Today I’m happy to share with you the story of Sandra who has founded a new brand of women cycling apparel called Veloine. Let’s go to Munich to meet this passionate cyclist who is sharing with us her brand’s story and her cycling journey that didn’t start in the best conditions… But as she says “cycling also taught me that whenever one door closes, another one opens”. Inspiring. Definitely.
Hello Sandra! Happy to have you there! Soo let’s talk about you… could you please introduce yourself?
Hey! I’m Sandra, 36 years, passionate hobby cyclist, marketing specialist and founder of Veloine – Women Cycling Apparel.
What’s your story with cycling? How did your cycling journey start?
I actually got into cycling due to an injury of my left foot. I had just started to do some more frequent running training when the doctors diagnosed a bone infection which was quite painful. It became clear that I would not be able to run for a long time. At the same time, a friend of mine was selling her household as she and her family were about to embark on a 3-months world travel and relocate afterwards. Well, the household included a Merida roadbike and some Shimano shoes which happened to fit my size. I had thought about cycling already for a while, I always felt I would probably like this sport. So I bought my friend’s bike for 100 Euro, hoping it would help me to stay fit over the course of the injury. That’s how it all started.
Why do you cycle?
Getting on the bike for me is like turning a switch. When riding, I am able to turn my mind off, I have that feeling of being completely at peace which I not even find in yoga or meditation. And I ride of course to stay fit. I consider myself an average cyclist. I’m nothing special on the bike – I simply love the sport, that’s all.
And what do you like about bikes and cycling in general? And what does cycling bring to you?
I tried lots of sports in my life, especially when I was a child… basically anything from tennis to martial arts. I quit most sports rather quickly. Cycling is the first sport where I immediately knew that it would stick with me. It’s hard to describe but there’s something special about it… freedom, resilience, joy, suffering… cycling blends all of that into one. Cycling also taught me that whenever one door closes, another one opens: If I didn’t get that injury in my foot, I probably would have continued running – and might have never tried cycling.
How would you define your practice? Only road cycling? Commuting? Gravel?
I only do road cycling so far, but would love to do gravel. Oh and I also commute to the office by bike, but to be fair that’s just a few kilometers.
What was your best memory about cycling so far?
It’s hard to identify one particular memory, as cycling has given me a lot of beautiful moments. But there’s one story off-bike that I’ll always remember. We spend some time in Nice/France last year, where my partner was doing the Ironman. One day we got back from a ride, carrying our bikes up the stairs to our Airbnb apartment, when a French neighbour (a local) approached us. I thought he was about to give us a lecture that we’re not supposed to have the bikes inside the house and so on and on. Well, he did not. Instead, turns out he used to be a professional cyclist in the 60’s, competing in many Grand Tours and even the Tour de France multiple times. He was in his late 80’s now and in good shape. We don’t speak French very well, but somehow managed to chat with him for quite a while and listened to his Grand Tour stories. It was just a perfect example how sport connects people, no matter the age or language.
You’re living in Munich, right? Is it a nice place to cycle?
Yes absolutely ! It’s a great place to live and a great place to ride, with a beautiful country side being close to the alps.
Any location, or maybe Strava paths where you love to cycle to share with us in the Europe and especially in Germany?
My favourite routes are south of Munich. I am not a good climber, but riding towards to Alps and seeing that horizon come up amazes me every single time. I must admit I am probably the worst cyclist when it comes to using Strava and tracking my data, I only upload my rides occasionally but trying to get more discipline with that.
About bike: how many bikes do you have and what models?
I ride a Specialized Ruby. I also still have that Merida bike which I bought from my friend back then when I started cycling. Besides that I have a mountain bike and an «office bike» as I call it – a simple bike with a basket to carry my handbag and laptop.
As a women, what’s your point of view regarding women cycling in general? What could change the minds?
It’s no secret that women are significantly underrepresented in cycling. The mindset of the sport is rather old-fashioned, it has not yet managed to bring women forward like other sports have already done. There are no equivalent Grand Tours for professional women cycling, hence professional female cyclists do not get a lot of media attention. That makes it hard to create role models which could bring more women into the sport. And then I see Instagram posts with women in sexy bike poses, and it’s no wonder that at many races the role of women is basically to award the winner with a jersey and kiss. I’m far from being a feminist in the traditional sense – I just think that cycling has to adapt to the reality of life.
You’re not only a cyclist. You’re the founder of Veloine, a new brand of women cycling apparel you’ve launched in January with the SPRING19 collection. How the project was born? Why do you decide you had your place in the women cycling apparel industry?
Being both into cycling and fashion, I always had the perception that there was much more cool stuff out there for male riders. Much more variety, much more fashionable styles. I saw potential to develop something that is cool but still feminine, something for serious female cyclists who are dedicated to performance on the bike, but also care about fashion. So we came up with Veloine – it’s an artificial term consisting of «velo» and «heroine».
Could you share with us the different steps of your project?
We basically started by developing the whole brand concept and the business plan behind it. Then it was about finding the right designer and manufacturer to work with, and developing the products. It took us about a year from product ideation to launch.
