THIS RABBIT’S READY FOR A NEW RACE
The running apparel company Rabbit might be new to the running scene, but they have been making massive strides with every hop ever since.
The business was founded by Monica DeVreese and Jill Deering in 2014, with the two meeting through the Santa Barbara running community. Both are skilled runners, as Ms. DeVreese qualifies for the Boston Marathon every year and Ms. Deering has been within three minutes of qualifying for the Olympics.
The idea for Rabbit came from Ms. Deering, stemming from her displeasure with running apparel she wore from non-running specific brands.
“It didn’t feel like what a real runner would wear,” she recounted.
Then she had a crazy idea.
“And the only person I know who would hear this crazy idea was Monica.”
The email contained a single question: What if the two started their own running apparel brand?
“She replied, “YES! I want to do that, I’m so in!” She was so excited [writing] in all caps,” Ms. Deering said.
The two launched a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, which raised $45,328 from 322 backers. Much of the funding came from people in Santa Barbara.
Ms. DeVreese explained how her frustration as an owner of a running store fueled her decision to start the apparel company with Ms. Deering.
“All the major brands were focusing on this “ath-leisure” category, so the apparel was becoming less running specific. Like all of the cuts, they went away from the runner’s desire and need,” she said. “Hence my excitement when Jill emailed me.”
Ms. DeVreese’s background is extensively running related. She worked for Adidas and Deckers before opening Santa Barbara Running in 2003 with her husband, Joe DeVreese. While working for those companies, her main focus was in product marketing and branding.
“If I had asked anyone else in Santa Barbara, this would not have worked. I didn’t know how knowledgeable she was in the industry, all of her expertise and background. And now looking back, it was so kind of random and foritorous that it came together,” Ms. Deering recounted.
The company is named after the rabbit, who are “a pacesetter for the other runners in a race, someone who sacrifices their own performance for the good of the group,” according to the company website.
Rabbit was founded with the purpose of catering to runner’s needs and wants. Mrs. DeVreese listed a variety of problems that runners were facing; clothes were too baggy or too loose, too big or had excessive pockets or straps.
“We just want something that fits good, looks good and is functional,” she said, adding that runners don’t want to deal with “chafing or rubbing or something’s that clinging to you.”
Another reason was to push against the “ath-leisure” style of apparel, which allows people to do a variety of things, such as going to the store or yoga, but is not designed specifically to an activity or sport, like running.
“The [apparel that] helps you go on a 20-mile run is going to be functionally different from that kind of apparel,” Ms. Deering said. “There’s a place for that. But we felt like we were losing the true…apparel we need for runners.”
Rabbit launched their products in May 2016, manufacturing the items in a Los Angeles-based factory. Ms. DeVreese said that this was for a variety of reasons: First, they did not want to take trips to Asia, as both are mothers of young children and did not wish to be separated from them for long periods of time. Second, they were able to easily visit the factory, as it is only a couple hours away.
“We’re proud of the way that the factory operates, how they treat their workers and the conditions. That, at the stage of our life and our business is really important to us and we stand behind those values,” Ms. Deering said, adding that it may not have been the cheapest or the easiest to manufacture, but it was “what they wanted.”
The company employs 10 to 15 people, with some independent contractors and part-time individuals. Many of the people who work out of Rabbit’s office in Santa Barbara are mothers and runners just like Ms. DeVreese and Ms. Deering.
Rabbit is sold in specialty running shops across the country. Of an approximate 1,500 running stores, Rabbit’s apparel is sold in about 150, or 10 percent, including Santa Barbara Running.
“We’re also in a shop in Tokyo and one in Australia,” Ms. DeVreese said.
Rabbit clothing is higher end, designed for a specific purpose. Their tops can range from $42 for a tank top to $65 for a t-shirt. Shorts can be anywhere from $50 to $65, while a “technical jacket” can cost $120.
All of their apparel is available on their website at https://www.runinrabbit.com and they ship to anywhere in the world.
The future seems bright for rabbit and its owners. They were featured in a Runner’s World Magazine article titled “12 Innovating Women Who Have Changed Running for the Better” and their rabbit FKT shorts reviewed favorably by the magazine as well.
Rabbit is gearing up for a rapid expansion for 2020 by building on what works, according to the duo.
“We’re not going to introduce new stuff just to introduce new stuff. If it’s working, we just want to keep building on that. Obviously we have to make the product fresh and fun and tell amazing stories around it,” Ms. Deering said. The two also stressed that they wanted to “stay true” to what they were doing and keep their growth mangable without growing too large.
“We want to stay really true to what we’re doing. And the fact that we can see our orders being packed right here is pretty awesome. We want to grow and keep making great product and have these new opportunities and yet appreciate the space we are in and opportunities we’re creating right here. It’s going to be fun to see in the next couple of years of how the business grows…we’re really excited for the things to come.”