Our founder Story, Scott Bailey on The Big Ass Runner Podcast
- How Scott got into trail running as a dare after a few mimosas
- Why we decided to launch PATH projects
- How to develop the ultimate running short with the trail / ultra runner in mind
- The benefits of a Direct to Consumer business model
- How a lot of innovation in our products comes from our customers
Or read the full transcript below.
Jeff: Let's get going on episode number 37 of the Big Ass Runner.
Jeff: Well, Steven, on this first segment, we're really excited because we do have a special guest. Now, you and I both love gear.
Jeff: We had heard about this brand called PATH Projects because one of our fellow runners, Richard, was really excited about the brand. He had some of their shorts, so they were the greatest shorts ever. I think you ordered some, I ordered some. I ordered one of their hats. We really liked the product and really got the fortunate opportunity to connect with the founder of the company.
Steven: Rarely are you able to connect with somebody from the company. A lot of times you see different products, people have a business idea, but Scott, the guy we're going to be talking to, he actually is a trail runner. He got into running on a dare, then converted over from a lot of people that I hear recently from road running over to trail running, and just to hear how he started this, and like you said, Jeff, that the gear is really good. I don't know. I'm fairly picky about my gear.
Jeff: You are picky, which is good. You have refined taste.
Steven: I have refined taste. I also would say, I don't necessarily have to buy everything because it's expensive, but I don't mind paying a little bit more for quality if it really matters. This checked all of those boxes so we were really honored and excited to have a time with Scott, hear a little bit more about the company that he runs and the gear that he actually has for the everyday trail runner.
Jeff: Steven, on the Big Ass Runner Hotline, we have the founder of PATH Projects, Scott Bailey. Scott, welcome to the show.
Scott Bailey: Hi, Jeff. Hi, Steven. Thanks for having me on.
Steven: Thanks for being here, Scott. We are so honored and excited to have you on the show today.
Jeff: I think one of the reasons we're all giddy is we love your products we've been wearing, especially the shorts and the liners for quite a while. I'm actually wearing my PATH Projects hat on backwards right now as we're speaking to you. I think we'd like to start maybe at the beginning if you would. Just tell us a little bit about you. Big Ass Runner herd is everyday trail runners who are out there, every day getting their trail runs and is working hard to maybe hit some goals. We'd love to hear a little bit about your story and your background in running.
Scott: I am not your stereotypical been running all my life type guy. I basically got into running about 15 years ago as a dare on running a half marathon with a friend. After a couple of mimosas and brunch, I said, I would do it.
Scott: I think most people get into spring. I've been a guy who ran three or four miles. I ran in high school, cutting weight for wrestling, but when the idea of running a half marathon, I thought, "Oh, that's not going to be a big deal." Realistically, I found out about shin splints and other things when you start running more and more miles. It took me almost a year to get up to run that first half marathon, but once I did it, I was really hooked, like a lot of people that have jobs that require a lot of hours.
I was CEO for an apparel company in the streetwear and skateboard industry company. I co-founded and started run commuting and running on the weekends. More mileage and different races, more mileage, easier on my body, and just fell in love with the whole trail running side. I'm a gear head and I found some great shoes and great pack, and great accessories, but I just hated my trail running short.
I just felt like the materials weren't good, pockets were in the wrong places. If there was a pocket, I got chafing from the built-in liner. I knew materials from being in apparel and footwear for a lot of years, and I just thought it could be done better. I just set off to find the perfect running shorts, I couldn't find them. That was how the idea started in my head. Being an entrepreneur and starting a number of companies, I just started running and thinking that business plan in my head and how I would do it, the problems.
About six years ago, the company that I had co-founded that I had had for 13 years was sold. I found myself, "What am I going to do next?" This running shorts company was something that I just didn't let go of. It's really founded by a need that I couldn't find what I wanted, by the idea that I knew I could do it. Then I had other friends telling me that they hated their running apparel and that they look silly in it, maybe they didn't like it. That's where it all started. We launched about three years and a couple of months ago, at the very beginning of 2018.
Jeff: Was it about the trail of the outdoors, Scott, that really drew you to it? Obviously, you had a sports background and did your first road race, but was there anything in the trail part of it that fed that addiction or that increased the desire to want to run?
Scott: Oh yes. I think back to this run I did, it was probably about eight or nine years ago when I was up in Seattle working. I was with a friend and I had the day and I just found this trail, and it was raining and muddy and there were streams. I was just running through this single track of-- it's like where there's all these obstacles and you're just almost in the matrix where you're just everything's-- you're not thinking about anything and stepping anywhere and you're just running for a couple of hours and you come back and you're just filthy and dirty and exhausted and sweating.
