And we are BACK! After a long stretch and COVID craziness, I have a treat for you!

Jess Cerra is defined as a Super Fast Lane Women…. she comes from a small but very well known town of Whitefish, Montana.

Jess was raised in Whitefish and impacted greatly by the resources from the High School through Scholarships.  She tells her story of growing up in Whitefish, going to college, but then getting involved in endurance sports and ultimately creating her own company! Jess is the Founder of JoJé Bars, which are a phenomenal meal bar! She is a Chef, Professional Cyclist and also one of the founders of The Last Best Ride along with her partner Sam. The Last Best Ride is an epic Gravel Ride through Northwest Montana. The 2nd event is happening August 21st in Whitefish. This event also provides Scholarships to Women, which is near and dear to Jess. In 2021 they saw over 500 Gravel Enthusiasts and plan on even more this year, myself included.

Join me as I dive into a few intimate details of the cycling world, business ownership and even some failures. This episode is sure to get your mind thinking about ‘What you can do’ and how failing forward is definitely a path to success.

Photo Credit: @dominiquepowers


Jess Cerra

Speaker1: [00:00:01] All right. We are with Jess Cerra, and this is the Super Fast Lane Woman podcast. And first of all, like I actually ran into you, through social media because I started getting interested in biking. And when I, I didn’t really think you would want to talk to me actually, because I know we went to school together, but at the same time, I didn’t really know you. I played volleyball with your sister a little bit, but you’re a year older than me. So really, by the time I kind of like, got into your your little sphere of influence, I think it was hard for me because I was like, Oh, I don’t know if this guy will want to talk to me, but you did. And so I’m excited to sit with you here today and be a part of Super Fast Lane woman. And the reason why I have you on here is because you hold multiple hearts, and that’s part of why I started super fast. Lane Woman Because being a business owner, being a mom, just being in life, having a significant other, like there’s so many pieces to our lives that sometimes get lost in translation. So Jess, thanks for coming on with me today. Well, thank.

Speaker2: [00:01:12] You for having me. And it’s so funny that you say that because I wasn’t really an endurance athlete in high school.

Speaker3: [00:01:19] That’s right. It’s like I think we connected.

Speaker2: [00:01:22] Years later through sport, through our local bike shop. And yeah, so I’m glad I’m glad that we did. And in moving back to Whitefish is helpful because I’m not just here for weeks at a time, I have time to form local friendships.

Speaker1: [00:01:39] Yeah, for sure. Well, I do want to hear a little bit about your upbringing in Whitefish. Just tell us a little bit about living here, because you know, some of the things that you do with like the last bus ride and the scholarships you do are the core really comes from your upbringing in Whitefish. So tell us a little bit about that.

Speaker2: [00:01:57] Yeah. So if you know Whitefish today, you probably think of it as like kind of a tourist destination, maybe a little bit of a fancy resort town. It was not like that growing up here. So I’m 40. Just to give you some context.

Speaker3: [00:02:12] Of the the time line, put a time.

Speaker2: [00:02:14] Stamp on this. And when I grew up here, I mean, most families came from humble backgrounds. My family included very loving and supportive family. That was low income. I think my mom raised my sister and I on about $12,000 a year. She cleaned houses and my dad worked at Nelson’s hardware for a long time before he started his home repair business. So as you can imagine, there was not a lot of extra money there for, you know, sport equipment or getting into something like bikes. But, you know, they found a way and I think it was it’s a testament to our community. And it’s something I didn’t realize until I got older what it meant to have these programs that are in place. Just as an example, your business partner, Dave, his wife, taught figure skating lessons and I figure skated and I took lessons from her because I.

Speaker3: [00:03:20] Had yeah, I totally was like one of the most expensive.

Speaker2: [00:03:24] Sports because I was given a grant through a local organization. I applied every year. They awarded me money to have my figure skating membership to have lessons from Jennifer. So just a really cool example of the involvement of our community and just to kind of elaborate on that and you know, complete the answer to this question. When I was in high school and I realized our guidance counselor, Mrs. Mansfield, our sophomore year, came around and started talking about college already. And I had a panic attack because it was the first time that I had been given that type of information. And it scared me that I couldn’t afford to go to college. I was like, Wait, wait, it costs money. It’s not free, like high school. And that might seem a little silly, but when when you come from a family that doesn’t come from like an Ivy League background, or maybe it’s not the focus, it’s not like education wasn’t important to my parents. It just wasn’t a conversation we had had yet. So I worked with Mrs. Mansfield for the next three years to. Sort of fill out scholarship applications and grant applications. And my first year of college was funded almost completely on local scholarships, and college was a lot less expensive back then. The Pell Grant was more available, so I didn’t even have student loans for undergrad. And yeah, so this community had a huge influence on me. And as an adult you look back on it and you realize that the influence is less about the financial part and it’s more about knowing that people were willing to invest in you and how much people cared about myself and my family. And just like the sneaky little ways that, you know, people really help to lift us up.

Speaker1: [00:05:29] That’s cool. Yeah. Yeah. And you actually weren’t even in sports then, so.

Speaker2: [00:05:33] No, I really I think I always knew that being outside and doing things for a long period of time, I didn’t know that that was like called endurance sports. Right. But I love figure skating. I loved running outside. I felt a connection to it. I just didn’t really know that you could do something with that or make a career out of that.

