Last week Oiselle and Janji, two mission-driven running apparel brands, announced that they are merging as “a partnership of equals.” Community is at the heart of both brands, and as Oiselle’s founder, Sally Bergesen, and Janji’s co-founder, Dave Spandorfer, explain, it’s a big part of the reason why they decided to join forces.
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When Janji was starting out, Sally was a mentor to Dave and his co-founder, Mike Burnstein. For her part, Sally remembers when she met Dave and Mike. “It really was different than meeting other people in business around running and around running brands; they were just so friendly. I mean, I’m not gonna mention the names of other brands that we compete against, but it tends to be very much an elbows-out experience, right? Like you’re getting spiked, like you’re getting jabbed in the boob. These guys were very eager, had a very friendly outlook, really seemed to love the sport for all of the reasons that people who love the sport do, which is the community, which is the friendship.”
Oiselle and Janji both were born out of community and friendship. Janji started on a bus ride to a track meet when Dave was in college. It was a hot day, and as he and Mike hydrated in preparation for their races, they conceived of a running brand that gives back – specifically one that would provide clean drinking water in countries where it’s in short supply. They were in a class that helped guide them, but, Dave says, “It really was about community, getting that feedback, and we had so many wonderful advisors and mentors who helped out over the years.
“Oiselle was conceived on a group run,” Sally says. “I mean, literally, the group of 6,7 women runners who I’d been running with for years, and we’re running along and I’m like, ‘Guys, running shorts, let’s talk.’ And everybody’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I know, they’re terrible. Why?’ and you just go, go, go. So running community, running friends, training, racing, being together, has been part of my life story essentially ever since I found running. So when I envisioned a brand, that community had to be a part of it; it’s kind of non-negotiable. It would seem like such a loss and like you’re aiming way too low, if you’re just making a product and just trying to sell it.”
Janji’s and Oiselle’s communities extend beyond the walls of their respective businesses. Members of the Janji Collective are encouraged to explore, connect, and give back through running, while Oiselle’s Volée is a global community of women from diverse backgrounds and with different goals, connected by their love of running. “We really do believe that this is a collective sport,” Dave says. “It can feel like when you’re out there on a run, you’re there alone. But when you’re part of that community on a training run, you can go faster, but also when you’re part of a wider community, you learn so much and you become so much wiser for it. Getting through injuries, finding the right races, it’s all about that larger body. And so both brands are tapping into that and sort of focusing in on that in their respective communities. I think it’s what really has allowed the companies to get to where they’re at, but also will allow the brands to flourish. It’s really about us just listening.”
While the companies will remain separate, Sally and Dave believe that the merger will strengthen both of them. “Having sort of open doors between the two different brands, despite them being separate, there can be such shared learnings that make both of us better, because I think Oiselle is so strong, bringing more people into the sport, no matter their body type,” Dave says.
Sally reflects on an organization called, “Off the Mat Into the World.” “It’s basically taking your yoga practice and not having that be the end of the goodness that you find in yourself and others, and using that in whatever areas you might be living out, whether that’s in your work or in your family or in your community. I love that same ethos and I think Janji is embodying that spirit of adventure, and essentially, how do we take these learnings from the sport of running that we’re given every time that we put on our shoes and have that experience, and take it out and create that goodness elsewhere. I really love that, so we’re gonna steal from them a little bit and continue to talk about that theme of the goodness and the ripple effects that the sport can have.”
At a time when women’s rights are under attack and climate change is making parts of the world more arid, amplifying the companies’ missions is more important than ever, and they see joining forces as the best way to do that. “I think that it’s tricky with wanting to change the world sometimes,” Sally says. “Activism can often be around tearing things down, right? And it’s very easy to tear things down, and sometimes it’s very effective, because it immediately sheds light on an issue. It can cast you as the hero, you know, all of those things. But what’s much more meaningful is collaboration and working together to create change.”
Dave agrees. “Oiselle and Janji are gonna be brand training buddies, right? We’re gonna push each other, we’re gonna do those hard workouts where you realize that you could do that last 400 or that last mile in a long run, and it’s easier when you are doing those things together. Those long runs alone or those daily runs are wonderful and meaningful, but those runs where you’re doing it with someone else, those shared memories, those times we’re pushing each other, that’s where the really exciting stuff happens. As to builders and believers, a community, we think that two brands coming together expands that and allows us to accomplish amazing things, whether it’s with running, or with creating really cool gear that I think will continue to inspire, and make that small difference to hopefully make the world a little better.”
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“Thank you” to Sally and Dave! We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.