It's just like that runner's high, I think is really amplified when you're out in nature, whether it's morning run and the sun's coming up, and there's birds and animals or whether you're training, but for me, it just amplifies the runner's high from being in the street to being out in nature.
Jeff: In a related question, Scott, one of the most popular segments that we do, we have some of our everyday runner listeners tell us why they run. Sometimes it is about getting in shape, but a lot of times like for me, for instance, I'm starting to get to the age where grandkids aren't that far away, and I want to be that grandparent that can play with their kids or with their grandkids and run with them and be active.
I think you know too when you think about getting older and entering those retirement years, you want to go do all those things you didn't have time to do while you're working, and running those races or climbing those mountains, and for me, that's what drives me to get up every day and get out and be active and hit the trails. I'm just curious for you, is there a why, why you run and why we get out there and hit those trails all the time?
Scott: For me, it's part of what you said for sure, and part of it is the exhilaration I just get from being out in nature and being out by myself being able to-- it's a little bit like my meditation in the morning. I usually run at sun up every morning. I run in a Wetlands area where there's birds. When I run that morning and run, it just starts my day off. When I have a good run in the morning, I don't know, it's just all the endorphins and everything like that, that my day's going to be a good day, like that. My day starts out perfect.
The other thing I think is like you, for me, it's a fitness thing. I worked 30 plus years with my own companies as an entrepreneur, long hours, long days, it paid off. The idea of right now where I'm 57 and I'm extremely healthy. I always say it's like an ROI. If you work that many years and kill yourself, you really want to have as many years to enjoy it as possible.
Jeff: For sure.
Scott: If I let myself go and I live to be 60 because I just let myself go, that's not a really good return on my investment. If I can live to be 90 and snowboard and run, you'd be healthy at 90 and live as long as I can, then that's a better return on my investment. I look at it two ways.
Steven: A lot of times you think about different areas to get into in terms of businesses and entrepreneurship and the athletic apparel industry is not competitive at all. No, I'm just kidding. It's definitely one that is pretty competitive, and in your desire to find something that would work for runners and especially, out there running in trails. Besides the things, Scott, like the pockets and all those features that path has, was there a desire just to get it right for trail runners?
Scott: I've been 25 years already in the industry and in footwear we competed against brands like Nike and adidas and all the big companies in apparels, we competed against lots of large companies. I think that large companies have their benefits, but I know how they run. The guy who's making running short may have done basketball shoes six months ago, he's not a runner.
The person doing snowboard outerwear with The Athletic Company might've been doing volleyball nine months before that. When I felt like I was wearing running shorts, I knew that no one running was actually designing them because I just said, you wouldn't have used your material like this, you wouldn't have put a seam here. You wouldn't have put the pocket somewhere where it was felt when it was going to pop open or not have a zipper on it.
When you hear multiple people say that they really would like to have something better, if you can put the business plan together and come up with that thing of how you're going to sell it and how the pricing is going to work, and why it's going to be different, and the size of the market, then it gets really exciting for me as an entrepreneur. It's like when all the pieces start falling together and you can see how it's going to work, then it just comes down to you executing it.
I really had to do it. It was just like the calling. My wife had told me "You're going to do another company? Why?" I said, "I have to do it."
Jeff: One thing that we've learned in doing this podcast now for six, seven months is that trail runners have big opinions and they also can sniff out things that are fake. I think that's what we loved about your products. You could tell that they were designed by trail runners, because of what you just said. The features, the materials, even I thought it was genius is separating the shorts from the liner, things like that.
I think for us, that's what we really like about PATH is, it seems like you guys really have your end-user, in this case, the trail runner in mind. You're not just trying to make apparel to sell it, you're really trying to create something special for a trail runner. I wanted to ask you about the Consumer Direct model because I think there's lots of benefits in the materials and the products that you make. There's a lot of benefits too in this direct-to-consumer model that you guys have as well.
Scott: When I was working on that plan in my head, and working through everything when I talked about the fabrics I wanted to use, our fabrics they come from Japan, it's called mechanical stretch, though it has no lycra or stretch material in it. It's basically they spin the yarn in a spiral and it stretches because it's spiral. Why that's important is because lycra and spandex absorb water, they break down, they hold water, and they're heavy. If you're making a very technical short, you don't want it to absorb water, and you want it to have a top hand. There's only really two mills in the world that make it and one's in Switzerland, the one's in Japan.
