SNEWS Qs: Brooks Sports Anne Cavassa talks role models and challenges

SNEWS chats with Brooks Sports Anne Cavassa, who was recently named vice president of global apparel for Brooks and Moving Comfort.
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As an avid runner, Anne Cavassa has a rather intimate relationship with her running shoes — and the love of her life is the Brooks Adrenaline.

AnneCavassa

“It’s been my shoe forever,” Cavassa said. “It’s taken me through many miles, many marathons and many injuries. I’ve tried other shoes but the Adrenaline is kind of the one.”

Her job is just as perfect a fit. She recently was hired as vice president of global apparel for Brooks and Moving Comfort. Though she won’t be focusing on footwear, she’ll help drive the apparel business at both brands.

Cavassa said she’s spending the next few months getting to know her two brands while continuing to give consumers what they expect, exemplified in her opinion by the Pure Cadence shoe (despite her devotion to the Adrenaline).

“I absolutely love it,” she noted. “It’s that blend of art and science that I think Brooks is delivering against really well and the consumers have grown to expect.”

SNEWS chatted with Cavassa, who just relocated to Seattle with her husband and two young children, about her new position, whom she looks up to in the industry and her immediate goals.

What are some of your plans for Brooks and Moving Comfort now that you've moved into the new position?
I don’t know if I have plans, exactly, but I think the short-term goal is to — in the next 90 days — get an understanding of both brands at a more intimate level. I want to focus the two brands on what they do really well: Keep Brooks focused on the runner and being a leader in running, and keep Moving Comfort a leader in women’s fitness apparel and focus on driving the brands at market.

What excites you most about what Brooks and Moving Comfort have going on right now?

I would say, at a high level, the interest in technology and innovation in their respective spaces and being on the forefront. The research and testing they do on athletes is phenomenal. They lead the way in the research they do. Additionally, both brands have momentum in the marketplace. All the grassroots stuff going on, like the Brooks Run Happy campaign, is really connecting with the runner on runner’s terms, and Moving Comfort has significant market share with bras and they’re gaining momentum in apparel as well.
So it is a really fun time to be joining an industry leading company with so much momentum behind them.

Which female leaders do you look up to and connect with in the outdoor industry?

I would say there are a few: Sally Jewell is certainly an amazing person who has done so much for outdoor. She is a true inspiration. Pam Theodosakis at Prana is another inspiration of mine. She is a female business owner who embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. Pam, along with her husband Beaver, has built the Prana business. She is equally dedicated to her family and community and leaves a positive impact on all that she touches. Also a dear friend of mine, Kelly Maggs of REI, embodies the spirit of the outdoor industry and has been a huge personal and professional inspiration to me for years.

What role should women play for one another in the outdoor industry?

I think the word support says it all. We’re all out there to participate in the outdoors in sport and things that we love and enjoy. The more that we can support women, and just encourage the experience of being active and being out there, the better. From a business perspective, the more we listen to her voice, the more likely we will build her product that she is truly looking for. I am in a unique position with Moving Comfort, as it is solely dedicated to the active woman. Women have different motivations and we think differently than men. Staying true to her and hyper-focused on her needs is the mission.

What is your advice to other women in the industry who want to advance their careers?

Be true to who you are. Do things in the way that is consistent with who you are as opposed to doing what you think is expected. Ultimately you will find success if you are yourself. If you do things counter to who you are, your journey won’t be authentic and your destination may not be where you want to go.

Which career accomplishments are you most proud of?

One I am most proud of was years ago at Tommy Bahama. It was an accomplishment that was more about the culture and people of the organization than about business growth. The Garden of Hope and Courage was an internal charity that was dedicated to establishing a garden sanctuary at a Naples, Fla. hospital for cancer victims and their families. The proceeds of TB’s top-selling prints went to the Garden of Hope and Courage. It was very inspiring for all and the company rallied around the charity, but to date they hadn’t expanded it beyond the sales of the product. I organized and led a group of three women to train and race Ironman Florida in support of the charity. It was a year-long effort that involved the entire company. With the support of co-workers and commitment to our cause, we all finished Ironman and raised $85,000 along the way. Every employee was fully engaged and supportive. It was a true team effort.

What are the biggest challenges facing the outdoor industry, and how can we overcome them?

The consumer is moving so fast and things are happening so quickly. Finding ways to connect with the consumer in a relevant way that we enjoy and can be proud of is challenging. Specialty retail is a hands-on experience where we intimately engage with the athlete and consumer. This isn’t about technology or convenience, it’s about relationships and great experiences. Helping specialty retail remain special will ensure our continued connection with the consumer. Also minimizing our footprint as we grow our business is a constant challenge worthy of taking on. We need to continue to tackle this together as an industry in support of the outdoor world.

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