Speaker1: [00:05:55] That’s cool. So I was a little opposite. So I went the route of getting a college track scholarship. But my thought too, I had a similar upbringing where we didn’t have a lot of money. So really my only opportunity was to get a scholarship. So that’s how I got to college. I was through a track scholarship, so that had a that’s a whole nother podcast, but just the twist of that. But the cool thing about that and my history with running is that actually is what kind of catapulted me to want to reach out to you because you were into biking and biking was one of the things that I could do physically because I had some health issues. And so I remember distinctly when you help me pick out my bike and or you you just kind of you said, yes, this is a great bike because I had found one at Great Northern and which they’re great great Northern Cycler. I love them. And you’re like, well, the only problem is there’s not a lot of places to raise your bike. You’re going to have to do a triathlon if you want to have more races. And I was like, Crap, I don’t know how to swim. So then I learned how to swim. So that’s another story too.

Speaker2: [00:07:10] But we can relate to each other on that point.

Speaker3: [00:07:14] Yeah, it was hard.

Speaker1: [00:07:15] Well, and actually. So you went to college and your upbringing here, your dad’s kind of a local legend, actually. I love Fred. He’s amazing. But let’s go to that a little bit. So you you got into college and culinary school like you’re a chef.

Speaker2: [00:07:32] I actually didn’t go to culinary school. I so I did my undergrad at the University of Montana in exercise physiology. Originally, I had intended to focus on athletic training, and I was actually just talking to someone else about this the other day because they also went to the University of Montana around the same time as me. And there was a professor named Dr. Ruby who was very passionate about including undergraduates in his research. And I kind of got pulled into the research side and decided to go a route where I was tracking to do a PhD. So once I finished, I was able to third author a paper as an undergrad, which in the science community, authorship on papers is a big deal. And if you can move your name up the list to being first author, it’s very valuable to institutions. So I had this unique experience moving into grad school and I targeted grad schools based on exercises in nutrition programs and ended up in San Diego. So I never went to culinary school, but it wasn’t until I was at grad school in San Diego that I actually sort of stumbled into research where our subjects were elite cyclists. And so there’s like a unique story to how I first got into cycling and then how I abandoned my PhD track and use my background in sport and nutrition to just make my own business and very cool in an area bar. Joe Bar and I was a private chef and a caterer for 12 years. Wow. On the side of racing. That’s how I supported myself. And it just came it was really it was crazy. I was so nervous when I first started because I didn’t know what I was doing and there was a lot to learn. But people like eating healthy food and people like eating healthy food created by an. That’s a professional.

Speaker1: [00:09:38] So you know what? You’re.

Speaker2: [00:09:40] I know what I’m. I know what I’m talking about. And I don’t want to eat boring things. I want to make it fun and creative. And in California, you have access to those foods 365 days a year. You can basically walk into a yard and pick an on the piano off a tree.

Speaker3: [00:09:54] So it’s like, can’t you can’t do that here. You’re paying like $5 for a rock hard rock hard avocado.

Speaker2: [00:10:00] So it was, you know, I created this business and. Yeah. It was so unexpected. The path that I took in, in honestly for a while when it was really hard and there was rough patches and like financially, I thought maybe this wasn’t the best idea to do this crazy pro cycling career. It just I stuck with it and it turned out to be the right thing for.

Speaker1: [00:10:28] Me, which is really cool. I love hearing stories like that because. Honestly, the best ones are the ones that are hard. Like you’ve you’ve shown I mean, Georgia’s grown and your cycling career has grown and just the whole everything about it with the last best ride, your events, like what you’re bringing to Whitefish is huge and it was scary. But look at you now.

Speaker3: [00:10:54] Yeah, it was.

Speaker2: [00:10:56] I think I remember sitting in your office about three years ago telling you that I wanted to own a home here, and you were like.

Speaker3: [00:11:05] We have a problem. You don’t make any money. I was like, Oh, right, that little detail. Yeah. But I actually that is interesting.

Speaker1: [00:11:13] Because I do there was a comment that was made that I saw in some form recently that it was about where athletes stay and the safety of athletes. And it actually has a little bit to do with that gravel cyclist and it was a part of that like why did they let. Her stay in a certain space. And the only reason I bring that up because I people don’t understand that as a professional cyclist, you don’t make a lot of money. And so for them to have that comment of like, why this, why they’re like, you guys do the best you can and and I hope it was okay to bring that up just because I just I think that it’s just. It’s. I know it affected you and. I know that cyclists don’t make a lot. And so to put that on there, like that’s tough. Like how, how did you survive that and how how can you encourage others that are seeking that route to be able to survive?

Speaker2: [00:12:17] I think it’s so interesting because and I’m not afraid to talk about it at all, like my highest cycling salary ever was $14,000 a year. And that was like a lot of money for an American woman. The disparity between men and women is very high there. Most recently, I think there is a minimum salary level for a world tour team for women, but that is something that you’re not going to find in America. You have to make it to Europe to do.

Speaker1: [00:12:47] That and you have to figure out everything. All your modern.

Speaker3: [00:12:50] Logic.

