We were first introduced to Thousand and it’s co-founder in 2017 while following the Camber Outdoors Pitchfest – an annual event created in 2015 to ensure the active-outdoor industries attract bold, visionary women with a passion for business and the outdoors, while driving industry-wide innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. As a finalist, her story and passion for a sustainable future, bicycle safety, and a compassionate community resonated with us. Admittedly, we always gravitate to woman-owned businesses that spark and disrupt industries while making an impact and redefining business as we know it today.
Here at Mackenzie, we put purpose and people at the center of all we do and applaud this fellow community advocate for aligning her values with her professional path. Prior to Thousand, she was TOMS Social Innovation Specialist and also worked at Habitat For Humanity International.
This month’s thought leader is a woman of influence in outdoor recreation and leads an innovative bicycle helmet company based in Los Angeles with a unique approach to helping cycling enthusiasts ride more safely.
We are big fans and know you will be too! We are proud to introduce, Gloria Hwang, avid bike rider, philanthropist, and Co-Founder & CEO of Thousand.
Was building a business always a goal of yours? Or was it a path that revealed itself along the way?
Probably a path that revealed itself to me along the way. I was always entrepreneurial growing up, (I had a dropshipping business in high school, and flipped bikes I found on craigslist in college, ) but I didn’t realize being an “entrepreneur” or business owner was a job I could have.
My first “real” job was with the company, TOMS, though. It was a early stage start-up when I came on board, and it’s the place that really helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life.
What life experience(s) do you feel best prepared you for the leadership position you are in today?
I helped start a community center in East Austin when I was in college. I launched the first few programs, with little/no resources. For me, it taught me a lot about getting buy in around my ideas, and how to push something forward when there was no definable path.
Who has had the biggest impact on you throughout your career – in regards to professional development?
Easy, an old boss of mine, named Jessica Shortall. She was the first boss who taught me how to lead with my strengths, and to take a bet on myself.
Thousand helmets are not only safety certified and made from environmentally-friendly materials, the brand actively pursues low-impact business practices and finds ways to support global causes. What are some of the challenges of building a profitable business while staying true to these ambitious goals? How have you overcome these challenges?
Great question- It was really challenging in the beginning. From the first day, we pledged to donate 1% of our revenue every year to environmental initiatives before we were profitable, or even paying ourselves. But we thought it was an important tone to set at the very beginning of the business.
From then, every year has gotten easier. And it’d say it’s because of our customer’s support. Because I think customers reward you for building a mission oriented company by buying more, or buying your product at full price.
With retailers all over the globe, are there any strategic measures being taken to ensure these partners are aligned with Thousand’s mission and overall brand image?
Absolutely, we see retail as a brand partnership, and are really focused on growing strong, not fat in this space. For us, that means, we don’t try to take on hundreds or thousands of accounts every year. We target 40-50 we really like, and approach it as a partnership, where we help supply POP materials, education clinics, and marketing support.
For us, lot’s of distribution isn’t the goal, but the right distribution with long term partners is.
What are some of your key goals that would make 2019 a successful year?
For us, it’s how to grow and live our mission more. The more we can help redefine safety, the more lives we can help save.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to build or grow their own business?
The strategy, network, or even the finances isn’t the hard part. It’s learning how to trust your gut, and steer into the skid when it seems scary.
What is your favorite quote?
If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
For more about the mission and story behind Thousand, click here to visit their website.