I was just like if you're going to make the ultimate short it has to be mechanical stretch. You're spending twice as much for the fabric. When you put pockets and you want them in the right places, every zipper, every pocket has a cost to it. When you build a short and it's got the right elastic that it's quick-dry and doesn't absorb water, materials, and you're putting the pocket and you're having sewn at a really high-quality factory, you're suddenly coming out with a short that cost twice as much to make as an average athletic shorts. If you put that short in a regular store, then we sell at a price in the store double the price so the short double.
To me making $85 running short, isn't something that most people want to pay for. I felt like that cost is too much. I think some people would pay it and they would love it but I thought doing consumer direct, it makes it a $47 short instead of a $90 short or $100 short which makes it a lot better. For me, it's like flying first class on a coach ticket. For me get a direct customer, we listen to their feedback. We hear the customer service. Sometimes we get great ideas from our customers and we want it to be feedback, what's working, what's not. A lot of the innovation in our product just came from our customers.
We came out with one fit, which we call it classic fit, and then we have a lot of runners that are like, "Hey, I got bigger legs. I do CrossFit. I do other things, I need a wider short." We came out with a second fit that all our shorts are in now. Every short comes in a classic fit or a relaxed fit for a different body type. For me, the consumer direct model is the model of the future and I think that it just cuts up the middle person in the equation.
Steven: I know a little bit of our origin story, when we first heard about you was we have a friend that we ran with and he was like, "Hey, you got to try these shorts. They're just for trail runners." He's like, "They're so comfortable." He'd come and he'd have one of your long sleeve short with the hood on. He's like, "Look, it has a spot for your Garmin." I was like, "Oh, that is cool." He's like, "You got to feel this. These are literally made just for trail runners."
It's really cool to see the like we said before the detail, the thought into it, the craftsmanship, beyond it like looking good stuff like it. It's one thing for something to look good. It's another thing for it actually work. Like you're saying specifically for the customer to the customer but specifically for trail running.
Scott: Our motto and what we do is like, we're not putting out a product unless we think we can improve on what's out there. For us, we're going to make a T-shirt, it's got to be better running shirts than what's out there, in some ways, for some reason. If we're going to make a hooded shirt that you run in, one of the things is we want it to cover your hands when you pull it out but we don't want you to have to pull back to look at your Garmin or your watch. You got to have that slot where it's so is there. You got to have a hood that when you turn your head, the hood moves with your head. It's not blocking your vision.
I think for us again, it's the craft and it's paying attention to every little detail of why it's better. Don't do a ton of different products but what we do, we did them because we thought we could improve on what was out there.
Steven: Not to talk about other competitors, but dry-fit just seems so heavy and I don't like it. I feel like I'm wearing plastic.
Scott: Yes, the blend of our shirt what it is it's got 19% tencel in it which tencel comes from eucalyptus trees. There was a pulp, that they spin into a yarn and they knit with the synthetic material. It gives you a natural hand, almost like a super soft cotton. What it does is it's got the eucalyptus pulp, so it's natural wicking. It's antimicrobials. You'll notice you can wear your shirt for days and throw it in the corner and won't smell and that doesn't wear out.
It's not a coating and it's really strong and that tinsel is a really strong material. Your shirt doesn't get pilly or anything like that. It's just really nice material and it's really expensive, probably two to three times with a normal synthetic shirt costs. In our consumer-direct model, it's still under a $40 shirt. It's shirts that we make out of tencel. If you were going to buy that shirt and store it'd be $90 or $100 or more in our hooded versions. Again, so it's material that's used by a lot of really specialty high-end athletic companies that are making multi-hundred dollar garments, but we're able to use it. I live in the material. I think it's just shirt material that's ever been made.
Steven: I may or may not have been a good test when you said about wearing it multiple times and then throwing it in the corner and not smelling it. I'm not going to confess to that but I may have incidentally tested that for you guys.
Jeff: I was going to say I think my wife is going to make me buy all PATH project shirts going forward because of the smell factor.
Scott: Billy Yang who's a legendary ultra runner, he told us he was crewing at Badwater. He wore it for multiple days and 100-plus weather the same shirt. After he's done, he threw it in the corner. Then afterward he took it and smelled it because he thought about that smell test…
Jeff: It's a true test right there.
Scott: That was the true test.
Steven: You guys made an interesting decision, which it seems a little bit contrary to what other companies are doing with their shorts. I noticed this the first time I was on your website, but you actually sell your liner separate from the shorts. What was the decision behind that?
