By Alex Feechan
IT IS International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, a day that shines a spotlight on women’s issues, that challenges stereotypes and aims to broaden perceptions. These are all things I am passionate about, which is why I wanted to dedicate this blog post to some of the wonderful women who have inspired and encouraged me on my own journey so far.
It starts with my Mum. My Mum was a big influence and inspiration to me, she loved to make things, especially clothes so I grew up surrounded by craft and creativity, and were fully encouraged to explore my artistic ambitions. She encouraged me to build a life around those things I loved.
As the youngest of 5 children with 3 sisters, strong and fiercely independent females have always surrounded me. I have also been fortunate enough to have an amazing bunch of friends, having grown up together we have been a part of each others lives for well over 30 year, we have came through a great deal together we have laughed cried listened and talked and generally just been there for each other through thick and thin.
It was actually a group of strong, supportive women who inspired me to create FINDRA. During a difficult time in my life, I had taken up cycling, which got me exercising outdoors in the fresh air, enjoying that sense of freedom that being on a bike in nature can bring. The women I cycled with on the trails around my home in Innerleithen were funny, supportive and encouraging. They immediately made me feel welcome and made anything seem possible. I desperately wanted to reflect that spirit, that sense of shared purpose and community, which is ultimately what spurred me on to create the sustainable outdoor adventure clothing range that is FINDRA.
As part of that sense of community spirit, I wanted to include brand ambassadors, real people who are as passionate about the outdoors as I am. Some of them have travelled the world looking for adventure, some enjoy the everyday adventures that life can bring – if you let it – but all of them make the most of life and have an infectious enthusiasm for ‘getting out there’ in whatever way, big or small, and supporting others to do the same.
Artist Krissy Stuart was one of our first brand ambassadors. An American living in Scotland, Krissy was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and getting out on her bike was a kind of therapy. For her, getting back in the saddle after treatment was about taking back power and control, and regaining something she felt she had lost. She epitomises the idea of keeping going and not giving up, despite what life throws at you.
Survival consultant, adventurer, TV presenter and writer Meg Hine was another early FINDRA ambassador. She approached us because she was inspired by me! She loved that the brand had been founded and was run by a woman, and that we had created products specifically for women. Essentially Bear Grylls’ right-hand woman, Meg is an incredible example of making your mark in what is widely seen as a man’s world.
Emily Chappell wrote about her job as a cycle courier in London in a blog before cycling across Asia, from Wales to Japan, as you do. She has been cycling and writing books ever since, living her dream of building a life around the things she loves doing most.
I was introduced to Dee Hollingsbee through mutual friends. FINDRA sponsored Dee, Ali and Krissy to compete in the TweedLove glentress7 cycle event way back when FINDRA was just launched. Like me, Dee came pretty late to mountain biking, and got into it because she wanted to spend more tie with her sons who loved to be out on the trails. Dee was, from day 1, a fantastic supporter of FINDRA, she has done so much to support me and the brand she is not only one of our brand ambassadors Dee also takes our social bike rides and more recently we have been supporting her as she looks to encourage the younger generation of female mountain bikers through the Teen bike rides she has organized.
Like myself, Dee is also a believer that it’s never too late to give things a go… even when you are attempting to cycle up mountains. Supportive and encouraging, juggling family life with coffee, cake and fun, and doing good for others.
Jo Moseley describes herself as an ‘everyday adventurer’, enjoying mid-life and new challenges. Having been active in her 20s, Jo found that marriage, babies, and sadly miscarriages and becoming a single parent, took over and being active stopped for almost 25 years. At a particularly low point, when both of her parents were undergoing chemotherapy, she was unable to sleep and feeling overwhelmed. A friend suggested exercise might help with the stress and anxiety. It did.
Since then, Jo combines her commitments at home and work, and in August 2019 became the first woman to SUP (stand up paddleboard) coast to coast from Liverpool to Goole, fundraising and picking up litter all the way. Quite simply, Jo encourages joy and is passionate about sharing the sense of physical, mental and emotional well-being that small, everyday adventures can bring.
From the everyday, to big the bold challenges, adventurer, speaker and storyteller Jenny Tough is inspirational when it comes to pushing her limits –and encouraging others to do the same, in whatever way works for them. We may not all be able to run across the world’s mountain ranges, but we can be inspired by someone who does.
When we start to look around, there are so many inspirational women in life. My team at FINDRA largely comprises an awesome group of fun, hardworking, supportive, caring and creative women. The female friends of FINDRA, customers who engage with us on a regular basis, telling us what they love, what they enjoy doing, and sharing tips and ideas with others in our online community are all amazing. The women I meet at business dinners and events, in my rural community and beyond, all juggling work and lives, kids and partners, sometimes rocking it, sometimes not, all inspire me on a daily basis.
I’m not forgetting the men in my life either, I’m a mum to three boys and my partner, Roddy, has been inspirational in supporting and encouraging me as I build FINDRA. Celebrating international Women’s Day is important but for me I feel we also must ensure the future generations of male and female see each other as equal, bringing up 3 sons its important to me that they see women as their equal that they treat everyone they meet with respect compassion and empathy and only through the younger generation being taught this can we as a society reach equality.
The theme of International Women’s Day Campaign 2020 is #EachforEqual
‘An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.’
So I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all the inspirational women and men out there who have been part of my life, and the journey I have been on so far.
Lets all be #EachforEqual