How do you carry a firearm with confidence and still slay it, fashionably speaking? A question like that easily conjures images of Lara Croft or Alice, but it touches on something that is of real concern for women – and even men – nowadays. Whatever your opinion about guns is, the need for personal protection is real, and it weighs upon more people than you think, especially women. However, most of the women’s apparel in the market is not specifically designed for women who want to conceal firearms in their person comfortably. Amy Robbins solves this through Alexo Athletica, a unique women’s apparel company dedicated to defend women and help them find the confidence to live and protect themselves as they see fit. It is certainly a brave step at a time when the nation is much divided when it comes to the gun question. In this conversation with Rob Cornilles, Amy talks about the driving factors that led her to embark on this unique crusade to the point of marching against the tide of popular opinion.
Watch the episode here:
Amy Robbins | Choosing To Carry With Confidence
Empowerment, self-preservation, choice, strong words that evoke a variety of emotions and which have motivated Amy Robbins. Amy is co-founder and CEO of Alexo Athletica, a unique women’s apparel company whose mission is to defend and to help women find greater confidence to live and protect themselves as they see fit. Fast becoming a national phenomenon, Amy is this episode’s Game Face exec.
It’s a real thrill to welcome Amy Robbins, the co-founder, and CEO of Alexo Athletica straight from Dallas, Texas. Amy, welcome to the show.
Rob, it’s good to be here with you. I have to give you kudos because Alexo Athletica is hard for people to say. I need to know, did you practice that several times before I came on?
I’ve said it many times before. I stumbled the first few times I tried it but by now it’s old hat.
It’s the alliteration. There’s a lot behind how we chose Alexo Athletica but I always have to give props to people that get it right the first time. Good job.
Thank you. I appreciate that. We’re off to a good start. Let me ask you, Amy. When you and I have spoken, it’s interesting to find your background and your varied interests. When people ask me, “How would you describe Amy Robbins?” quite frankly, I don’t know how to put it into one phrase or even certainly one word. I thought of, “She’s an entrepreneur, she’s a businesswoman, she’s a gun rights advocate, she’s a non-traditional feminist.” How do you describe Amy Robbins?
Rob, honestly I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve never been somebody that gets too wrapped up and concerned with titles and descriptions because honestly, I feel that puts you in such a box. I have several titles that you gave and those are all good, but I definitely want to add mother and wife to that list as well because those are the two most important things. I would say it’s the two most important titles that I hold over any of the other things that I do.
I appreciate that because you became a mother in 2020, didn’t you?
I did, probably during one of the craziest times in my lifetime. He came five days after Dallas shut down everything. We’re right in the middle of the pandemic. I said, “It’s going to make a great birth story.” We saved the front–page newspaper for him so we could tell him everything that was going on. I had my first child in March of 2020. It’s been an exciting year for sure.
Congratulations. You and your husband co–founded the business. Is that fair to say?
[bctt tweet=”The self-reliant woman is the most confident woman. ” via=”no”]
We did. I couldn’t do this without him. He’s been incredibly supportive the entire time. I pitched this crazy idea to start a clothing company that gave women the ability to carry self-defense tools to him. I had all my research planned out because I wasn’t sure how he was going to accept this because there’s a new athletic company popping up every ten minutes. To get him on board, I had to make my case and show him all the research that I had done, and also share my personal experience with him as to why I thought this product was incredibly needed. It didn’t take that much convincing. I laid it all out for him and he was like, “I’m in, I’m on board. What do we need to do?” I looked at him and I said, “I have no idea. I don’t have a background in manufacturing. I don’t have a background in fashion design. I’m not sure what we do but I know enough people in this industry that we can figure it out. Let’s go and let’s do this. Let’s make it happen.”
Let’s get into that story a little bit, Amy because it’s a fascinating story. As more and more people learn your story, they say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s a concern that I’ve had. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here but you’re an avid runner. We know that. You’re a marathoner, you love fitness. In your private and personal workouts, as you tell the story, you’d be outside, you’d be running maybe at twilight or at sunset. You had a bit of a concern as you were engaged in your hobby, which turned into a business. Tell us the story of how Alexo Athletica began.
It goes back a couple of years even before my marathon experience and what happened to me when I was training for my marathon because honestly, I had never thought about firearms as a means of personal safety except for in the home. What had happened, I grew up in a house where my dad always had firearms. We had all girls in my family but he was an avid hunter. He carried firearms when we went on family trips. The way that they were always presented to us was these firearms are tools that are here to protect and defend our family and also provide food and provide essentials for our family. That was my framework for firearms growing up my entire life but it didn’t become personal to me until I started hosting a television show.