Speaker2: [00:12:51] Sometimes teams will pay. Most of the times teams will cover the cost inter races and your plane tickets. And then you’re like in host housing, you’re using people’s homes that are opening those up to eight teammates to come in and write tornado their house for a week during a stage race. You’re paying for your own health insurance, your you know, and that’s why women you know, the women on my team, they were all highly educated and or had careers on the side. And we would go to stage races and we would race and then we would all scatter and do our respective jobs remotely. And it’s like that is very helpful when you’re in an environment when everyone is doing it, but it’s like you’re working in the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life, physically and mentally to balance it all. Because cycling is a brutal sport, it is so hard from the outside looking in, it looks glamorous. But I mean, there’s days where you wake up and you’re not feeling good and it’s pouring rain and you have to go out there and race because that’s your life on the line, literally. Yeah, like put your health on the line because it is your job.

Speaker2: [00:14:06] And then the payoff for it is like $0.10 an hour to do that job and knowing that. You’re probably not going to take it much farther than that. Right. But a few people have alluded to the fact that I’m the hardest working woman in cycling. And I kind of chuckle when I hear that because I think that I have had the most support somehow. I’ve had an incredible support system around me of people who are willing to help financially, to help with their homes, or who saw how hard I was working at my businesses so they would support me through those avenues. They would buy Jojo bars. They would hire me to cater parties and just. So you can’t do it without a support system. So my advice is, is like. Have your support system and have your backup, whether it’s education or your career path that you’re working on on the side. Because when you get injured or when it gets tough and you can’t raise one mentally, having that to focus on is extremely helpful in to it just it sets you up for success if it doesn’t go the way that you think it’s going to go.

Speaker1: [00:15:27] Now, I think that’s a good point because I’m totally opposite because I do triathlon on the side as like my like mental escape, but like I need that. So it’s almost like you have your your cycling and that your business but then like. You have to have that escape route. I have my company, but then I am able to release the stress of my company. It’s almost like one helps the other and you need to have that and I think it’s a good healthy balance. Yeah. So with that, what is something that you failed at because you now have a successful business and I feel like you’re because you’re still racing professionally, correct?

Speaker2: [00:16:10] I would say that it’s a little.

Speaker3: [00:16:12] Bit.

Speaker2: [00:16:13] Flipped more. It’s my outlet and I serve more of a mentorship role. I would do race as a pro at races and it can sort of accidentally get results based off of my experience, I think more.

Speaker3: [00:16:28] Than anything, not definitely not my fitness, I’ll tell you that much.

Speaker2: [00:16:34] So I would say something that I feel that if we’re talking specifically about sport, I never made it to the top in cycling like I had hoped for and how I feel that that was. Injuries and sickness and maybe not managing that. Some of it was out of my control. I have had the iliac artery into fibrosis on both legs and you can’t control that. It happens to a lot of cyclists and triathletes. The second time I had it on my left leg, I panicked and I rushed back from that surgery. It was my first year with a professional contract. I wasn’t mature enough to understand that I should take it slow and come back. And it just led to a host of health issues and other issues. And I ended up pivoting in my career and becoming more of a domestique when I think I truly could have been one of the best, if not the best female cyclist that America ever had. Like, I was on that track as an amateur and from a number standpoint, like purely on paper, right? It was there and my background in mountain biking allowed me to have really good skills and just like technical savvy, which is something that’s hard to teach.

Speaker2: [00:18:03] But it didn’t go that way for me. And so I would say that was that was a mistake. I still sometimes look at that and focus on that. My partner, Sam, he races professionally. Here is this region of LA and he’s incredibly talented, sort of similar on paper, massive numbers, very race savvy. And I look at the trajectory that he’s on and I so I don’t want to be hovering, but I want to protect it because I don’t ever want him to make that mistake and not take care of himself. Right. And it’s so hard when you’re in it, you know, like even we’re insane people. We get sick and we have a cold for two days and we’re like in our heads were obese and we’re we have to retire. The whole world is coming to an end. Resting is the hardest part of being an athlete. Taking a break is so hard.

Speaker1: [00:19:01] And I think that’s the difference, too, that I’ve seen, like because I follow a lot of professional cyclists and triathletes and runners and, you know, they’re the really good ones. They’ve got great sponsorships. They’re they’re very good. So they literally can spend their day resting in between workouts. Yeah, it’s different when you’re.

Speaker3: [00:19:22] A chef, so.

Speaker1: [00:19:23] Yeah. And you’re building your way up and you’re just, you’re trying to get it to go or just like myself or just a beginner that’s really just, you know, trying to be great. But I also have two kids and.

Speaker3: [00:19:34] A full time job. Yeah, I don’t have time for rest. Like, what is what is stressful?

Speaker1: [00:19:41] No, that’s because I’ve had moments like that too, where it’s like like what if like like what if this happened and. My dad used to have this saying. And I’m going to say it because it’s on my podcast. What if your had balls? Would she be your uncle? And he always said that every single time I said, What if? And it just made me stop and be like, you’re right. Like, I can’t just say, like, what if all the time? And I firmly believe that, you know, those experiences can actually lead you to mentor your partner and to mentor some of these other people that like, it’s okay. Like you might have this path, but, but that’s okay if it’s not the exact path because it’s going to crisscross and get a little crazy, but it’s your story, so it makes it great.

