I give you the Jill Hamilton Interview........
What was your first bike?
My first mountain bike was a Gary Fisher Tassajara I bought new in 1995 right after I moved to Steamboat Springs, CO for a brief stint. Everyone in Steamboat rode, so I figured I should too. I had a lot of fun on that bike and did a lot of exploring on it.
What are you riding now?
I have a Ritchey P-29er steel hardtail, an Intense Tracer 275, a Masi 3VC road bike, a Masi Speciale 'cross bike, and a Electra Ticino city bike. I have a serious addiction to all things two wheels, so I also have a few motorcycles: a BMW R1200GS, an Aprilia Shiver 750, and a Yamaha TW200. Yes, I have issues. :)
Favorite kind of riding?
Wow, that's a tough one because I truly love ALL types of riding. Over the years, I have raced just about every category except Cyclo Cross and track. I still race Super D and a little XC these days, but I'm not nearly as active as I used to be 10 or 15 years ago. I want to do some Enduros next season. Enduro and Super D are super appealing to me since they combine the thrill of downhill with a little bit of XC. I raced downhill for many years and still love to ride bike parks, but I'm just not into the gnarly courses anymore. I want to step up and ride/race a little more XC next year too. I just love to ride whether it be dirt or road, racing or casual, solo or with friends. It's my therapy.
How did Petal Power transpire?
I got the idea for Petal Power and a chamois cream system based on personal experience. Several years ago, I was having chronic saddle sore issues...I just couldn't get rid of them. I talked to my doctor, and she recommended taking a shower using Cetaphil antibacterial soap before the ride, use chamois cream during the ride, and shower again with Cetaphil right after the ride. I followed her recommendations and just about completely cleared up my saddle sores and it was months before I got another one. It really showed me how important it was to get absolutely squeaky clean "down there" before I got on my bike. I figured if I had these issues, other women might also have them so I decided to create my own little "system" using natural, plant-based ingredients and create a better chamois cream. Cetaphil, while it's very effective, contains ingredients like Triclosan, petroleum, and other chemicals I don't like to put on my skin, so I developed a pre-ride cleansing wipe with antibacterial plant essences like rosemary leaf extract, lemongrass extract, and tea tree oil. I chose a pre-ride wipe since we all know it's not always feasible to take a shower before you ride if you ride after work, during lunch, etc. The after-ride shower gel is equally awesome...it contains a lot of coconut-derived ingredients and antibacterial plant essences as well. When I developed the chamois cream, it was important that it not only worked effectively and was long-lasting, but it also had to be mild and smell amazing. I specifically requested no tea tree oil because it smells so strong, it makes your eyes water. And since a lot of women don't like the "tingle" of some chamois creams, I also requested no menthol or peppermint oil.
What is your hopes with Petal Power?
My number one goal with Petal Power is to help keep women happier and healthier on their bikes so they can ride longer and stronger. When your nether regions hurt, it ruins your ride since all you want to do is get off your bike. When I would work consumer events when I was shebeest's Brand Manager, I was amazed at how many women had no idea that chamois cream existed or what you use it for. My secondary but equally important goal is to educate women about chamois cream. This is an "intimate" product, so our goal with Petal Power's marketing is to keep it light and fun yet classy and upscale. We have plans to expand the product line into a few other products; all designed around our goal to keep women healthy on their bikes. Through our social media channels, I also would like to see Petal Power become a resource for women cyclists to build community and gather information.
How did you become a business owner, and what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
As silly as it sounds, it all just sort of happened naturally. The more people I talked to about the project, the more they said t it was an awesome idea. So my boyfriend Dean (who is also my partner in Petal Power) and I just decided to go for it and make it happen. And now that we have launched the brand, the response has been unreal. The level of support we've had from friends, consumers, and the bicycle industry has just blown us away. My advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs out there would be to just go for it...especially if you are a woman launching a brand geared towards women. There is so much support out there...people truly want to see you succeed and are willing to help lend a hand to help you get there.
How did you get into riding, and what advice do you have for aspiring cyclists?
I grew up riding dirt bikes, three-wheelers, and quads in the desert. I've always been an adrenaline junky, so mountain biking was sort of a natural progression for me. My advice for aspiring cyclists...wow, where do I begin? Here are a few of my favorite nuggets: Believe in yourself and trust your equipment. A moving bike is a upright bike. Your brakes are not ALWAYS your friend. Relax, keep your chin up, and look down the trail where you want to go. Ride with people faster/better than you are as it will build you skills, but also take the time to ride with people slower/not as skilled as you as it will build your confidence and will help make THEM better riders.
Do you see disparity among the sexes in the cycling industry?
I have worked in the cycling industry for almost 15 years; there are definitely more women in the industry now as compared to when I first started. I do think there is disparity between the sexes, but I see that getting much, much better. There is strength in numbers. The Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition has done a fabulous job over the years creating mentoring programs, education, support, and resources for women who work in the bike, snow, run, and outdoor industries. The biggest and best trend I'm seeing is more women in the industry in management, executive, and product development roles. When I was a brand manager for Haro several years ago, it was part of my job to make trips to Taiwan to help our product managers source new product and visit factories. During one of my visits, the owner of a prominent saddle manufacturer (who is also a woman) complimented me, saying I was only the second woman to come visit her factory to source product. I know that's changed now...and that's awesome!
If so, how do you combat it?