It was a lifestyle show focused on Millennials and firearms. I was like the newbie on the show. My dad had bought me my first firearm that Christmas right before I had started the show. I didn’t know anything about them. Honestly, I was quite intimidated by them because I didn’t know how to operate them but I knew that it was important. We lived out in the middle of nowhere. The cops were going to take forever to get to our house. My husband traveled all the time. I was like, “I want to at least know how to protect myself if I need to. If the firearm is going to be in the house, I need to know how to do it safely, responsibly and I need to know how to take care of myself.”
That was the beginning of my journey into the “firearm world.” I never looked at myself as a gun girl. I looked at the firearms community as something that was very much not me. I didn’t think I looked like a gun owner. I didn’t think I fit the mold of what a gun girl or a gun person was. I never thought that they were going to be accessible to me. As I did this show, everyone around me carried a firearm for personal defense. They had their license to carry. They took this lifestyle to heart and it was then that it became something that I started to consider. That was the framework for what led me into even thinking about starting this company with Alexo.
First of all, what does your dad think about what you do?
He thinks it’s cool. It’s funny because now my dad and my husband both come to me when they have questions about what firearms to buy. I’ve almost outpaced them a little bit in my skillset and in my knowledge of firearms and they think it’s cool. I was always the tomboy in the family. My dad said I was the son that he never had, and I never understood that or thought that was a compliment until I got older, but they think it’s cool that I can help give them advice. They even pass me off to their friends now when their friends have questions about what firearms do they buy themselves or their wives for home defense or if they want to take the next step further and make it a lifestyle and carry on the body all the time.
In the evolution of the company, you have almost by default become a gun rights advocate. We both know because we’ve talked about our businesses before. We’re both small business owners. In order to survive, you have to stand out, you have to almost be edgy in this world whether you’re using social media or your product or sloganeering. You definitely have an edgy feel to your business. Is that because of your television background, your marketing background that you knew? In order to get the attention of a prospective buyer, you had to stand out. Is that one way to do it?
I don’t think it was anything that was ever intentional on our part but we did understand the environment and the controversy that surrounded firearms in general. The interesting thing about our company is Alexo started focusing on women’s apparel. We focused on women’s apparel because we truly believe that the self-reliant woman is the most confident woman. We also knew that giving them the ability to carry a tool is a small piece of this entire lifestyle of being a fully capable person. It was interesting because I’m going to say we launched our company right at the height of the #MeToo Movement. We were able to capitalize on the controversy that was surrounding the #MeToo Movement and we weren’t trying to be controversial.
What we were trying to tell people was like, “We want to solve this solution of the women that are saying #MeToo, that these things that happened to them, this assault, this sexual assault.” We wanted to provide a solution for women. That didn’t mean putting a firearm in the hand of every single woman. We wanted to give women the tools to feel confident, to be able to defend and protect themselves and carry whatever it was that made them feel confident. They got in a situation that they found themselves where they might have to say, “Me too.” We wanted to give them the option to never have to say, “Me too.” If something had happened to them, we wanted to make sure that they never had to experience that again. Naturally, there was controversy surrounding that because sometimes, especially media outlets, couldn’t see past the fact that we marketed things with a firearm because we had built holsters in the pants of our outfits.
For a lot of media, that is very anti–firearm because they don’t understand it. They look at everything that has a firearm in it and marketing as promoting guns or maybe gun violence and that simply wasn’t the case. We looked at it as we’re providing a solution to a problem. We’re providing confidence. That controversy worked to our benefit because we were a small business and we were completely self-funded. We didn’t have any money for marketing. We were able to pick up a lot of free media and free marketing that helped propel and launch our company to the level that we’re at now because there was also nobody else doing it at that point. When we launched in 2017, we were the first and only company on the entire lifestyle brand that gave women the ability to choose how they wanted to defend and protect themselves.
I like to get inside the mind of an entrepreneur. Let’s go back to your hobby. You’re a marathoner. You had some experiences that were the inspiration behind Alexo. Paint that picture for us a little bit.
Anyone who runs a marathon understands, especially as a woman, you’re running crazy hours early in the morning or late at night and a lot of times you’re doing it by yourself. Women face a lot of different issues when it comes to running than guys do. We both face it. It became very personal to me. I was out running one day out in the country. I did the same awesome back road run at a 7–mile loop that I would do and never unsafe. At this point, I was not carrying any self-defense tool on my body. I hadn’t thought about it. I remember I went out for a run one day and on my path I see this white van coming over the hill that was full of men.