Speaker2: [00:20:34] So it’s frustrating when you’re living your story sometimes because you don’t. It’s like we’re we don’t have that ability to just take a step back. We’re so laser focused on the moment as athletes. Yeah. And it is. It’s almost annoying when people give you that advice. I had a friend tell me this is the most annoying voice advice ever, but in five years you are going to be so happy of where you’re at right now. It will just be what it’s supposed to be. And I was like, I want to punch you in the face right now. That is.

Speaker3: [00:21:09] Not.

Speaker2: [00:21:10] What I want to hear. I want to control what’s happening. So it is very hard, but it’s also like you kind of have to let some of it go and have a little faith in whatever you believe in, whether it’s the universe or your personal faith or whatever it is. Sometimes you just need to like. Let it go a little bit. And it’s very hard like now being on the other side, the other side of whatever, it’s it’s easier to see that and to cultivate what I think is healthier habits now.

Speaker1: [00:21:47] Yeah. So no, I think that’s good. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always it’s taken years, but now recently I only can do what I can do and what I can control. Like there’s so much that’s outside of my control. And even I work with a lot of people, I can’t control what they do. I can only control how I respond. And that’s how I’m trying to teach my kids. And there’s so many outside factors like you, you had a major wreck and it destroyed your leg, right?

Speaker2: [00:22:18] Like my leg and my wrist.

Speaker1: [00:22:20] Yeah. I mean, that’s huge. I mean, you didn’t know that was going to happen, so.

Speaker2: [00:22:24] And that was right as I was finally coming back from all the other crap. Right. And it was just like, what the heck? You know, like we have another Rose Grant medical pro who’s here and her career has been marred by like pretty tragic injuries to and or it’s been really nice to have the support for each other because clearly whatever was handed to us came like we both managed to make great careers and have brands in this world. But yeah.

Speaker3: [00:22:57] Why did it have to be so hard? I don’t know.

Speaker1: [00:23:00] I understand.

Speaker2: [00:23:01] Yeah.

Speaker1: [00:23:03] It’s tough, but, I mean, just like I should talk to Rose at some point. You definitely need. Yeah.

Speaker2: [00:23:08] You definitely should. It. I mean, we just got back and forth from what we’ve been through and it definitely. It’s interesting, because neither one of us ever gave up. Mm hmm. So. Sure.

Speaker1: [00:23:22] Yeah, I gave up once, but it was something I had to do. I ended up dropping out of college. Competing in track was really difficult for me, emotionally, leaving home and. Dropping out of college is really hard. Calling my parents. And but I look back and I ended up I finished school. Now I, I’ve owned two businesses now I don’t have my marketing company anymore. I’m all in mortgages and recent business owner with that. But I feel like I had to fail. Yeah. In college because I need I needed to be broken down. Yeah. And I think it was really good for me. Sometimes I still do the what ifs, but. And because I think about it now, like I’m a good athlete now. Like, what if I would have been able to finish college as a track athlete? I don’t know.

Speaker3: [00:24:17] Would you would you own black? I know. I mean, you have two kids. I know. Exactly. I think about like what if.

Speaker2: [00:24:23] I had started riding bikes in high school and went straight into professional racing and was super well supported and made it to the top? And then.

Speaker1: [00:24:30] What? Right. Yeah. Now, what would I. It’s almost scarier to think about because, like, you’re in a good place. I’m in a good place for. In a good place. Like, this is actually good.

Speaker3: [00:24:40] I know.

Speaker1: [00:24:43] So. With that. Is there any specific moment in time where you made a decision but then immediately knew it was the wrong one, but you had to keep moving forward?

Speaker2: [00:24:54] Yeah. So this is something that I have never really talked about on a podcast before, and I need to be sort of brief in, in how I talk about this. But I found a JJ bar with another partner and it was the wrong partner and I knew from the beginning, but it was a relationship that was polarizing and kept going on that path. And because of that, I almost lost Joji. It was the combination of that partnership and also going into COVID. We lost a kitchen. We lost our first production kitchen prior to COVID, actually. Immediately. Overnight, they sent an email. They had told me they were selling the kitchen to a cannabis edibles bakery. And that we had three weeks.

Speaker1: [00:25:52] Oh, my.

Speaker2: [00:25:52] God. To leave so much time. I don’t know how much you know about food production, but back in the good old days, lead times were eight weeks to have something produced. Now there are like 24. Yeah, but point being is that was devastating. Going through the loss of that partnership was devastating. But it’s again like to your point of you said you you the time that you gave up, maybe you are just getting started.

Speaker1: [00:26:24] Exactly.

Speaker2: [00:26:25] Which is what I felt like when it was happening. And I thought it was all over. And all of my life, all of my money, all of my heart was invested into Joji. And what ended up happening is I had approached Sam’s parents over Christmas of that year to let them know that I didn’t think that Josh was going to make it. I probably was going to have to file for a personal bankruptcy. I was really embarrassed. I wanted to tell them and his dad, who has an MBA, he said, Well, let me take a look at your books. And I couldn’t even afford a bookkeeper at the time. So I was making panels and balance sheets on whiteboards. Which I had assumed that would be the direction that he was going to go, that he was going to want to see her financials, because pretty much every meeting I had been in asking for money or asking for help, that’s what people wanted to see. So I had pictures.

