The Oola Founding Story: How Our Sportswear Company Came To Be September 24, 2016 – Posted in: Behind the Scenes – Tags: Amina Ahmadi, Cycling, Founding Story, Haya Al Ghanim, Hiking, Lilian Gabriel Barbosa, Startup
The idea of Oola began at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, where two friends, Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi (co-founders of Oola) saw each other’s journey to reach the summit in clothing that was appropriate for the climb, but didn’t give them the coverage they would have desired. That was January 2015 — it turns out the two were very serious about changing the status quo.
“While we were training for Kilimanjaro, we really wanted to train outside, but we were really struggling to find something to wear that was appropriate for training outdoors,” says co-founder Amina. “We knew at that point that we wanted to do something about it, but it was the experience of Kili itself that brought Oola to life. We made up our mind that we were going to go back home and do something about it.”
For women who seek modest, loose-fitting activewear that performs well in action and also aligns with their values, an outdoor run or ride can entail tireless shopping sprees at major sports stores and a whole lot of creativity (and luck). For example, the below illustration is a look at what co-founder Haya would typically need to piece together for cycling:
In Haya’s cycling bag, prior to founding Oola, she carried at least seven garments:
- Cycling shorts for padding (that are too tight)
- Pants typically built for yoga or winter, so that they’re loose-fitting enough
- A cycling top with back pockets for easy storage
- A long-sleeve shirt to cover her arms, because summer cycling jerseys are short-sleeved
- A sports skirt, because the top is too short
- A buff headpiece to absorb moisture and hold her scarf in place
- An infinity scarf for placing above the buff
After all of that, she then places a helmet on her head. Talk about carrying a load!
With Oola Sportswear, Haya now only carries four garments in her bag, and they are made with the appropriate functional fabrics and fashioned in a style that she enjoys. Her bag is lighter, but she gets the coverage she wants. As you can see in the image above, it’s a very clear difference when you stack the before and after up next to one another.
Most head pieces on the market are not quick-dry — the combination of appropriate fabric and style does not currently exist to fit my taste and the majority of other people’s. The closest athletic head covers out there are geared towards Olympic athletes; they are tight and look more like ski masks. That’s not for me! I like the more traditional, flowing look.”
— Haya Al Ghanim, Oola co-founder and CEO
Haya and Amina often found themselves having to mix and match a lot of pieces from various stores to make an outfit work – which costs a fortune!
It was precisely when Haya and Amina realized this activewear search hassle was a common issue faced by women who feel more comfortable in loose-fitting, long-sleeved sportswear made of technical fabrics that they decided to make a difference. The two got back from Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2105 and started building their team. They partnered with Lilian Gabriel Barbosa, a fashion designer with a background in physical therapy, who embraced the challenge of designing a line of activewear that is loose-fitting and stylish, without compromising on sports and fitness performance.
Behold, the birth of Oola! In June 2015, the company officially incorporated and were off to the races.
After a rigorous process of sketching, multiple visits to factories around the world to identify suitable trade partners and numerous prototype iterations, a first collection of Oola sportswear is now ready to be produced. The first phase of production will include the various headpieces and the multisport top. The next phases will include additional styles of sports tops, trousers and jackets.
Oola will announce its first collection on October 9, 2016 via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Stay tuned to see the team bring its products to market after 16 months of sketching, prototyping, sampling, and strategizing!