Typically, it wouldn’t bother me or scare me, but when they slowed down and they rolled the windows down and they start doing the catcalling and all that, it makes you a little uneasy. From there, they passed me. They went to the stop sign but then they turned around. It was at that point I turned around, I was like, “Maybe nothing is going to happen,” but that gut intuition told me like, “What are you going to do? I’m outnumbered. If something were to happen, what are you going to do, Amy?” I started planning my escape route and all these things like, “What am I going to do?” Luckily, my story ended there. As I went and started researching, what I started finding was 80% of women runners, walkers and joggers had experienced some form of harassment or assault.
Unfortunately, there have been numerous women that have even been murdered when they’d been by themselves on a run. I saw this problem and I’m like, “Fifty-four percent of women choose walking or running. It’s a large population. Many of those runners have experienced this.” I forget what the stat was when we did this years ago, it was up to like 70% of those women carrying some form of self-defense tool when they ran or walked. I’m like, “I went and got my license to carry. I started seeing how many women got their license to carry as well. We’re all wearing athletic clothes 80% of the time, even if we’re not working out. There has to be a better way for us to carry these tools in a hidden place on our body so that we could access them very easily and quickly and we can be hands–free.” We all know that when you’re hands–free, it helps you be situationally aware a lot more than when you’ve got a lot of stuff in your hands and you’re distracted.
That’s the genesis of the company. It was a personal need. I started seeing how many millions of women had this same fear. I was like, “I don’t want to stop running because I had a fearful experience. I want to be prepared and have the tools that I need to continue living my life in complete confidence that I’m able to handle and take care of myself. I don’t have to change my daily routine because I can’t fend for myself.” When we started developing this idea, it was like, “I want this to be so much more than just a clothing brand or an apparel brand.”
It was the ethos, it was the community behind what we were doing that we knew we had something special. There was no competition in the market at that point. We’ve since started to see people popping up and trying to do the same thing. I think they think, “It’s easy. We’ll put some holsters built into athletic pants and we’ll do exactly what Alexo is doing.” They don’t understand the importance of that ethos and that mindset of what we were trying to accomplish that I believe set us apart from all the other people that are starting to enter into the market at this point.
My readers will have to secure one of your pieces of apparel to see how it works or they can go on your website. There are some great videos there. I will tell you, as one who has not put on an Alexo piece, but it seems to me like a heavy firearm would be very uncomfortable. Granted, there are people who are concealing weapons constantly. They have the license to carry but when you’re exercising, it seems that that would be uncomfortable. How did you work yourself around that?
I always say that the women’s line was a lot easier to overcome that challenge than the men’s line. We’ve been working on our men’s line. COVID set that back a little bit. Men like to carry super heavy firearms but because I was in the industry before this, I knew what the most common models were that women were carrying on a daily basis. They were small, subcompact, micro–compact, even. I knew for a woman, it’s a lot harder to conceal big guns. We typically will gravitate towards smaller models. When we built that, we built that with that in mind. The factory recommendation is 23 ounces loaded weight or less, which shows the most common models for women carrying firearms save P365, a SIG 938, a Glock 43, a Ruger LCP.
Those are small models. Of the most common models, those are the ones that fit under our pants. I do get asked every now and then, “Are you going to make a model that we can carry our Glock 19?” I’m like, “Probably not because I don’t know a woman that wants to go run 12 miles with a Glock 19 on her hip.” Usually, that’s from law enforcement officers that we get asked that question because their duty weapons are typically heavier. They have a higher capacity. We get asked that a lot from our FBI agents and our law enforcement but most women carry small firearms. Another concern was the comfortability of it. A lot of barriers to women carrying is how uncomfortable, big, bulky Kydex holster is. We wanted to eliminate that. That’s why we went with these great cloth holsters that make it super convenient and super comfortable to carry. It eliminates a lot of barriers of entry for women to want to carry on body. It eliminates the need for them to throw it in their purse, which is ineffective. It gets more people carrying on the body, which to me is the most effective self-defense method if you are going to choose to carry a firearm.
Quite frankly, we’re wearing athletic gear when we go shopping, when we’re going to watch the kids’ soccer game. It’s not just for exercising. Also, I’ve seen your apparel and it carries all kinds of instruments like a phone, for example. It’s not just for firearms.
We wanted to make a very functional utility line because we want to give the tools to men and to women to live a self-reliant life. Whatever can help you be hands-free, whatever can help you, we load those things with pockets. Our signature line has over ten storage spaces built in the leggings. You can go purse–free if you want to and not have to worry about that, which I did. I went to NASCAR and didn’t even have to worry about taking a purse because I packed all my pockets out and it was super convenient. Moms are wearing these pants, the moms that don’t carry a firearm, they’re wearing them because they’re finding it super convenient to put everything on their body and have quick access to it when they need it.
