouldn’t think there would be a multi-sport company that [00:45:00] is black owned. So, you know, it’s something new and fresh and it’s something for us to support and yeah, it’s definitely support you as much as I can to get the word out. Cause I’m excited to see what you guys are going to do in the future.
[00:45:13] Soj Jibowu: [00:45:13] Awesome. Well, I appreciate the opportunity. It’s a pleasure chatting with you. Of
[00:45:17] Kim: [00:45:17] course. Thanks again.
[00:45:19] Soj Jibowu: [00:45:19] Take care.
[00:45:21] Kim: [00:45:21] I hope you enjoy the day with Soj from Varlo Apparel. They are a black own cycling and triathlete clothing, apparel brand. And I love chatting with entrepreneurs, especially black entrepreneurs.
[00:45:36] And I always love to lend my platform and support you. Entrepreneurs in any way that I can. So again, thank you so much for being on The Run Wave Podcast. I appreciate you taking your time out to chat with me and I will catch you out on the next one. Yeah. Like my little dance. If you’re watching this on YouTube, you’ll see I do my [00:46:00] little dance every week.
[00:46:02] So again, our catch out on the next one later. Thank you so much for tuning into the show. Be sure to subscribe to the show, wait on your favorite podcast app and leave us a review of the show on Apple podcasts. It would really help me out if you are a runner that has a story to tell, and you would like to be on the show.
[00:46:24] You can email firstname.lastname@example.org Or send us a DM on Instagram to the run wave. See you next time.