Speaker3: [00:27:28] With me.

Speaker2: [00:27:29] And laid it out and he very much like I had to do was, look, you have a you have a profitable business. That’s actually a really great business, if it’s run correctly. I’m like, yes. But the problem is, is that no one is going to help me do that right now because it’s not in a good spot like we don’t even have a kitchen. So he came in, he ended up coming in and. He took almost half ownership and helped me get back on track. And what ended up happening was I was able to learn from someone who is not who had no ego. He’s the purpose of Sam’s dad coming in and helping me run Josué was not for him to tell me how much he knew, but was to empower me and give me the tools to be successful. And I think that that is so rare to find one a partner like that. A partner who I’m just going to say it. That’s a guy who’s older and who’s willing to do that. And before you know it, we had this thriving business. We went national with Rye, which is a massive step, and that kind of led to the steps and the acquisition of JJ.

Speaker1: [00:28:46] That’s cool. And I love Joe De Beers. I eat them.

Speaker3: [00:28:50] I got to give you.

Speaker2: [00:28:51] Samples of our new.

Speaker1: [00:28:52] Flavor. Yes. Sultan Chai. Ooh, I love Chai. Yeah, it sounds wonderful. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate. Yeah, it’s like my evenings now. I mean, I take it with me when I’m, like, working out, but it’s really. Good evening. Snack.

Speaker3: [00:29:08] No, that’s cool.

Speaker1: [00:29:10] So when in life have you felt most alone through all of that?

Speaker2: [00:29:15] Yeah, that’s. I think I have to back up a little bit because I don’t really feel like it was through the DOJ process. I had the support of salmon. We’ve been dating for over four years. I had the support of his family. It was backing up to the time when I had my second surgery with my leg. It was I was so isolated and with every other injury I just had this amazing outlook. I’ve never had any depression. This was different. I was so depressed, I was so sad, and I really felt like my life was over. And a funny thing happens after you’re injured. There’s like this period of time where you’re in the hospital first, and so you have all this attention and then you leave and everyone wants to see you and check on you. And then not to anyone’s fault, they go back to their own lives and it’s like, then you’re alone for this period of time when you still can’t do what you love. You still feel crappy, right? And that was. The hardest point that I can remember in all of this, where I just. I felt hopeless. I really did. And. It’s hard to describe how I pulled myself out of it, but it was. It wasn’t even day by day. It was literally sometimes 5 minutes at a time like breathe to get to the next 5 minutes. And there were weeks like that.

Speaker1: [00:30:46] How long does this go on for?

Speaker2: [00:30:49] A good like 4 to 6 weeks. It wasn’t really until I could start getting back outside with the artery surgeries. You’re so limited in what you can do because they actually cut into your abdomen and then they have to remove your bladder. They move your bladder and your other organs because the artery is very deep. So it’s an invasive surgery that requires two surgeons. It’s relatively simple as far as vascular surgery goes, but it is something the healing process. And that incision in your abdomen is really what is taking the time to heal. And so you basically can walk like it’s a lot of walking to. Yeah. So it just took like. Time, one one minute at a time for four days. And the the thing is, is like as miserable as that was even thinking about it now kind of makes me a little uncomfortable because I don’t ever want to have a moment in life like that again. But the reality is, is I probably will at some point.

Speaker1: [00:31:58] But you kind of have a toolbox.

Speaker2: [00:31:59] Yeah, that’s what I was going to say, is that you look back at it and you’re like, okay, here were the coping mechanisms that I use that didn’t work. Here’s what I know will happen. And, you know, like a year later, I had that huge crash where I was essentially smashed into a wall at 60 K an hour with a pile of 60 people on me. My gosh. And I like the comeback from that should have been a million times worse. And it was it wasn’t like I just had that toolbox.

Speaker1: [00:32:33] Right? No, that’s really cool. I, I think that having that toolbox and all these life experiences, that’s what makes you able to be a good mentor to to like. I think it’s really cool. What is your proudest moment?

Speaker2: [00:32:51] Oh, I think my proudest moment is. It’s the acquisition of O.J.. It’s wrapped into sport because I work so hard on it. Honestly, after Sam came into my life and having him is like we always joke that he was my unpaid intern for four years and.

Speaker3: [00:33:11] Never got a promotion. Gosh, that’s awesome. You would do everything. It’s like, Sam. Sam, help me with this. Sam, I got working for you. Joe Girardi. He got bridge. I knew I was, like, a good choice as a professional athlete. Like, I’m going to date the girl that owns the energy of our company. He’s awesome. So solid.

Speaker2: [00:33:29] Little did he know that he was going to be packing orders for 4 hours a day.

Speaker3: [00:33:33] Cool.

Speaker1: [00:33:35] I love that because I’ve heard of people struggling with with like an acquisition because it is like you basically have to give up. Yeah. A lot of stuff. Yeah. Like, how did that feel? Like just giving up a piece of your company?

Speaker2: [00:33:51] That’s a great question, I think. Well, so just to go back to when Sam’s dad came in, we recovered. We moved to a new kitchen. We got on track and then COVID hit.

Speaker1: [00:34:02] Right.