That’s what’s been most exciting to us. There are a ton of women that are understanding like, “I may not carry a firearm. I never have a need for that but I do want to have functionality and utilities and pockets and places. I like the idea that this company supports my right to choose how I want to defend myself.” A lot of people are jumping on board with the Alexo community and the Alexo mindset. They understand we’re not about empowering people and giving people confidence through the ability to strengthen their bodies. We want to help them have a sharp mind, a strong body and the tools that they need to say, “I can take care of myself in any situation.” That ethos and the mission of our company is truly what sets us apart from other athletic companies that are entering into the market on a day in, day out basis.
[bctt tweet=”We have the right to defend our life. It’s important that we hone in on the fact that women are able to do this. ” via=”no”]
This idea of empowerment to me is inspiring because frankly, it’s tragic that you even had to think about starting this company. Yet thankfully, your mind, your experience and your spirit said, “There’s got to be a solution because I have the right to exercise or to be out in the public when I want to be out, where I want to be out. I shouldn’t be limited by my fears.” You’ve empowered women. I like how you’ve described it both here and also in your marketing materials that you’re giving people, especially women, the right to choose how they want to defend themselves but also how they want to live. That’s brilliant.
Thank you. That was the most important thing to me, especially since we started out with women’s apparel only. It doesn’t change. Even men want to be competent, capable and able to take care of themselves no matter what situation they find themselves in. Men and women, we’re seeing them every single day going out and finding tools and places to sharpen their mindset, to increase the strength of their body. For many people, especially in America, they are a part of that. Being an ultra–capable person is being a prepared person whether that’s prepared with your self–defense, prepared by having a spare tire in your car just in case you need it. They’re starting to think of preparation a lot differently. Being a prepared person is the number one thing that gives you peace of mind, no matter what situation you find yourself in. That’s true at the core of what we’re doing. There’s such a deeper message than, “Here’s a place to put your firearm. Go carry.” That’s a piece of it but it’s definitely a lot deeper than that as well.
You talk about self–preparation. I love the way you described that. It also reminds me of self–preparation is also the precursor to self-preservation. If you’re not prepared, it’s hard to preserve. How do you get around the notion and perhaps the misjudgment that many might have that you’re not promoting self–preparation or self-preservation, you’re promoting violence? You’ve addressed that, Amy, but if you could go a little bit deeper into that because in today’s climate especially in the United States where it seems like firearms are becoming more prevalent in the news. They seem to be the instigator of more news events. I’ve got to perceive that some people are cheering you on while other people wish you would go out of business.
We definitely have seen both sides of that. That’s why we feel such a responsibility to continue to educate and to continue in our marketing efforts and the promotion of this entire mind, body, armor idea where it’s so much more than the firearm. We want to continue to push on this idea that we have a right to choose in this country. We can play that game too with the right of choice. We‘ve done a good job and been able to navigate these tricky waters because it hasn’t always been about the firearm to us. It never was. It never started out that way. I’m a licensed firearm instructor. It was natural for me to carry a firearm but with our initial messaging and branding, it was never about that.
We’ve been very consistent in our messaging from day one. We can always point back to this isn’t just about the firearm. There are some media outlets that have wanted to make it all about that. Oddly enough, the thing that surprised me, most of the pushback came from other women. It came from a lot of women who believe in misguided stats when it comes to firearms. I try to push back and educate. One of the biggest stats that they like to tout as a woman is more likely to die in a household where there’s a firearm. I’m like, “Women are ultra–capable of learning about that firearm and using it in a self-defense situation they want to.” I don’t like the idea that a woman isn’t smart enough or strong enough or capable enough to learn something like a firearm and use it in a self-defense situation.
It’s super important to me that we continue to hone–in on the fact that women are able to do this. They’re capable of doing this. With the right training and the right safety measures in place, it can be a tool that could be used to their benefit. It has been interesting to see this but we say on our website that we want to apologize for being Second Amendment advocates. I believe the Second Amendment gives us the right to choose how we want to defend ourselves. It’s about bearing arms and bearing arms is the pinnacle of a self-defense tool but ultimately it recognizes that we all have a right to life and a right to defend that life. It still gives people the opportunity to choose mace or a taser or whatever else they choose to defend and protect themselves. It is recognized under our Constitution that we have the right to defend our life. I don’t apologize for that. That will always be at the core of who we are. It’s been interesting as we’ve navigated all of those. Everyone has very strong opinions on firearms.
