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Founder of Women's QuesetI have been blessed because I feel like I am always in the right place at the right time and somehow everything comes full circle. Many so-called problems or challenges were really just priming me for this AMAZING ADVENTUROUS LIFE and, looking back, were just one part of my Circle.
I remember in high school when I moved to the beautiful state of Alabama. This area holds many of my fondest memories. It is where I learned to love sweet tea, water ski, sail, swim and improve my manners. The charm of the South is forever in my heart. But, it did not all start out so easy even though we lived on a lake and had miles of trails as our playground.
When I first arrived to my new high school I was eager to find out and participate in all the sports, because growing up in Indiana we had tons of sports for women and I played every single one of them. I was sad to find out that my options at my new school were: Baton twirling – I could be a majorette. I tried it and I LOVED THE OUTFIT because it sparkled and the boots were super cute. But, as fate would have it, I could not catch the stupid baton. My second option was to be in the marching band. I loved playing the flute and I joined the band but it was not really much of a workout.  My third option was cheerleading. I tried out and became a cheerleader. They take it super seriously in the South so it was a huge workout with lots of stretching, and I AM NOT A GUMBY!
I tell you all of this because this prompted me and a few other girls from high school to help start a women’s basketball team and track team. We did not have practice time, uniforms or games, but this did not stop us. We knew we wanted to PLAY and we did!
Nothing was given to us and we had to find the passion inside to keep us motivated. We were super lucky to have an excellent coach, Beth McNutt, who was by our sides every step of the way, breaking barriers in women’s sports in the South. I think our first year we had 4 basketball games and 6 track meets!
Fast forward to my triathlon career. I would not have been able to stay motivated and believe in myself if I had not had my high school experience, which taught me to never give up, and that there is no such thing as NO.
I’m also telling you this because WE DID NOT HAVE CUTE OUTFITS.. EVER!!!
I had to wear guys clothing my whole life (I had 4 brothers). I had to race in it. I had to spend much of my time in ugly grey sweatpants and this is why I was always and forever looking for functional and stylish clothing for women. This is where it gets very interesting.
Because of the sorry state of women’s athletic clothing back then I had to create my own outfits. In 1984 I won the World Championships of Triathlon in an outfit that I created with my sponsor NIKE. It was a PINK and WHITE bathing suit with a mesh stomach area and mesh on the shoulders. It wassuper comfy, stayed in place and looked good at the end of an Ironman.  Notice I say PINK!!! This outfit became so popular that many of Nike’s elite runners like Lisa Ondieki wore it and loved racing in it.
Continuing on with my search in 1986 I helped Greg Hind, of HIND clothing, develop his “For Women Only” line of clothing. I designed a bathing suit for triathlon and they called it the “Colleen!” I also created a sleeveless cycling top with a bra already built in. This was the first time anyone had done that and it was basic common sense to me. Hind called this the Shimmel top.
Fast forward again. This time to 1992 when I started Women’s Quest. I had been searching for a women’s apparel company to partner with and sponsor Women’s Quest and as fate would have it, in 1998, Scott Kerslake came up with a women’s clothing line called ATHLETA. It was perfect, it was stylish, and the values aligned perfectly with Women’s Quest. I remember calling and calling this company and not taking “No” for an answer, which finally paid off.
We became awesome partners right away and I came up with a company offsite to help refresh and keep the ATHLETA culture alive and thriving. We called it ATHLETA QUEST and, in the early years, everyone at ATHLETA participated on some level in the Women’s Quest retreat in Northern California. If they could not ride a bike they would be part of an aid station. This created such a strong bond and first hand experience as to what women wanted and the empowerment that comes about when women support each other. Each year since the beginning I have created a fun ATHLETA Quest to help the employees of ATHLETA find the passion in moving and connecting with each other. 20 YEARS STRONG, they have become my FRIENDS AND FAMILY!
Fast Forward again, this time to earlier this month, August 2018, when ATHLETA celebrated 20 years of creating clothing that supports a healthy lifestyle that is functional and looks good. Better yet, ATHLETA is now a B-Corp so it is sustainable. ATHLETA’S mission is to Ignite a community of active, healthy, confident women and girls who empower each other to realize their limitless potential.. Check out Athleta-Girl!
DREAMS REALLY DO BECOME YOUR REALITY! Just never give up, never listen to NO, and follow what feels good. (Especially when it comes to clothing!!)
Written by Colleen Cannon, Founder of Women’s Quest