I’m really excited to share this interview with the founder of MooMotion, an apparel company that specializes in multisport. I’m even more excited to give one of you the chance to win some MooMotion gear to try yourself! Scroll down to the bottom of the post for details on how to enter this giveaway.
(Disclosure: the company sent me a triathlon kit for review and will be providing the winner with a kit as well. More disclosure: I originally was going to pass on this project…until I read the story of how Melissa Moo Harkins started her company. It’s a truly fascinating tale and I really wanted to share it with you. I was thrilled that she agreed to an interview!)
Melissa Moo Harkins had a long and winding road to becoming a business owner — but hey, she’s a triathlete so she knows that it’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey. She graduated from the Parsons School of Design and ended up on Wall Street as an executive.
(And, as you’re about to see, got married at the finish line of an Ironman triathlon!)
But she never stopped pursuing her other passion — triathlon — and she got sick of seeing so many products that offered function or fashion, but not both. So she set out to change the game, combining her business background with her love for fashion and sports. MooMotion’s gear is all built for speed and versatility but also fits athletes of all sizes and body types.
(Like me! I tested out the Hudson kit, found here.)
KATY: You’re a really interesting combo of personalities. You’re a businesswoman who has spent time on Wall Street, but your background is in fashion and style. On a personal level, you’re an athlete with a special passion for triathlon. How has your own journey evolved, and what drove you to start your own company?
Melissa: I’m originally a Cali gal but it wasn’t until I moved to NYC in 2001 where I caught the fitness bug. I lived next to Central Park which motivated me to start running. This led to several marathons and as the years passed I eventually wanted a new challenge. I signed up for my first tri in 2007 while working on Wall street. Many of my coworkers on the trading floor were seasoned triathletes – a perfect outlet from the stressful nature of the job! With each race I grew to love the sport, particularly the training and the quiet time it provided from hectic city life. Attending Parsons was a dream of mine and I knew I wanted to combine my business background and love of creativity and design. I absolutely love being in an industry that promotes strong women and a heathy lifestyle.
KATY: Tell me more about what you mean when you say you want to challenge the idea of what traditional triathlon attire should look like — and how that might relate to athletes of all different sizes, abilities, etc.? Why is it important to you to make sure that what you do is inclusive for all?
Melissa: Although growing, triathlon and cycling are still male dominated sports. Progress is certainly being made for women – women’s triathlon was recently approved as an emerging sport by the NCAA Division I Legislative Committee! From a business standpoint, retailers and manufacturers are starting to recognize the impact and purchasing power of women and the old “shrink and pink” model is archaic. Being a niche and independent brand, I know I can’t be the one-size-fits-all solution to every women, but my goal is to provide more flexibility and options for women of different sizes and abilities to choose from. I’m delighted to see women from size XS- XL bring my gear to life and in my own way, I love that I’m contributing to the overall pie.
KATY: A lot of people, even experienced athletes, are terrified of triathlon! What is your message to people who really want to give the sport a try but need a boost of confidence?
Melissa: I think preparation and a positive attitude is the key to enjoying the sport! With 3 sports, there are so many variables (things that can go wrong!) so the best you can do is go with the flow. Preparation builds confidence – from putting in the training miles to knowing the mechanics of your bike, proper nutrition for your body, and compensating for your weaknesses. There are so many varieties of races to chose from, so find one you are comfortable with. If you need additional support, there are many training groups and clubs to keep you on track. Aside from preparation, have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously. You will encounter all kinds of characters on the road – both good and bad. Channel the good qualities and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from your fellow athletes.
KATY: You’ve done marathons. Heck, you’ve done Ironman triathlons! What is your secret to balancing fitness and healthy living with your own hectic life, and what can you share with readers who are struggling to make it all work themselves?
Melissa: Balancing fitness and healthy living is a constant work in progress! If I were to compare my work experience vs. triathlon training, I have to admit that the later has had a larger impact in enabling me to juggle multiple tasks. I absolutely love the efficiency this sport has taught me! We each choose this sport for various personal reasons and therefore you have to be realistic about your time, goals and expectations and make it work for your own lifestyle. I’m currently 8 months pregnant with my first child and have a feeling that balancing it all with be an increasingly difficult task- but I look forward to the challenge!
KATY: Can you share a time that you’ve really faced a challenge, or have felt like you wouldn’t be able to succeed — but came out stronger? Perhaps you faced an injury, or financial issues, or people doubting that your business could be a success?
Melissa: My first triathlon was a disaster. I signed up for a race in Canada and my bike got held up in customs. I received it the day before the race, (in a million pieces of course) and scrambled to get it reassembled. I was completely ill-prepared for this race and did not know the proper mechanics of my bike. My gears were shifting incorrectly, I had a hard time fixing flats and don’t even get me started on the hills! It was a humbling experience full of blood, sweat and tears. In hindsight, most of the stress was preventable and I vowed to give the sport another go. I guess I’m a sucker for pain.
KATY: We want all of the details of your incredible wedding at the finish line of the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman!
Melissa: My husband and I wanted an non-traditional wedding and since we were both signed up for IMLP, we figured, why not?! IM is the perfect combination of training, endurance, strength (like marriage!) and we couldn’t think of a better way to start a commitment to each other. Our entire family descended upon the town of Lake Placid (in matching shirts, of course) and cheered us on throughout the race. As I neared the finish line chute, they place a veil on my head and handed me a bouquet of flowers. We had a little parade down to the shores of Mirror Lake and tied the knot. After the ceremony, we dined on pizza and beer, picked up our bikes from transition, and rode back to our hotel. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
OK, do you want to win a Melika kit of your very own from MooMotion? I’m giving ONE lucky winner, from anywhere in the world (!!!) the chance to get this special delivery right from Melissa herself. Just enter below — the only required entry is a comment, answering this question: If you could get married at any location in the world, what would it be and why? There are optional extra entries available as well, but make sure you complete them all through the embedded widget below. The giveaway will close at midnight ET on Monday, February 10 and I’ll notify the winner by email. Good luck!