Speaker2: [00:34:02] And then, I mean, for small businesses, I was on it like I was. I had applied for our loan, our small business, like I was on everything and we were very secure. But it was just like such a crazy time where I was sucked into this logistical nightmare and I was like, I don’t even like, do it. Like, I can’t focus on development. I can’t focus on innovation. I can’t focus on going to events. Like all I do is argue with UPS, right, for losing boxes. And, you know, I’m just in this. I wasn’t coming. I didn’t start a business from the mindset of an entrepreneur, like a software company, where I’m like, I’m going to grow this. I’m going to go through a series A, I’m going to raise all this money. I’m going to do that. Here’s my exit strategy. I wanted to own a business because I’m passionate about food and I’m passionate about community and helping other people. And I felt like those two aspects were sucked out of the equation. And so essentially the company that purchased George, they’re a private equity firm, they have started a platform of sports nutrition brands that eventually this platform will be sold off as like, here you go. All of the best sports nutrition brands in the market are together here. And so it was 100% that I was giving up and I was happy to do it because I saw this as an opportunity to go work for this company, solve that problem of I can’t focus on community and innovation. They’re allowing me to do that. That is my job and just have an opportunity to then. Plonk myself into, you know, equity in the new company. So for me, it was like. It wasn’t that hard because it was what I was looking for. Right.

Speaker1: [00:35:56] And because you didn’t want to deal with shipping anymore?

Speaker2: [00:35:59] I didn’t want to deal with shipping and I didn’t want to deal. I mean, it’s just. It is so much. It just is like a small example when someone emails you and they’re like, you know, your packaging is really hard to open. Like, here’s a picture of like packaging that I like and you think that’s great? If they only understood that to change one, even change a package requires like 20,018 different steps and that’s just for one SKU. Like it’s just so funny. Like all you know, now I have resources. We have a person that, you know, forecasts and a person that does all these things and and then I’m still included. It’s actually the platform is called elite, active nutrition elite for all athletes. So it’s not like we’re just serving elites. We’re serving everyone. And in. When you hear a private equity firm say that they’re going to let you invest into community, you might be skeptical. But like the last year and a half is proof of what we’ve done, the people that we support, the events that we support, the fact that we are inclusive and we are we serve a diverse group of people. I’m really proud of what we’re doing.

Speaker1: [00:37:16] That’s cool. That’s exciting. And it’s cool to hear you. Like, I can feel the enthusiasm that you have and just that you’re proud of it. Like you, you had an idea, started a company, maybe you didn’t know exactly how to do every little piece of it, but now you’ve built it and look at it now. It’s pretty awesome now. Let’s talk about a little bit of the last best ride, because that I know is like you’re like it’s very cool. Like, I experienced it last year. I almost didn’t because I had Copa in two weeks before that. But I was like, You know what? All I have to do is get up the mountain, just pedal as I need. I was able to use your bike. You didn’t race. And I think really, your pin really got me upset.

Speaker3: [00:38:02] Yeah. So, yeah, it totally did.

Speaker1: [00:38:06] But I’m going to race it again this year and I think I’m going to switch to the long course. Oh, good and excited. But I think.

Speaker2: [00:38:13] Yeah, after because you’re racing a big race this weekend so you’ll be.

Speaker1: [00:38:16] Totally. Yeah, I think so. I think it’ll be great. But how did you decide to do the last best ride in Whitefish, Montana? Well.

Speaker2: [00:38:27] I had actually in 2018 when I said I evolved from road racing. At the end of that year, I went to my friend head and Laura’s event, routed Vermont, a gravel race in Vermont that Laura invited me to. She was surprised that I came because I was still racing on the road and it kind of opened my eyes to what gravel was. You know, I’d heard about these gravel races, and since I had raced Xterra and I had a gravel bike here and I rode on the gravel roads there event just it reminded me of being in Whitefish. It’s a very like super fun community, very close knit. It just felt different than road racing and moving into 2020 with COVID. Sam and I spent like five months here exploring and he’s the expert route maker, so he was taking me places. I had never been on a bike here shamefully, and we were like, Why isn’t there a gravel race here? And so we started like going around like the first thing we did and I’m only going to tell you this because it’s so funny. We drove to the Forest Service office in Kalispell and it was closed for coffee and we’re like, we could see someone in there and we’re like knocking on the door and she’s like, we’re like, we want to plan an event for 500 people. And she’s like, What?

Speaker3: [00:39:47] In the middle of a pandemic, we’re like, But it’s not going to be there. We won’t have a pandemic next year. And everyone thought we were a little bit crazy at first.

Speaker2: [00:39:58] But we stuck with it. And I think what helped is we had this mission centered around your what you brought up earlier, which is my background growing up here and having access to scholarships. I’ve always wanted to have a scholarship, and I saw this as an opportunity to create a scholarship, create a nonprofit, support our community. And I think that allowed people to feel connected to the event. Coming from Whitefish, I know that. I mean, we’re overrun right now and it’s really hard to say, like I’m bringing a lot of people to town, but people believe in our mission. Our fundraising for our scholarship through our registration is outstanding. Like, somehow we have convinced people that our little scholarship in Whitefish, Montana, is worth investing in, and they believe in that and they believe in our event. So we sold out the first year we had a successful event. It poured rain. It put out all the fire smoke.