Some of those opinions, I’m not saying all, are probably based on either side on misinformation or misunderstanding and give an example of that. You and I have chatted before about the fact that I have a relative who is very much a gun advocate because the things that you articulated, they feel the same. They’re strong in that. They have educated me on things that I never considered in the past. One of the things that I’ve learned from them is that gun owners who are responsible, which are the vast majority of gun owners, have a strict rule of ethics that they abide by. In fact, I’d like you to talk a little bit about that in the world in which you find yourself in which you are commercializing your hobby, which turned into a business. Those who are responsible gun owners do certain things and are required to do certain things. It’s not because they’re compelled to do it. I find it’s because they have a desire to act and live responsibly as individuals and as citizens. Can you give us a little bit of a peek into that world?
I’m glad you brought that up because there is a misconception about gun owners that is flat out wrong. I’ve been in the industry for a long time. Every gun owner that I know takes safety and training very seriously. They take it seriously because they understand that if they don’t then they’re a part of the problem. They’re a part of the problem that could that right stripped away. They go to the range and they practice. They know how their firearm operates. They know the four basic gun laws of safety to make you a responsible gun owner. They’re storing their firearms. They’re thinking about the safety of their family and their home. They don’t have to be told or mandated by the government to be safe gun owners. They’re doing it because they understand the importance of doing that helps preserve the Second Amendment. Especially to take it the next step further, those that have their license to carry, that’s a whole other level of safety, training and responsibility.
You’re talking about a group of individuals who have said, “I want to take my safety into my own hands. I don’t want to have to rely on anybody else. In order to do that, I need to be extremely trained. I need to think of all of the scenarios.” It starts with the mind. The mindset is the most important thing for people that carry a firearm because they’re thinking about every way to get out of this situation to have to use their firearm. They’re not thinking about going into a fight and using their firearm. Every concealed carry holder that I know is thinking, “I need to be so situationally aware that I can get out of this situation and never have to draw my weapon,” but you can’t do that unless you’re trained in situational training. You can’t do that unless you’re looking at your surroundings constantly.
When I say these people are very responsible and they have good mindsets, these are the things that they’re thinking about on a daily basis, which is it’s a higher level than the normal gun owner who keeps their firearm at home and never touches it and never has to go to the range and use it. They’re spending their time, their money. It’s an expensive hobby to get into shooting. When you’re going to carry a tool on your body that can take life, you better take it seriously. You better be at the range knowing where your target is, knowing what’s beyond your target. That’s super important when it comes to shooting. You better know how to store that, how to operate it, how to draw safely so that you don’t harm yourself or anybody else that you weren’t intending to.
There’s a lot that goes into carrying a firearm on your body than grabbing a gun and putting it in a holster and calling it a day. I have to educate people on that because a lot of people that are anti-gun, a lot of that is based on fear. Not every one of them but a lot of people who are anti-gun or who are pushing for this legislation to remove and restrict people’s rights to own a firearm is because they don’t understand the safety, training and the responsibility, or they’ve never picked up a gun and shot it themselves, and they can be extremely intimidating. There is a lot of fear behind that. I take a lot of my friends who are “anti-gun” to the range. They’re like, “That wasn’t so bad.” We have a responsibility as gun owners to help educate as many people as we can, especially those that are afraid of them. Take them, show them how to operate it, how to be safe with it. That’s one way to combat what we’re seeing in our country.
My friends, my readers know that I’ve never voiced any advocacy for gun rights. It’s not because I’m opposed to guns but I’ve never been an advocate. One of the things that come to my mind as you’re describing this, Amy, is that it’s like driving a vehicle. We all have to get a license to drive a vehicle, those of us who want to and yet there are some people out on the freeways, out on the streets who will run the red light, who will weave in and out of traffic on the freeway at dangerous speeds. We look at those people and we say, “Those people are crazy. They’re putting all of our lives in jeopardy, they’re endangering us,” but we would never think that we should take everyone’s cars away from them or to limit people’s ability to drive. We simply say, “The law needs to take action against that person and we need to have better training, better schooling in responsible driving.” Is that a fair comparison?
It is. It’s interesting that you pointed that out because if you think about it, all the scenarios that you mentioned, running the red light, even drunk driving, speeding, there are already laws on the books that make all of those activities illegal but it doesn’t stop people from doing it. To me, when this restrictive gun legislation comes into play, you can put all of the laws on the books that you want. The very small amount of people in this country, if you look at the hundreds of millions of firearms that are in our country and the hundreds of millions of gun owners that are out there and we compare that to the few that are using that firearm for criminal acts, it doesn’t matter what law is on the books.