Like I said before, there are strength in numbers. We can't do any of this on our own as individuals, but it starts within each of us. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I've always felt I've had to work harder to be credible and get paid the same as the men. Luckily, right now is a REALLY awesome time to be a woman in the cycling industry for many reasons. There is a tremendous groundswell in the industry for women's-specific product. Women ARE the future of the bike industry as the number of male cyclists is actually SHRINKING and the number of women cyclists are GROWING! Between 2012 and 2014, the number of female cyclists has grown by over 12% (equating to 552,000 women) and the number of male cyclists has shrunk over 12% (or 241,000 men). So I honestly think that as more and more product is developed for women, we are going to see more and more women employed in the bicycle industry, especially in higher-level roles traditionally held by men.
Regarding the Kamikaze Games-- Were you aware if the disparity between pay-outs for men vs women?
Until Wendy posted something on the GGR Facebook page about the Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games, I had no idea there was a disparity. I was shocked to see just how much of a disparity there was...especially in the women's Enduro.
Is this normal and acceptable across the board in the industry?
Is it normal? Yes, unfortunately. It's not uncommon for prize purses to be less for women since the rationale is the ladies fields are generally smaller. Is it acceptable? In my eyes, no. However, this is changing. Through the efforts of the Women's Cycling Association, there is a lot of awareness being raised for the gross disparity in prize purses between men and women. Many promotors are "answering the call" by offering equal prize purses, but I still think we have a long way to go since the prevailing thought is "there aren't as many women racers as men, so why should they get paid the same?"
What are your thoughts on this?
I totally get that promoting races is a business...and businesses have to make money. I understand that the more prize money that is given, the more that eats into the promoter's profits. But I truly believe that grossly unequal prize money just sends the wrong message and it bad for the future of women's professional bike racing. I look at it this way. Let's say the XYZ Company budgets $100,000 in bonuses for its sales reps for meeting their sales quota. 70% of the sales team are Gender A (let's take the question of gender out of the equation completely) and 30% are Gender B. All reps meet their sales quotas at the end of the year, yet management decides to dedicate $70,000 worth of bonuses to Gender A and only 30% to Gender B. Is that fair? I mean, both genders worked just as hard and met their quotas, so should Gender A get the lion's share of the bonus pool? Hell no. It really sends the wrong message...a message that Gender B is "worth less" simply because they are smaller in numbers. In most cases, it really would not cost the promoters THAT much more money to make the purses equal...and the goodwill it creates is HUGE! In the case of the Kamikaze Bike Games, it would have cost them an extra $2000 and change to make the purses equal. I guarantee you between the PR they could have leveraged out of it, added female participation (I know a few women who did NOT go due to the prize purse disparity), and helping to build a future for women's bike racing would have been worth the extra financial investment. If promoters aren't willing to make the investment because it will negatively impact their bottom line, take on an extra sponsor or two to make it happen.
How can we increase female participation?
Based on the research data I made reference to above, the number of female cyclists is GROWING and has been for the past 2 years. So exciting! However I think a more appropriate question is how do we get more women to go from being a casual recreational rider to an enthusiast (defined as someone who considers cycling part of their lifestyle) and/or a racer? Especially in the race category, this is where I see the numbers shrinking, especially in downhill. I see a LOT of advocacy efforts in the bike industry pointed at getting more women on bikes, but it seems that many of efforts are concentrated on getting women on bikes as alternative transportation and/or recreational use. Don't get me wrong, these effort are AWESOME...everyone has to start somewhere...but I see a "missing link" getting these gals to move on to better bikes and really make bikes part of their lifestyle and show them how cycling can change their lives. "Back in the day", Team Big Bear used to host an event called Women's Only Weekend that I was lucky enough to be a coach at for several years. Saturday was a day of clinics for ALL levels...we even got women who never rode dirt till that day. Sunday gave the gals an option to race (both XC and DH, included in the weekend's fee) or go on a non-competitive XC ride. Those events were so awesome because it created ENTHUSIASTS and many times RACERS out of these women who came from all over the USA. In fact, many pro racers got their start at the WOW events. The biggest event at over 300 women. Events like WOW, Dirt Series, Beti AllRide Clinics, Leigh Donovan's Camps, the Celebration of Women on the Mountain that GGR and the Trail Angels hosted this past summer are great ways to reach out to women, make then better cyclists, and create more community and camaraderie.
Is it really as simple as writing a letter?
It can be, but as Wendy said in one of her posts regarding the Kamikaze Games prize money, "it takes a village". It really does. In this case, Wendy created awareness and urged members to e-mail Mammoth Mountain...and people did. I know Bill Cockroft received e-mails before mine and he probably received more after mine. I think our united voice on the subject spoke volumes and was catalyst for change. Like I have said many times, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. Sometimes it takes one squeak and sometimes it takes many squeaks. It never hurts to ask...sometimes people say "yes". And if they don't, you're really no worse off than when you started.
What do you envision for cycling?
Ummm...World Peace?!? :) Cycling...whether it be on or off road, skinny or fat tires, uphill or downhill...is an amazing sport. It certainly has changed my life and I have met so many wonderful friends along the way. I'd like to think if more people rode, the world would be a much happier place.
Anything that you'd like to add?
I'd like to thank Wendy Engelberg for doing all she does to help create community among women mountain bikers in her area and beyond. She really has done an amazing job getting more women out there on their bikes!