Athleta is investing in Saysh, the year-old women’s sneaker brand of its very first sponsored athlete, Allyson Felix.
The Gap Inc.-owned sportswear brand and growth capital fund IRIS Ventures led an $8 million Series A funding round, Saysh announced Thursday. Other investors included Redpoint Ventures and Springbank Collective. According to Saysh, the round was comprised mostly of female-owned and female-led investors.
Allyson Felix, a former Nike athlete who left the Swoosh brand for Athleta in 2019 after going public about her experience negotiating with her sponsor while pregnant, started Saysh with her brother Wes Felix nearly a year ago. for day. In addition to its signature Sayish One sneaker, the self-proclaimed “community-centric lifestyle brand” also sells anklets and hosts events and a podcast.
The company plans to use the new funding to grow its branded e-commerce, wholesale distribution and community footprint, “something the founders view as a great growth opportunity,” Saysh said. It will also support an “expanded” product offering and the launch of “several new activity-specific sneakers”, he added. Saysh said he has already tested “different ideas and concepts” that will inform his future product portfolio.
“This is an exciting next step for the brand, and we are so grateful to the partners who see the potential in Saysh to help shape a better future for all of us,” said co-founder and CEO Wes. Felix in a statement. “Saysh, at the grassroots, celebrates women and their voices, and this funding gives us even more power to lead in that regard. We are now, more than ever, positioned to understand and meet the needs of our customers, delivering more value than ever before.
The investment gives Gap Inc. a stake in Saysh. It also establishes a partnership between Saysh and Athleta which will see the latter feature the former’s shoes on its website. Athleta previously offered an exclusive Saysh One colorway following the sneaker’s launch. Gap Inc.’s Strategic Growth Office, a unit dedicated to “finding opportunities to fuel growth and accelerate new capabilities,” brokered Athletica’s investment.
Allyson Felix was one of many athletes to draw attention to Nike’s maternity policy in May 2019. After months of public outcry and a congressional investigation, Nike finally changed its policy to ensure it does not would not reduce the salary and bonuses of a pregnant athlete over the age of 18. -months around pregnancy. In late July 2019, just weeks before her former sponsor announced their new policy, she signed with Athleta. Felix became the most decorated American track and field Olympian at the Tokyo Olympics two years later.
Felix opened up about his experience at Nike last summer, including how the company asked him to take part in an ad campaign celebrating women’s empowerment following his contentious pay negotiations. “My stomach dropped,” she told Time. “I was like, this is just beyond disrespect and deafness.”
Athleta, which also welcomed former Nike athlete Simone Biles last year, works directly with Felix to support other athlete moms. After launching a $200,000 child care fund for mothers of professional athletes last year, the two partners announced a new initiative on Tuesday that will provide free, accessible child care during certain athletics events.
Launched in partnership with nonprofit &Mother, the program will kick off at Felix’s final championship race in Oregon later this week. The partners will provide childcare services to all athletes, coaches and staff attending the event through Vivvi, an employer-sponsored childcare company.
“My final season is not about winning medals, it’s about giving back to the sport and expectant mom-athletes and leaving it better for the next generation of women raising kids,” Felix said in a statement. “Athleta and I have set out to prove the power of holistically supporting women. As I reflect on the obstacles I faced when competing at the highest level while being a mother, I feel more determined to leave this legacy behind to ensure that more women can both raise children and excel in their athletic careers.
Athleta’s Power of She Fund, Felix and the Women’s Sports Foundation also opened a third round of child care grants that will provide female athletes with $10,000 for child care resources needed for training and development. competition. Athletes can apply until July 12. So far they have awarded over $200,000 in grants.
“Our latest effort to support athlete moms with childcare empowers them to thrive in their professional careers while prioritizing their well-being and removing a barrier so prevalent in sport,” said Kyle Andrew, Athleta Brand Director, in a statement. “No woman should have to choose between her career and her family.”