They’re criminals. They’re using it for a criminal act. They’re going to continue to do that. I always taught people what the stricter legislation does is it infringes on the rights of the law–abiding citizens. Those who are already taking responsibility and safety very seriously would never do anything to intentionally harm anybody or do anything criminal with their firearm. That’s why I push back on a lot of this legislation because I don’t think that it’s going to solve the problem. It doesn’t solve these people that are doing these acts, it’s evil intentions that are in their heart and you can’t legislate evil. You can’t legislate that out of somebody. They’re going to do it whether or not there’s a law on the book or not then we have more laws that are infringing on law–abiding citizens and not doing anything to solve the problem.
I know that you’re a CEO of an apparel company and I’ve driven you down this path of talking about gun rights. I apologize but I’m also grateful for shedding some light on this and making us all more aware of rights that do exist in our country. They’ve existed for centuries and we need to honor people’s ability to exercise those rights. Let me ask you one last question about this. I want to query more about Alexo, but if someone is interested and they’re hearing you and they think, “I’m persuaded by what Amy is saying,” what would you recommend they do if they feel now is the time to learn how to protect themselves?
They would be joining the eight million first-time gun owners that bought firearms. We are seeing unprecedented numbers of people going out and buying firearms. On one hand, I’m excited about that. On the other hand, I’m like, “It’s not about going and buying a gun and calling it a day.” I highly recommend many steps and many things prior to buying your first firearm. Making sure that you get to the range can work with an excellent certified instructor who can show you how to operate that. You need to know how to operate your tool. To use your car analogy, you would never throw somebody in a car, give them the keys and then say, “Go have fun with that,” because the car can be used as a deadly weapon as well. With the firearm, it’s no different. You want to know how your specific model works.
The best way to do that is to find a great trainer depending on the state you live in. I’m in Texas, there’s a gun range on every corner around here that is full of certified instructors. They love helping first-time gun owners feel confident and comfortable utilizing that tool that they are either going to keep in their house or keep on their body if they decide to take the next steps and get a license to carry that firearm. Training is the most important thing that I push. When my friends come to me and ask me, “What gun do I buy?” It starts us down an entire conversation of so much more than the gun. While we talk about situational awareness, I ask them, “What’s the purpose of the firearm? Why do you want to use this firearm? Are you prepared to use a tool like that if you find yourself in a situation where you need to use it?” If the answer is no, I don’t direct you to buy a firearm. You need to think through many of these situations and that makes you a more responsible gun owner. We talk through that and then if they do say, “Yes, I’m ready to take that next step,” it’s helping them find the right training that makes them feel comfortable and confident and proficient in using that tool.
I appreciate that advice for those who want to follow up on that. You mentioned at the beginning of our conversation that the name Alexo was inspired in some way. Can you give us more insight? I said Alexo Athletica properly and some people don’t. Where did you come up with the name? Obviously, a name usually means something. A lot of small businesses starting, especially in the tech industry, come up with names. You don’t know what the heck that means but I sense that there’s something behind your name so help us.
It’s funny because a lot of people think we’re sister companies with Athleta and I have to constantly be like, “No association.” I don’t think The Gap wants to be associated with a company that allows people to carry a firearm. No relation to Athleta whatsoever. It was interesting because with my background in marketing and advertising, words are super important. I want it to be able to encompass many different things in one or two words. For me, I’ve always loved the Greek language for that reason. It can take one word and have an entire definition of what that one word encompasses. The Greek language is unique in that sense. We’re a little different from the English language. We’ve got to say a lot of words to me to say what we want to mean.
[bctt tweet=”Infringing on the rights of citizens to carry guns doesn’t solve criminality. You can’t legislate evil out of anybody.” via=”no”]
In the Greek language, you don’t have to do that. I was looking through the Greek word that sounds like I want something that embodies strength, confidence. I didn’t know if I wanted it to be this warrior spirit or what, but I wanted it to embody all the things that the brand was going to embody. I started googling the goddess of war and warrior, and Alexandra popped up as the Greek Goddess of War. As I looked into that, the root word, Alexo, was the part of the word that meant to defend and to help. I was like, “That’s it.” It was literally gotten dropped out in our lap and I was like, “That’s it. We don’t even have to look any further because that’s exactly what we want to be able to do.”
We want to be able to help men and women find what they feel confident in defending themselves and being prepared. I loved the word Athletica because I thought that Alexo is a little masculine. Athletica is feminine. You have that good juxtaposition but also since you have two As, we are two A company. It worked out perfectly. It was funny because I was reading Sara Blakely. She is one of my idols. I love her story about how she created Spanx. I was reading in her bio after we had launched the company why she put an X in the name of Spanx over a KS. She said that X is a very bold, common letter that people use in their words. I didn’t even know that. I hadn’t read that yet. She said, “It’s like Kodak does it and Spanx did it.” She listed off all these companies that use an X. I was like, “We’re on the same wavelength as Sara Blakely. We must be doing something right.” That’s where the company came from. It was that Greek word, Alexo, which means to defend and to help.