How is it going? Do you still have time to ride or busy busy busy?
We started off very well and I am simply amazed by the feedback that we get from many female cyclists. The downside is that it requires a lot of time and dedication, which means less time to ride. It’s a bit ironic – you start a company out of love for cycling, and then you hardly find time to ride because the company takes priority. But I’m confident there’ll be a time when things will have settled and I’ll have more time to ride again.
First: thank you for offering women apparel that are not pink or turquoise and adapted to us. Now: How did you design the clothes? And chose the colors and patterns?
I usually have a vision of what the product should look like – but bringing this into an actual design requires professional experience, which is why we have a professional designer. Developing our own patterns was also important to us. There are some small brands who simply put their prints on the manufacturer’s jersey template – that was not the path we wanted to follow.
Your apparel are created in Munich, manufactured in Italy with high quality Italian fabrics. How did you select the factory and fabrics?
We very intentionally selected a manufacturer in Europe in order to ensure quality, but also to make production as sustainable and responsible as we could. We talked to many manufacturers, and eventually selected someone we felt we could build a trustful relationship with. The fabrics are key for quality, selecting the right ones involves a lot of research with fabric providers – and testing of course.
Is the cycling apparel industry competitive? Is it hard for a small and new brand to develop and grow?
Yes, it is highly competitive and it’s hard for young brands. The number of new boutique-type cycling brands is also constantly increasing. But having competition – also in the space of women cycling – tells me that there’s a strong demand in the market, there’s a reason for us to be there.
In the end, the customer decides who survives. That’s why our greatest focus is to create high-quality products that our customers really love, to provide them a great experience when buying, unpacking and wearing Veloine, and to offer the customer service they wish for.
For my own example, I’ve discovered your brand on Instagram. What is the impact of social media on your brand? And do you think it’s now possible for a company to grow without social media?
Honestly, no. I don’t think brands could grow (or even survive) without social media these days. For us it’s the key channel to build the brand and create reach, particularly since we are selling mostly online.
What’s your point of view about marketing influence on social media? Are you actually working with ambassadresses? And how did you chose them and work with them?
Yes, we do work with ambassadors but very selectively. What matters to us is that the women stand behind the values of our brand, and represent them in an authentic way. To me that’s even more important than the number of followers. To be very frank, I often feel like the whole influencer thing has gotten a bit insane. There’s so many wannabe influencers out there that I sometimes wonder if anyone is still buying products or getting them for free in exchange for a few posts. That’s no offense to anyone, but I really believe you need to choose wisely who you work with – that goes not only for brands but also for influencers in terms of picking the brands they work with. You need to ensure that you stay authentic.
What was the best memory about this adventure?
I would say the journey as a whole. But seeing people ride in our products and talking to our customers is certainly the part that I am enjoying the most.
And the worst?
It’s been a challenging time but fortunately we haven’t experienced any big dramas as of now.
We all have our secrets but if you could share a tip with those who want to create their company or are afraid to take the plunge, what would you say to them?
There is a famous quote by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: «What would you do if you were not afraid?» That’s what it’s all about. If you believe that you have an idea that can solve an issue or fill a gap, if you are willing to work hard, and if you feel comfortable taking risks – then you already have the right foundation to start a business. Personally, I can totally accept the risk of failure – but I could not accept the risk of asking myself in a few years «damn, why didn’t I do it when I had a chance».
What are the plans and projects for your brand now?
Having launched just a few months ago, our company is still in early stages. So the focus for the coming months is to grow the brand and expand our range of products – but also enabling cyclists to experience the brand, such as through a network of organized rides.
And for you?
My plan is trying to fit more rides into my schedule 🙂
To what or whom you’d like to say thank you/merci?
My partner and co-founder, Juergen.
And thanks, but no thanks/merci mais non merci?
People telling me how difficult the cycling industry is and how hard it is to compete against big brands. Yes, I am aware of that, thank you, next.
And who are your Veloines?
Actually two of our riders are a great inspiration for me: @lulu.on.tour and @aanaakuu. Both of them are bad-ass cyclists and just really cool women. I also have a lot of respect for @johanna_jahnke, a German ultra distance cyclist – what she does for women cycling is incredible.
What would you like to say or share with people? Or women?
Ride more. It’s good for the soul.
Any hint about what’s going to happen for you brand? I’m really really curious!
Well, I can tell you that we are working on some new cool stuff with our FEARLESS. FEMALE. CYCLIST. mantra, coming in a couple of months. Stay tuned 🙂
Hell yeaaah! I wish you the best for your brand that is really cool and I’ll stay tuned and share your news. Thank you very much for your time Sandra since you could have spent it riding your bike. I really appreciate and I’m sure you’ll inspire cyclists here. And women!
The Cyclo ID
Sandra – Founder of Veloine
Instagram Account: @veloine.cc and @sandra_waschnewski
Facebook Account: Veloine
Bike(s): Specialized Ruby
Favorite food on bike: Cliffbars and Powerbar. And ice cream post-ride.