Kristel Hayes is the Founder of Fib(h)er (pronounced /ˈfībər/) a custom fit active and outdoor apparel for women, with a mission to create community, support, and opportunity for ALL women through a product made in the place she now calls home: Portland Maine. In her words, "we are creating a true 'Size YOU'”.
We asked Kristel to tell the Tribute community a bit more about her, and why she started an outdoor apparel company for women.
How old are you?
I am 46.
Where were you raised?
In Southern California. We moved around quite a bit. For my elementary years, I lived in places like Ridgecrest (Mojave Desert), then Van Nuys, and Canoga Park. We eventually settled into one place, spending my Jr and Sr high school years in Long Beach, before moving on to college at UC Irvine.
What you want to be known for?
I want Fib(h)er to be known as a brand that makes every move with its brand community in mind. From product design input to giving back globally, nationally, and within each of our own communities. I want every woman to feel as though she’s able to play a part in the brand we are building and empowered to make a difference as part of the community.
What made you decide to start your venture? Tell us about YOUR WHY.
The seed of this idea was planted several years ago, during a time when I was overworked and out of shape. In an effort to improve my life and health, I wanted to make time for hiking and other outdoor activities but found that it was nearly impossible to find clothing that fit my body, which was considered plus size by today’s active & outdoor apparel standards. There was virtually no technical clothing that felt comfortable or performed properly for my size when it came to outdoor activities. This ended up preventing me from getting healthy for a long time. I had nothing to wear, so I did not go. Coincidentally, I was working in the outdoor industry as an apparel rep at the time!
The more I spoke with colleagues, buyers, and retail customers, the more I learned that this is not just a plus size issue. Every woman’s dimensions are so unique that it started becoming apparent that cookie cutter sizes are not serving women in a society where we all struggle in one way or another to love ourselves and our bodies.
I didn’t set out just to create a product purely for the sake of profits. I wanted to bring women together in a way that allowed us to support each other with every fiber we source, and every garment we create. I wanted to create a shift in how active and outdoor apparel is created so that every woman can feel comfortable and empowered no matter what level of fitness they maintain. I wanted to create a brand who creates job opportunities that include equal pay and benefits that are family and personal-health focused.
Did you leave a cozy Corporate job? Or start a side hustle?
I have been self-employed since 2004, starting with work as a rep in the outdoor industry, and eventually starting a boutique social media marketing agency in 2010, which is still the hustle that pays the bills while I work to get fib(h)er off the ground.
What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?
All the women who have connected with the brand, and with me, and have started to form the basis of the community I originally envisioned. Our #FibherForce! Although we’re still very early in building the brand, we already have a vibrant community of fans and ambassadors who are so excited to see this come to fruition. I am bound and determined not to disappoint them!
My favorite self-care routine is…
I’ve recently started learning to meditate. The difference it can make in how I handle especially stressful days is incredible (and I have to admit, quite surprising). Even though my current schedule and workload can be unyielding, a 10-minute break to practice meditation is always something I can work in. I also tend to crave a good spin class at the end of a hard day!
The last book I read was ….
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, by Haemin Sunim
My best advice to fellow female founder is…
Do your research first. It’s hard, and completely unrewarding work, but unless you have clear data that your idea is something other people will truly want to buy, you’ll be spinning your wheels unnecessarily investing both time and money on a concept that may not actually be embraced by enough people to make it a viable business. Life is too short. Make the work you do count. Allow yourself to fail and be okay with that. Whether they are minor bumps along the way or a total collapse of your concept, every failure is an opportunity to learn something new. And never be ashamed to reach out to friends and colleagues when you need support. Above all, pat yourself on the back. You are leading the charge in a world that is putting up barriers to your success at every turn, and you are knocking them over like a champ! I guarantee you are, even when it feels as though you’re not.