We get a peek into the mind of a marketer with that. Thank you, Amy. We’ve got Amy, we’ve got Alexo, we’ve got Athletica, but we also have within your company, ambassadors. Another A word. Help us understand what’s an Alexo ambassador?
Alexo ambassadors are women who helped us from the grassroots level. They’re already authentically living this life of being self-reliant and being prepared. They truly believe in a woman’s right to choose how they want to defend themselves. Not every one of our ambassadors carries a firearm. Not even all of our ambassadors even own a firearm, but they all believe at their core that a woman has a right to choose and a woman has a right to defend herself. They were building a community. It was super important for us because we didn’t have any money for marketing. We knew right out of the gate that we wanted to go out, make all these touchpoint contacts, like personal contacts. I was spending hours before we launched reaching out to different accounts that I would see on Instagram. Some with huge followings, some with small followings.
I liked the smaller following accounts more because I was like, “These women are living this life authentically, sharing about their journey and to self-reliance with their normal everyday audience.” They’re not doing it because they’re getting paid by a gun company. They’re doing it because they truly wanted to share their journey of how they got into whether it’s firearms or tasers or a mace, why they chose to carry a self-defense tool. I loved that idea. I would reach out to them. I was constantly asking them about their stories, “Tell me what was your a-ha moment? What happened in your life that got you to a point where you wanted to carry a self-defense tool? Tell me that story.” By doing that and truly caring about these women, they jumped on board when we launched our line and truly helped us launch this entire company.
When we launched in October of 2017 with pre-order, mind you because in manufacturing, you’re never going to get your stuff when you think you’re going to get it. That was a lesson that we learned. We were all excited about the launch. We were launching in October and then our stuff didn’t get here until December. We pivoted very quickly and had to like, “We’ll do a pre-order.” Luckily, we had built these great relationships with many of these women on a grassroots level that they all bought our stuff. We were already sold out of our inventory before it even got here. That was a great sign to us. Now, we encourage women to sign up for our ambassador program to vet it.
We do obviously want to make sure that every person, if they are going to post firearm pictures, we’re not going to go and sign on an ambassador that we see are not handling their firearm right, that doesn’t have good trigger control, that is pointing their gun in an unsafe direction. They’re not utilizing proper trigger protection. We do vet our ambassadors because we don’t care about the numbers and the number of ambassadors. We care about the quality of the ambassadors, especially when it comes to something as serious as promoting firearms and concealed carry. We have to know that these people are living the life and they’re taking the safety, training and responsibility very seriously.
You indicated that you and your husband, when you founded the company, basically bootstrapped this thing. You didn’t need to raise the capital. I have a lot of entrepreneurs who read Game Face Execs, people who are thinking about starting their own business or have recently done so, and that’s a debate we always have as small business owners. “Should I raise capital? Should I get partners and investors or should I go it alone?” What was your thinking?
My husband and I, when we said that we’re going to go all–in on this company, I quit my job. He was still working his job at this point in the corporate world but we made the decision to sell our home. We took a chunk of that, which was $30,000. We invested that in the first round of inventory and said, “That’s our risk tolerance. We’re either going to lose it or we’re going to make enough money to put it on another round of inventory. Let’s see how this grows and where it goes.” Originally, we did start with a 3 to 5-year business plan. We did start with our end in mind and how we’re going to get this.
How we’re going to grow this company to be where we want it to be in 3 to 5 years. Naturally, our minds went to, “We don’t have a ton of money. We need to go to investors and we need to get people to help us out on this. How much of the company are we willing to give up?” The challenge for us was because nobody was doing this. This was a very foreign concept. I can’t even tell you the endless amount of Angel investor meetings. I had venture capitalists’ meetings. No offense to any of these guys. They are successful but I’m sitting in a room with 50 to 60-year-old men trying to sell women’s apparel to them that can carry firearms.
The concept was so far out there. Most of them were not in the apparel space. For a lot of investors, that’s too risky for them. Retail is a risky investment anyway but especially on an idea that it’s not proven, that has no proof of concept, and they don’t even understand that space. It was a very hard sell but I would never give up that experience of making that pitch because it helped me hone in the message. It helped me get super comfortable and confident, you would think my hearing no that many times would make me be like, “I guess I’ll go home. Maybe I don’t have an idea.” Every no I heard, it strengthened my resolve and made me dig in and say, “No, I know I have something here. I know we have a product. You aren’t getting it. It’s my job to make you get it.”
