Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Jenna Anians

Sport & Fitness

We caught up with the President and co-founder of the innovation-embracing startup Tribesports to find out how she helped build a business that is challenging even the most established sports brands.

The web has opened up a number of opportunities for product designers and retailers to create and market their goods in new ways, and to reach new customers. Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and quantifying tech have all become zeitgeist terms in the past few years and disruptive sportswear brand Tribesports has based its business model on all three. After building an online space and tools for sports enthusiasts to discuss, track and share their achievements, the company turned to its now loyal community to collectively help design a new line of sportswear, successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter. We caught up with President and co-founder of the innovation-embracing startup, Jenna Anians, to find out how she helped build a business that is challenging even the most established sports brands.

Having initially held a media sales post at Conde Nast, Jenna eventually moved into business development at mydeco, a homeware retailer. In 2010 she struck out on her own, using her communications and partnership management skills to co-found the Tribesports community alongside Steve Reid, Andrew McDonough and David Hickson. Jenna can also hold a headstand for five minutes!

1. Where did the idea for Tribesports come from?

Back in 2010 when we started the business, there wasn’t a place where people could go to interact with other sportspeople around the world to get advice, share experiences and discuss their sports — a place where people could go and get information, motivation and support from fellow sports enthusiasts.

Over the past two years, has grown to become one of the world’s largest sports and fitness social networks, with an active community of users who are passionate about their sports. We decided to give this global community a voice and use their knowledge to rip up the rule book and introduce a brand new community-powered performance sportswear range.

Technical sportswear is incredibly expensive and we want to make it more accessible to real sportspeople around the world. The traditional sportswear retail model is laden with inefficiencies that add unnecessary layers of cost, which in the end are passed on to the consumer, in the form of incredibly high retail prices. It is our aim to make high-quality, performance sportswear more accessible to real sportspeople, while also giving them real input into the development of the sportswear range, which makes the experience of using Tribesports Performance Sportswear a truly unique one.

2. Can you describe a typical working day?

None of us really have a typical day per se. I normally start bright and early at 6am. I live outside of London, so combine both the train and cycling into work. If I’m on the train I use that time to catch up on emails or plan for calls/ meets. Once I’m in the office, every day is different. Whether it be talking production development plans with our factory, sourcing new innovative technologies for future product lines, interacting with the Tribesports community, merchandising planning, copywriting, site testing, planning, marketing or partnership initiatives with the team, analysing site performance, or just about anything in between – always varied, always exciting and always busy. Oh and don’t forget our afternoon workout Core at 4 with the team.

3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Tribesports?

Getting out on my bike on countryside cycles, taking my dog Olive for walks, catching up with the girls over breakfast, I also really love fishing.

4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Building the strongest possible team to drive the business.

5. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Very early on in the process of building Tribesports, we reacted too slowly to some market changes. We quickly learned to follow the data and become much more reactive. If you stick too rigidly to the game-plan you started with, without reacting to what is happening around you, it will affect the business, and drive you a little crazy!

6. What motivates you to keep going?

The determination that we will disrupt in our market space and the interaction and activities of the Tribesports Community keeps us going. There have been so many examples of incredible things that Tribesports users have done since its inception, that make all the effort worthwhile. The recent Game Changer campaign that we ran, where we invited users to submit the #GameChanger moments in their fitness and health journeys that helped them get to where they are today was truly inspiring.

7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t believe even if we started again now that the journey would be linear, so if we could change anything I’d say perhaps we’d have made quicker decisions earlier on some core things, but that’s all. It’s hard to argue with what the Tribesports Community has created. They have shaped the way Tribesports has grown and developed. The community-powered sportswear is just the next exciting stage that the Tribesports users have driven.

8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

We see no reason why we won’t be up there competing with the Under Armours and Lululemons of the world, bringing a disruptive offering to the market that harnesses crowdsourced fitness data and design input to build a sports brand shaped by real sportspeople at more accessible price points.

9. If you weren’t working on Tribesports right now, what would you be doing?

Sports/fashion startups are my main passions, so something that involved all 3 hopefully! I don’t like the thought of not having Tribesports in my life, so I’m going to stop thinking about that question.

10. Tell Springwise a secret…

Well, I’m not going to give you any embarrassing secrets about me, but I can let you in on a little bit of a secret involving Tribesports. We’ve been hard at work developing a brand new Tribesports app which is now in a final testing phase, that will bring a new, feature-rich offering to the free fitness app market, without any of the premium upgrade costs. It’s definitely one to keep an eye out for.

11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do your market research, make sure you are 100% passionate about your brand, listen to your customers, don’t be afraid to react to change. And most importantly, concentrate on building the right team – the support they give you will be invaluable. Get ready for a bumpy ride. ☺