Speaker1: [00:41:04] It was a great I thought it was perfect temperature. We got my.

Speaker3: [00:41:08] Lucky day.

Speaker2: [00:41:09] After a super hot summer of racing. So we’re back this year. We’re growing. Black Diamond is one of our partners this year. I’m really excited to have you and great northern cycling. The ski is like two local businesses that have really helped lift up the event. So yeah.

Speaker1: [00:41:35] That’s cool. Well, tell me a little bit more about this scholarship. So who who is this best for some of the scholarships?

Speaker2: [00:41:43] So we ended up naming it after my guidance counselor, who I mentioned, Mrs. Mansfield. She retired last year after 44 years as an educator, 24 as the guidance counselor, guidance counselor at Whitefish High School. So when I called the school, I. Talk to Jenny at the front desk for anyone who went to one fish high school here.

Speaker3: [00:42:06] Um, and she. I said, Jenny, Mrs. Mansfield’s picture’s still on the website. And she’s like, Yeah, she’s still here. I’m like, How’s that? Oh, my gosh, I need to talk to her. So I talked to her. Awesome.

Speaker2: [00:42:20] I talked to her and basically told her what I wanted to do. And we cried on the phone. And then I called Mr. Brown and he, who’s the principal of the high school, and he allowed me to come in and basically surprise her with a speech at the Scholar Award night. The the what? They have it for the high school. We open the scholarship up to Glacier High School and next year we’ll open it up to Flathead in Columbia Falls. We’re trying to grow it slowly, but it is a scholarship that awards women. We’re focusing on women with academic merit and financial need. So we want it. We prompt the women with the question of what makes them a champion. Describe a challenge and how they push through it and what makes them a champion.

Speaker1: [00:43:08] Oh, my gosh.

Speaker3: [00:43:10] So.

Speaker1: [00:43:11] Yeah. So with that have you. Can you. Without saying too much detail or giving anything away like. You take these applications? What if some of these gals said. What makes them a champion? Can you recall any of that were.

Speaker2: [00:43:30] Yeah. There have been some amazing stories that have brought me to tears. I’ve heard stories of homelessness, which. Yeah, I’ve heard stories of one of our scholars from last year. She immigrated here and she. English was her second language. She went through a lot of bullying. She has worked through high school to support her family. She came and she volunteered for our event. I mean, these are things women like where I can relate to their situations of like how hard it is to come from a family where. You just don’t have resources and that you’re actually becoming an adult as a at a young age to help your family. So yeah, it.

Speaker1: [00:44:27] Probably makes that hard to choose to.

Speaker3: [00:44:29] Yeah, that’s the hardest part. You realize you’re like, Oh, crap, I want to give out 20 scholarships and I have to say no.

Speaker1: [00:44:37] Oh, my gosh, that would be really hard. I mean, scholarships. Are you able to give out this year?

Speaker2: [00:44:42] We’re doing five at a higher amount. We I have a scholarship committee, a friend of mine, Elise, who is a professor at Gonzaga and another friend of mine, Megan, who actually works in the Human Resource Division of Fish and Game. And they have been. I couldn’t have done the scholarship the first year without them. Like they organized all the paperwork. They organized our scoring metric. And we spent hours, hours this year going through the applications and like debating what do we do? What do we do? Like, this is so hard and it’s really hard not to have a personal connection to some of the stories to write.

Speaker1: [00:45:26] So. That that would probably be the hardest thing is when I’m reading, I love testimonies and that’s really what gets me choked up. So like hearing some of that stuff would be hard, so. Yeah. That’s really cool. You guys do a great job. And I remember seeing I didn’t go to your the awards last year, but you guys do it the Friday night before. Don’t you? Don’t you do the award ceremony.

Speaker2: [00:45:50] Okay. Yeah, we, we have a happy hour and fundraiser for the award ceremony. Cool. So we’ll do that again this year. We actually raised a lot of money on our registration platform. Funny story. We we started working with a new registration platform because they have a fundraising piece. We actually didn’t even know that that was launched during registration into a months after our registration started. And I started poking around the portal and I was like, Oh, what’s this donations button? And I went in and saw that we had raised over $12,000 and I was flabbergasted. I felt, first off, like an idiot because I hadn’t sent thank you cards out to anyone because I didn’t even know we were using it, because we thought it was a way at the happy hour that that’s where we would funnel the money as a non-profit now like having that separation. So. If you donate.

Speaker3: [00:46:49] It, you’ll be getting a thank you card from me eventually. Slightly delayed. Finally delayed. That’s awesome though.

Speaker1: [00:46:55] That’s really cool. Yeah, you see that when you sign up for events like all of them. But there’s a spot. Do you want to donate some extra? So that’s cool. So I think this might be my last question, but what are three pivotal moments in your life or one or two, and how have they propelled you forward? Well.

