From the genesis of Coalition Snow, co-founder and CEO Jen Gurecki's vision was of a business run by women, for women, with equal emphasis on both elements. She wanted to make hard-charging women's specific skis and snowboards that didn't suck—if you ask the Powder Union, she nailed it. How highly Coalition values women's leadership has been part of the company's message to customers since its 2015 launch, and as the award-winning Tahoe brand gains recognition, evidence that it's good business to have women in decision-making positions is stacking higher and higher.
Next week, on November 21, Coalition joins nearly 100 businesses (and counting) in the inaugural annual Women-Led Wednesday, an e-commerce campaign inviting consumers to make it rain on companies founded, owned, or run by women. Participating brands are corralled in one place at womenledwednesday.com, a streamlined "discovery and shopping hub," which will remain live online indefinitely.
"All too often, we create the time, we create the space, to have conversations [about supporting women in business]," Gurecki says, "but we don't actually do anything, and we expect things to be different. I appreciate that there's specific, tangible action that's meant to come out of this: On Wednesday, buy some shit from women."
This ambitious grassroots initiative reaches across industries—participating brands sell giftable items and services ranging from protective eyewear for dogs to men's underwear to Peruvian Pisco—but it originally formed on the drawing board of a Sun Valley business owner and skier.
This fall, Cassie Abel, co-founder of Wild Rye Mountain Apparel and owner of White Cloud Communication, was brainstorming approaches for marketing Wild Rye's technical outdoors garments ahead of the 2018 holiday season. While toying with ideas for a pre-Thanksgiving sale, "Women-Led Wednesday popped into my head," Abel says.
"I couldn't believe something like this didn't exist," she adds, referencing other themed shopping days like Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and Small Business Saturday.
During the eight Small Business Saturdays since that annual event began in 2010, U.S. customers have spent an estimated total of $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants, according to the credit card company. In a survey conducted by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, ninety percent of customers say that the event has impacted their community positively.
Abel, who is pouring hours of sweat equity into this project, hopes to harness some of this values-based collective purchasing power to boost women-led businesses. She's quick to point out that even though women comprise 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, and 52 percent of the country’s professional-level workforce, only 25 percent of executive and senior-level officials and managers at S&P 500 companies are women—and only 6 percent are CEOs. A Morgan Stanley research team found in 2017 that "more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction."
"Women-led Wednesday is about voting for women in leadership, and helping to grow female-led brands," Abel says. "The goal is to lift. It's not going to happen overnight, but supporting women-led brands financially is the quickest path to leveling the playing field."
As Gurecki puts it, "if you believe in the underpinnings of Women-Led Wednesday, this is a call to action. Put your money where your mouth is." She says she hopes the event will help validate women as serious, legitimate business people—especially in the outdoors industry—and bump up consumer awareness about Coalition, which is still a small, indie brand.
For companies that haven't been as vocal about having women in leadership positions, this event is an opportunity to step into the spotlight. Annelise Loevlie, CEO of Golden, Colorado-based Icelantic Skis, says that this will be the first time the brand is outwardly promoting this quality for values-minded consumers.
"I loved the idea," she says. "I honestly just love to collaborate, whenever I can, with women… It's no surprise to me that this initiative is coming from our industry. There's a lot of really empowered women in our industry."
Abel says that almost every morning since the website launch in late October, she's woken up to new inquiries from businesses across the country, from a wide variety of industries, that are interested in joining the campaign. Going forward, she hopes to attract bigger brands, further improve the online shopping hub, land a financial partner, and hone more inclusive language that embraces business owners who don't identify as women but experience shared oppressions and disadvantages.
With the groundswell of support over the last month alone, Abel says she's optimistic that this pre-Thanksgiving shopping event may just roll right into a 365-days-a-year movement that will lift businesswomen, in the outdoors industry and beyond, to greater heights.