Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
I am excited to introduce you all to Jen Agan. A former soigneur and long-time member of the cycling industry, Agan is keen to revamp our Movers and Shakers feature series with short Q&As with our beloved sport’s and industry’s women trail blazers. These are women who often go unnoticed but make the world of (women’s) cycling go round.
“Lately I have been enchanted with anyone brave enough to go out on their own. To go forth, to take that leap and ‘fall’ and pick yourself up and go at again and again and again,” says Agan. “Our industry is filled with these individuals. This series is for them. I wanted for us to look and talk beyond the race, beyond the win, beyond the product, and beyond the team. I want to talk about the fire, that passion and dedicates that drives it.”
The women we write about in this series include team owners, key industry players, race organisers, cycling advocates, journalists, inventors, designers, business owners and the professional athletes that often play a huge role in advancing their sport. Is there someone you want to hear form? We happily accepts your nominations for Movers and Shakers in the comment sections of these articles.
For her first Q & A, Agan choose no one other than Kristy Scrymgeour. A true fixture in women’s cycling, Scrymgeour is a former professional cyclist (and two-time Australian national champion!) who has been involved in just about every side of the sport for the past 20 years. From rider to press officer to team owner, Scrymgeour has worked tirelessly to make sure female cyclists had a home in the sport and a platform from which to launch or build their career. Today, Scrymgeour is co-founder of two brands: the cycling apparel brand, Velocio, and Ally’s Bar, a nutrition product.
– Anne-Marije Rook
“I’m fairly optimistic. If times get tough, I always have in my head – just keep going – you will make it work, and if that doesn’t work then you move to what will work. That’s all you can do.”
– Kristy Scrymgeour. High School Science Teacher. Professional Cyclist. Team Director. Entrepreneur. Velocio Co-Creator. Community Leader. Activist
Jen Agan for Ella CyclingTips: Your journey has truly been amazing. If you had to give a book description of your journey, how would it read?
Kristy Scrymgeour: That’s a good and hard question. Looking back, I never really had a plan. To be a professional cyclist, to run a team and then to start an apparel brand –none of it was part of a plan. I graduated from university as a high school science teacher, but I really only taught for a year before I took off to the other side of the world to race my bike. I loved teaching and working with kids but when I began racing, I had a feeling I would never go back to it. Somehow the world of bike racing had captured me, and 20 years on, I’m still involved. I didn’t plan any of it. I just seemed to follow new ideas to the next project.
Ella: What does success mean to you?
KS: Actually I’ve never really been totally driven to be personal successful. More so, I think I followed my passion. I fell into bike racing and really loved it. But when I do start something, I tend to put everything into it. I think passion is what drives me more than success.
Ella: What drew you to Velocio?
KS: It was an inspiration that grew as I was working with teams. During the years with [HTC-Highroad] and then running my own team, a big conversation was always surrounding the apparel –the fit, the performance of the fabric and the design. It continually became more apparent that the choice for women was very minimal. You could see apparel improving for women in yoga and running, but there was a gap in the market when it came to cycling. Part of the passion in working in women’s cycling was the goal of trying to grow the sport and possibilities for women. I figured that if women had beautiful, nicely cut, high quality clothing to wear it could be part of the excitement of going for a ride. We all know it’s so much nicer riding when you look and feel great in your kit.
Ella: What has been the biggest challenge running your own line?
KS: (Laughing) Living like a student! Anyone who’s started a business knows how hard it is when you start from scratch. But I have two great partners. We knew from the beginning that the first few years were going to be a lot of work for very little financial reward and always with the risk of it not working. But it’s also exciting being able to create something and see it come to life, and we always had faith that we could make it work.
Ella: Were there any women mentors that inspired you along the way?
KS: It’s more of a collective of friends and family. My circle of friends and family, just knowing they are there for me has been the best inspiration. For me, it’s not really about a ‘role model’ but about supporting each other. There are so many women out there doing great things! And it’s happening all around and you see it! You see the possibilities and that is inspiring. Social media has been wonderful for women, and any minority sport or group for that matter, because there was a time when women didn’t have a collective voice at our fingertips, and now we have the opportunity of knowing what else is going on and be able to encourage and support each other’s ideas.
Ella: When you’re brainstorming for new kit ideas and design what has been your source of inspiration?
KS: Our goal from the beginning was about the fit and performance of the apparel, and then creating a classic design that could be worn anywhere and stay fashionable from season to season. A classic look and sustainability is the foundation. But the magic behind the design really comes from my partner Brad. He’s a very talented designer! We throw our ideas and opinions at him but he puts it all together.
Ella: What was the best advice you were given when you were first starting out?
KS: Honestly, there wasn’t really a lot of time for advice when we started Velocio. I called Brad up and I said, “So what do think of this idea?” And he said, “Yes, let’s do it!” And that was that. We were up and going.
Ella: Have you ever felt any adversity you have had to overcome as a woman in your industry?
KS: Ya, I think it’s always a bit of a fight. Right from the beginning you’re pushing for women – finding sponsorship in a world where investing in women is not the norm. But there’s is so much good that is happening, more positive growth and our voices are being heard. I believe if you surround yourself with like-minded people who have a similar stance it seems possible. Like many parts of society, cycling has been a man’s world and we have to keep pushing to change that.
Ella: If you could go back, what advice would you give to your younger self?
KS: Don’t get into your 40’s and still be living like a student! But no, not really. I am always really appreciative of the life I’ve been able to live through cycling. I love where I’ve ended up. When you choose to be a female bike racer and continue a career in women’s cycling, you do it because you love it, not for the money. And of course, to try to make it better for the next generation of women. I’ve had great opportunities to meet so many wonderful people and live in so many different places. Building a business and seeing it grow is rewarding. I’m where I want to be right now.
Ella: Do you have a personal or professional motto?
KS: Oh, you know I don’t really have a go-to motto. I guess my motto is just to stay optimistic. If times get tough, I always have in my head – just keep going – make it work.
Ella: What’s the first thing you do every morning?
KS: I know I shouldn’t, but I check my email. When you’re running a business that is global or a team that’s racing all over the world, you really have to wake up and see what’s going on.
Ella: What does the world need more of? Less of?
KS: More empathy! More real understanding of other people’s experiences and points of view. What the current election in the US has made so clear, is that as a society, we are so polarised. We need to check ourselves and really make an effort to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. For example, it’s easy for us to simply say, ‘I’m not racist’ and just be done with it. But if you’ve never truly had to deal with racism against you, then you don’t know what that means and how it affects your life. We all need to learn to try to understand what something really means before we comment or force our opinion on others. And less of? Less hate and less judgement.
Ella: How do you reconnect?
KS: Bike riding. There’s nothing better than a bike ride with a good friend for clearing your mind and getting renewed energy. A ride followed by coffee, of course. Things that have been on your mind or bugging you, all of a sudden seem so manageable. Also when home in Australia, diving in the ocean does the same thing.
Who would you like to hear from next? Let us know in the comment section below.