Speaker2: [00:47:17] Let’s let’s just focus on one. Because we’re on the topic of the race. I want to focus on this one. Running an event is. I think the hardest thing I have ever done, which is saying a lot, because I could tell you some catering stories. I can tell you some race stories, business stories. But running this event. Was I think my biggest mistake was not allowing myself to have enough help last year in realizing that people want to help. And I took on a lot and knew I was taking on too much and it was so overwhelming. It just the race day for me last year was glorious to a lot of people. To me it was quite honestly, it was traumatizing. It was beautiful to see. But there was a lot of things going on behind the scenes that, yeah, I hadn’t slept for like a week. It was really, really hard and I think I had some PTSD from that and it was a massive learning curve of how to make this year better, right? And so when I kind of pulled myself out of that and started reaching out to people and pulling resources together, this year I’m actually having fun. Like I’m having fun organizing some, you know, some new things that we’re bringing into the event, some new sponsors like, you know, just learning and realizing, like, I think that. Mostly I have created another business that I think is going to really change the culture of our area. Like last year, no one owns gravel bikes. No one even really understood what it was.

Speaker1: [00:49:07] And everybody has.

Speaker2: [00:49:08] Everybody has a gravel bike. And I know that Sam and I played a part in that, for sure. And I also think, like with the clinics that I’m running, I host the free clinics for women that they’re like, we’ve tapped into something here. And that like this is a pivot point for our community to in our cycling community of like what, what we’re going to accomplish.

Speaker1: [00:49:32] That’s really cool. I love it. I didn’t really know gravel riding that much until this event. And I’m like, Well, I guess I’ll try it. I don’t have a gravel bike, so I borrowed one from you. Thank you. But it’s it’s such a good thing because, like, I love Montana, but there’s not a lot of places to ride unless you can hit gravel.

Speaker2: [00:49:57] Yeah, there’s little.

Speaker1: [00:49:58] Pockets where you have some good road stretches, but like, then all of a sudden you’re going to hit a gravel road and now you’re you can’t take your road bike on that. So. Plus, for me, sometimes I feel like the gravel rides are a little safer because you have less traffic and sometimes the roads are really skinny.

Speaker2: [00:50:17] I want to just point out something to like the accessibility to gravel like. So when I went to rooted Vermont, my friend Laura, I told her, Well, I don’t have the gravel bike and if I did, I can’t afford to ship it. And she’s like, Oh, you can ride mine instantly hooked, right? And then you didn’t have a gravel life. I’m like, You can ride mine instantly.

Speaker3: [00:50:38] All you.

Speaker2: [00:50:39] Need is a friend to give you a little.

Speaker3: [00:50:41] Push. And it’s.

Speaker2: [00:50:42] A sport that really it’s like even if you’re not fast.

Speaker3: [00:50:45] It’s still fun.

Speaker2: [00:50:46] Riding bikes are fun and you take the technical element of mountain biking away that can be intimidating. And you take the, you know, the safety element with cars on the road and you get that freedom.

Speaker1: [00:50:58] Totally.

Speaker2: [00:50:58] So easily.

Speaker1: [00:50:59] Yeah, and I can relate because now I’m trying to get my daughter. She’s ridden that gravel bike and she’s like, Oh, this is kind of cool. The first time her riding with cliffs and just experiencing that. And it’s like, och, I mean, she’s 12, almost 13, and she might be the next gravel rider. We’ll see. I don’t know if she’ll do the last best ride with me. No, not for long. Not yet. But is there anything else that you want to share? Anything about the last bus ride or just to encourage women in general?

Speaker2: [00:51:34] Well, I think just because we’re sitting here together, it’s like, so you’re my mortgage.

Speaker3: [00:51:40] Yeah. Person. And I told.

Speaker2: [00:51:44] The story that three years ago, I had no idea what it took to own a house. And like, it’s interesting, like the crossover of women supporting women. Yeah, it’s been around forever, but I think we’re, like, kind of putting our stakes in the ground like. Hey, we’re here to stay, and we deserve a spot at the table. And it’s how we’ve helped each other in our own. You know, like me coming from more cycling specific and you from this place. Like, it’s really neat to have to have a friend in town that, you know, I’ve learned from you and you’ve learned from me. And for sure. So. Yeah. I would just say, like, you know, whatever you feel like you. What’s special about you. And you have to offer like, don’t be afraid to share it with someone else. You never know.

Speaker1: [00:52:34] What’s going to come from that. I agree. I think women can put a guard up and not share or feel competitive and. Like I want to I want to beat her and whatever that is. But I’ve noticed, just even because I’ve ridden with you and Rose and just several people and it’s like you’re allowing me to write with you. So that’s pretty cool. But like, you guys have so much compassion and grace and then me like just becoming a new triathlete, like learning from you. And so that’s cool. And then, yes, I’m here to answer all your mortgage questions.

Speaker3: [00:53:15] So in.

Speaker1: [00:53:16] This crazy.

Speaker3: [00:53:16] Environment that we live in right now.

Speaker1: [00:53:18] Yeah, yeah. Women encouraging women. I think it’s super powerful.

Speaker2: [00:53:22] They do, too.

Speaker1: [00:53:25] Thank you so much. Thank you. So great.

Speaker2: [00:53:27] Really good.

Speaker1: [00:53:28] Do you have any plans for the city going on a bike ride or. Hopefully I’ll get.

Speaker2: [00:53:33] On a little ride before the farmer’s market.

Speaker1: [00:53:36] Cool. Well, we’re sitting here in beautiful Whitefish, Montana, and it’s not raining and it’s been great. So again, thank you for being on a super fast lane on the podcast.

Speaker3: [00:53:48] Thank you for having me.


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