Scott: Well, it was interesting, because originally, my thought was, I was testing a bunch of shorts that were out in the market. I would find in shorts that I love the shell like Arcteryx uses a great material but their liner was terrible so I was cutting the liner out. Then I was trying different material to wear underneath. Then we started working with factories and trying different materials with different shorts, prototyping. What I found is the short liner material I loved in summer when it was super hot and humid, wasn't the same material I liked when it was cold out.
What I was doing was instead of having the factory sow in a liner every time I was like, "Why don't you make the liner separate so they can try the liners on their own." I'll just try it on the shell. Then what I found was that the whole short worked better when they were separate because your short moves when you run. If you're liner is sown in, it's pulling your liner, It gives you the possibility of chasing a lot easier.
If your liner's separate, and then you're wearing it almost like a second skin and our liners aren't tight. They're not compression. They're made to be comfortable, supportive, but there's no compression. Your short rides on top and your short can move and bounce that it's running we use a little bit thick, larger elastic on our waistband. The short just moves on that but it's never touching your skin.
The whole idea is that if you're running in really hot weather and you want to wear a really thin breathable baseliner, you can wear that. If you're running in really cold temperatures and you want to wear a long baseliner or a longer baseliner that could be full length or whatever you can wear that. The whole idea is that it's like, you can mix and match to the conditions you're running. If you're running really long and you have a certain baseliner that you just love the mechanics and feel, then you can wear that one.
If you're wearing a short and you want a different pocket configuration to this run you want more pockets, or you want a racing shirt, it's super light, you can wear it our wildcat which weighs 2.5 ounces. If you want the pockets, you could wear the Graves that has four different pockets and hold your phone. Really just mix and match to the conditions and what you're feeling that day and some people could wear the same short all the time. Some of our customers have four different shorts and three different liners and they mix and match to what the conditions are.
It really came about and the idea was I found this out and I started really thinking about it like it makes so much sense. I don't have to wash my shorts up every time. I can just wash my baseliner. Short you can wash every 10 runs or whatever you want that the baseliners can throw in the washer or throw in the sink and they'll be dry the next day.
There's this whole factor of convenience, there's this whole aspect it just made more sense and I was talking to a friend of mine who was at REI for years and then has been charged a product and he was one of the top people at RAI and he is an ultra runner and I told him, I go, "I just don't think we should make a short with a liner and it doesn't make sense, these are all the reasons why. You wouldn't wear a jacket to go skiing that had a built-in T-shirt in it. You would want to have something that you could layer."
Jeff: Built-in turtleneck. [laughs]
Scott: Yes, like based on what the weather is and you would challenge your shell and he's like, "Oh my God, it makes so much sense" I go, "I feel like we should just do all of them this way, I feel like it's a scary bet," He goes, "No, it makes sense, just do it all this way." He was the guy that pushed me over the top when I was working on this to just say like go totally different but it's a big education.
We have a lot of customers that tell us, "I want a two in one short," and I'm like, "You probably haven’t ran in a short that has a separate baseline, or you're back thinking about I don't want power steering in my cars." It's one of those things. I don't know, I thought it was the innovation that made sense and we just went for it.
Steven: No, it's funny. I don't know if you know there was an old TV show, no, not old. A couple of years ago called Boundless, and it was these two guys that were doing all these adventure races and they were doing ones in and Antarctica and Malaysia and just all these things and they have two guys. When I first started watching it, I would always see these guys and the first thing they would do at every aid stations, these aid stations were 20 miles apart something like that, Scott.
The first thing they would do is they'd run to these aid stations and say, "Hey, do you have scissors? Do you have scissors?" They're like, "What? We got food and coke, why do you have scissors?" They would just grab scissors and cut out the liners of their shorts because they were so much because of the humidity or the chafing or just rubbing the wrong way or whatever, and I found that very interesting but after wearing y’alls and I were running and I use a different one when I go to Orange Theory and workout, it really made sense.
Jeff: Well Scott, we want to shift gears a little bit and get to know you if you don't mind let's maybe ask you some unconventional questions, some of your likes and dislikes.
Jeff: My first question is around a running quirk that you have. For example, Steven over here will run nine miles and won't take any water with him because of his cross-country background. What's your biggest running quirk?
Scott: Probably that idea, if I don't get out first thing in the morning when I wake up, I can talk myself out of going on a run. I get preoccupied. For me, it's just that thing of like I got to get up, do my stretch, and be gone. The more time I put at not doing it, the more I find other things that have to do and talk myself out of it. I think that's my big thing in the morning I know a lot of people are night runners in different times but for me, it's just got to be up early and the earlier I get out, the better the run I have.
