Olympian Allyson Felix and her brother and business partner Wes Felix announced today that their Saysh footwear brand closed a Series A fundraising round that brought in $8 million. And the duo are quickly putting those funds to work to take the business to the next level, including growing its roster of retail partners — and its selection of footwear.
The Series A was led by specialist consumer fund IRIS and the Gap Inc.-owned Athleta brand, along with Redpoint Ventures and Springbank Collective. As part of the investment, Gap Inc. has acquired an equity stake in Saysh, and Athleta has entered into a partnership to showcase Saysh footwear on Athleta.com.
“We’re super excited about having Athleta as a partner,” Saysh co-founder and CEO Wes Felix told FN. “When you look at what their business is, they’re doing a great job of creating a company and a product that really is serving women — and women exclusively. It’s a great partner to have — kind of like a big sister out there that believes in what we’re doing, but also that understands the space and already has a customer who loves their products, is familiar with Allyson, but has one piece missing to complete their outfit and that’s footwear.”
Allyson’s Felix’s relationship with Athleta extends back to 2019, when she signed on as the brand’s first athlete partner after leaving Nike due to frustration with the Swoosh’s policies for pregnant women and mothers.
The decorated runner has collaborated with Athleta on fitness apparel collections, but when preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, she found herself without sneakers to run in. That led the Felixes to launch Saysh in June 2021, a “by women, for women” shoe brand that is focused on community building.
Wes Felix noted that his sister will continue work with Athleta on the apparel line, and Saysh will create exclusive colorways for the retailer’s website and eventually its stores. “We’re also excited about what we can both do together from a community standpoint, with Saysh Collective and Athleta Well,” said the CEO. “We think there’s a lot of crossover there to create purpose, create belonging and ultimately create a place where women can come together and talk about the things they need and where we can listen and respond to create products that meet those needs.”
Below, the executive shares more about what Saysh has planned for the coming months:
Does the Athleta partnership prevent you from working with other retailers?
Wes Felix: “No. We’ll continue to go out and build more wholesale relationships. As we look at the shift that you’re seeing around direct-to-consumer, where it’s becoming a lot more expensive, a lot more difficult — and as people are leaving their homes again and starting to go out and shop in stores — we want to make sure we have a strong presence from a wholesale standpoint. We think the Athleta partnership helps to show other wholesalers the type of quality product that we make and that we can meet the needs of some of the larger retailers.”
It’s been a year since you debuted with the Saysh One lifestyle sneaker. Is new product in the works?
WF: “We’re excited about the Saysh Two [lifestyle sneaker], which will be coming later this year. This will be a shoe that you can walk in, that you can wear every day — more premium materials, not quite as sporty as Saysh One. And then for 2023, that’s where the Series A funding really helps us. Next year is focused on performance and activity. We know that’s the shoe that she’s been expecting from day one. But there needed to be a little bit of time before we offered the performance product to make sure we were authentically able to offer the highest quality that we could.”
What kind of performance product?
WF: “We’ll be offering two different performance products in 2023, coming in spring and fall. We’ll do running and then a click down from running, looking at training.”
How else are you utilizing this new funding?
WF: “It will allow us to focus more on our wholesale business and not be so strictly direct to consumer. We do have a new partner that we’ll be announcing for Saysh Two. We started talking to them pretty quickly after we launched. We knew this was a retailer we wanted to do something with, so we’re excited that was able to come together. And then we’re really digging in on on who those e-commerce [wholesale] retailers are going to be. We’re trying to be really strategic there, so not just who are the biggest e-comm platforms out there, but where is [our customer] actually shopping right now.”
What does Saysh bring to the table?
WF: “We think we can form great partnerships with some of the top-tier brands out there and hopefully help them do real product storytelling around some of the products we’re releasing. That’s something we feel like we have a great opportunity to do, because we’re not reaching for story. We were born out of story. We’re born out of an actual, real experience that led to us needing to create this brand because we didn’t have another option. So that authentic storytelling is something that we hope to bring to some of our retail partners, too.”