The Grassroots Strategy Behind Outdoor Voices' Loyal Fanbase, with Ty Haney

Jared Mintzlaff

December 20, 2023

When I started Magnetic, I made a list of people that I simply HAD to interview on the show. The goal was—and continues to be—to extract the most audacious, wild, and daring strategies that founders pulled off when they were getting their larger-than-life brands off the ground. Ty Haney, the Founder of Outdoor Voices, was at the top of the list.

You know that legendary legging brand that looks like athleisure and apparently feels like a hug? The one popping up in hip boutiques with smiling staff greeting customers like old friends? Yeah - THAT one.

Ever wonder how a business centered around Feel Good fitness carved out its claim in the buzzing activewear space? Ty Haney manifested OV out of thin air - and she was kind enough to give us the blueprint.

Ty built her women’s activewear empire from scratch, crafting a mighty and welcoming community. Last week, Ty joined me in the hot seat, and dove deep into how she took her passions from paper to powerhouse. But before we dive in, be sure to catch the full episode here:

Ty grew up outdoorsy in Boulder, Colorado. After chasing her athletic dreams out east in NYC, Ty found herself missing the Rockies. The art school grad realized that though the concrete jungle had its charms, she craved the community and casual active lifestyle she left back home.

Lightbulb moment: what if I create an apparel brand to bring my mountain-town values to the masses?

Ty put pen to paper, sketching the seeds of a business that would help people see fitness as a daily celebration rather than a hardcore grind. She wanted to inspire the world to move with joy and ease.

After weathering the usual startup storms, Ty eventually launched Outdoor Voices to overnight success. With funding and inventory secured, she focused on building an enthusiastic tribe around her fledgling business. How’d she do it? Glad you asked...

Step 1: Rally Your Peeps

Outdoor Voices started as a scrappy team modeling prototypes and talking to anyone who would listen about their community-focused mission. Enthusiasm bred enthusiasm...which bred more enthusiasm. OV activated their people on the ground, rewarding them with surprise swag and special access for spreading the word.

Key Takeaway: don’t wait for perfect - show your passion and get your product in front of friendly faces! Give your real-life network sneak peeks and insider incentives to organically grow buzz.

Step 2: Localize Your Locals

Once Ty sparked a homegrown tribe in Austin, it was time to scale. OV hosted free community events for like-minded, fun-loving locals looking to make new active friends.

These on-the-ground activations - coordinated by mega-fan volunteers - gave their most dedicated supporters leadership opportunities while attracting new neighbors into the community. It was all snacks and sunshine and dogs frolicking while you grabbed the latest legging drop.

Key Takeaway: reward your superfans by letting them co-create experiences with you. Design no-pressure events that bring your people together to embody your values IRL.

Step 3: Lean Into Your Weirdness

While other activewear brands flexed intimidating model bodies and pushed hardcore performance, OV broke the mold. They lead promotional campaigns featuring everyday people with everyday shapes, celebrating the lighter side of an activity many associate with pain and punishment.

When an unretouched customer photo showed off her cellulite in OV shorts, Ty made it the centerpiece of their social presence. Leaning into their message of easy, happy movement for all made the difference.

Key Takeaway: zag when they zig! Boldly highlight what makes you different...even if it seems odd at first. Differentiate from the competition by featuring your authentic community - they’ll love you for it!

Ty pioneered an approach focused on Friendship Over Fastest that resonated hard. She carved out her niche by localizing her core community and giving them ownership...then scaled by staying fiercely human-first. Now that’s a max-happiness mentality I can get behind.

Take Ty’s passion, persistence and partnership with her people and make it your own. Forget flashy ads and spammy sells - get out there close to home and co-create with your customers instead. Give your community (not just your MVP!) a memorable, rewarding role and they’ll run through walls to fuel your success.

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