Jeff: Awesome. What about favorite aid station food?
Jeff: Ooh, quesadillas?
Scott: Yes, I ran Trail Fest, a three-day run and when I got to the Grand Canyon, and got to the Aid Station, for some reason I had cold quesadillas and it was like, and maybe it's after three days of running but it was the best thing I ever had.
Steven: We might have served some cold quesadillas at a few aid stations. [laughs]
Jeff: Yes, we’ve done that before guilty. It is amazing how good food tastes when you've been running for quite a while, that's for sure. Well, we had a post last week that we posted about, and we actually talked about it on our last episode and that is GU. We have a very strong opinion about GU, do you have a strong opinion about jells in general?
Scott: I don't like them. I like real food.
Jeff: That's our take too.
Scott: I’m a lot about carrying some almonds, having something, real food just does way better in my stomach than anything processed.
Steven: Do you listen to music when you run or you just no music?
Scott: I do both. In my house, probably it's funny but the Wetlands where I live it's really foggy, and I really loved running in the deep fog like singletrack in the fog, it's like being on Scooby-Doo running, and I actually made a mix of music for running in the fog.
Jeff: Oh cool.
Scott: That was like this weird eerie fun, when I go out in the fog it's like nobody's out there, and I just put on these songs, that are eerie and it's got like black hole sound, and different things that you're just like running into the fog and you can't see.
Steven: We might have to get this Scott Bailey Spotify playlist.
Jeff: That’s true.
Steven: At some point in time, or the PATH project playlist or something like that because I'm musically deficient so any help that you can throw my direction would be great.
Jeff: I trip and fall all the time in the broad daylight, I can't imagine what I would be like in the fog. I think I'd probably fall all the time.
Scott: It might be strange, but I like the weird circumstances of fog or rain or wind or things that, and I'm just like, "Why am I out here?"
Jeff: You just embrace it.
Scott: In the fog. Yes, I embrace it.
Jeff: We just finished up March Madness, we did our own version of that it was called Arch Madness where we paired up all the different running brands and came up with the final game, we had our Big Ass Runner herd vote on their favorite running shoes and it came down to Hoka and Altra. I'm just curious, do you have a favorite running shoe?
Scott: Altra. I really and I have some Altra started. I got into that minimalist thing and I used to run in a lot of minimalist shoes until I started getting way too many raw bruising in the bottom of my feet, and so when Altra came out, it was like zero drops, whenever that was eight years ago or something, I started running in Altras and I’m still am running now.
Jeff: We do Scott, love your products. We wear them like I said I'm wearing the Rainier hat as we speak and we're really excited because we have a very special announcement. I think when Steven and I created this podcast we thought maybe someday we would have some brands that we could work with and we could partner with. I think some of the things we thought about are first of all we've got to love the products because the trust of our listeners is the most important thing that we think about.
Then also we'd want a company as a smaller business that really focuses on trail runners and really tries to solve problems and help trail runners succeed and a lot about this podcast is inspiring and entertaining and encouraging trail runners to do real big important things. We're really excited to announce that PATH Projects is supporting the Big Ass Runner. [applause effect] We're super excited about that and thrilled, and honestly quite blessed to have you guys as partners.
Scott: Yes, thank you, guys. I think you guys have the best name in all podcasts so I’m excited to be on anything called Big Ass Runner. It’s the same way we work. We don't advertise or work with anybody who doesn't like our products. The first step is when we meet someone and we really like what they're doing and we think it might be a good partner for us, we basically give product and just say like, "Let us know how you like it before we even talk about anything," and we definitely think that it comes across, organic and real if people that we're working with really liked what we're doing and we really like what they're doing so I think it's going to be a great partnership.
Steven: We're looking forward to it and like I said from our origin story we heard about you guys, a while ago and just started buying gear which I love to do so any excuse to do that, I'm very picky about my gear, Jeff makes fun of me for- and for good cause, obviously, but we've been wearing your stuff for a while and it really is good and like I said, I think it's something that the everyday trail runner or Ultra runner could really use and it's a good product, but also a good arsenal and what they're doing to help them achieve their goals and so we're really excited about it and I'm very honored to partner with you guys.
Scott: Thank you, guys.
Jeff: Well Scott, again we are very excited about our partnership and just thankful for your time. I know you're very busy so really appreciate the time you spent with us.
Scott: Oh, thank you guys, a lot of fun, just whatever we can do to help we're here.
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