I would go home and be like, “What’s going to resonate?” Each time, I would tailor my pitch a little bit differently and we got close many times too. We’re right there on the brink of getting investment and the risk wasn’t there. Also, we didn’t have money for marketing. We were limited in how much inventory we could buy and then sell. The sales numbers weren’t there right out of the gate for a lot of investors. That was fine. It saved us because at this point, we own 100% of our company and we’re doing great, and we didn’t have to give up a percentage of our company and a percentage of our dream to work with partners that didn’t understand the concept.
At our next level of where we’re going, we do see the potential. Now investors are calling us. I don’t have to call them and set up the pitch meetings. They’re calling us. It’s nice that we get to navigate through that and say, “Not right this second. We don’t need it now but here’s where we’re headed and maybe in the future.” I never burned a bridge there. I always keep those relationships going in case we do need that in the future. Every company is different. You said you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs that are reading this and it’s such a personal decision on what you choose to do. It can be extremely stressful to bootstrap it yourself, but it can also be very rewarding if you’re ready and willing to put in the time and the effort to grow it. Do you believe enough in your dream that you work hard to make it happen? I don’t have advice for people one way or the other because I tried both ways. The investor route didn’t work out for us at the beginning, but I would never trade that experience for anything because it truly helped us continue to hone in our messaging and believe in ourselves and our dream even more.
It’s a very inspiring story. I have to ask you because you’re a husband–wife team and you’ve made a strategic choice to make you, Amy, the face of the company. I have to ask you, there are a lot of people who want to start a business but perhaps the spouse or the significant other isn’t on board. You’ve been able to succeed because of each other, not in spite of one or the other. Is there any advice for the married entrepreneur or the one who has a significant other who perhaps is not quite there? They don’t have that entrepreneurial blood running through their veins. They may not see the vision. How do you navigate that? Is that something you’ve never had to encounter because you were so in line with that?
No, that’s scary. I didn’t know how my husband was going to respond to the initial idea. I would say though since you do talk a lot about sales, if you can sell your spouse on your vision and your dream, that’s probably the toughest hurdle to overcome. You can accomplish anything because they’re going to be your toughest critic. They see all of your flaws, they see how driven you are. They see what you do on a day in and day out basis with your habits. For a lot of people, it is important to get your spouse on board, especially if it’s going to financially impact your entire family. It’s hard for a lot of spouses that have a good job.
My husband had a good job to say, “There may come a point where I’m willing to sacrifice that because I believe in this vision and where this is going.” Some people are not in a place that they can do that or they simply aren’t there yet. I would say practice your story and your message so that you can make that sales pitch to your spouse, but then also start setting daily habits that they can see that make them feel more comfortable and confident knowing that you got this and you can do this. My dad instilled a super hard work ethic in all of us since I was a very young girl. My husband saw that I’m already up at 5:00 AM. I’m working, I’m goal-oriented. I’m very driven.
[bctt tweet=”It is a woman’s right to choose how she wants to defend herself. ” via=”no”]
He knew, “If anyone can accomplish this, you can. I’m willing to put my eggs in that basket,” because he’s seen how I operate on a personal level and a professional level in other situations. If there are some areas that you might need to tweak a little bit to prove to that spouse that you can do it, that’s a great place to start. Not everyone is that fortunate, but I’m super fortunate to have a supportive spouse and I couldn’t do it. His skillset is what helps driving, keep this company going. He is that detail-oriented operations CEO, the perfect COO type, where I’m the visionary and the relationships and the connector. It works. Not every couple is bent that way to work in such a tandem with the other one in a business setting. It might work in a marriage but it might not work in a business setting. You might have to come to terms with that.
That was great advice, very insightful. As a professional sales consultant, trainer, author, I love how you said that if your spouse is not seeing in you the attributes that they believe even innately are required to be successful in your own business, then you can say all you want to them but it’s not going to be convincing. It’s not going to be responsive. That’s a good point. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk before you can make that “pitch” to a spouse. Amy, you know that this show is themed around individuals like yourself who have motivated people, who have influenced people, who have inspired people, and you certainly have done that and you continue to do that. I congratulate you and I commend you for that.
I also like to find out from my guests who have inspired them. You’ve given us a little bit of insight on that but I want to go a different route with you as we conclude. Who is currently inspiring you to continue this journey into entrepreneurship, into growing this business, even in some people’s minds, our eyes, what could be construed as a controversial business, continues to inspire you, not what started it but what carries you through this journey?
One hundred percent, it’s our customers and the people that are utilizing our products that send me stories on a daily basis about how our products have changed their life by giving them the confidence that they need to live their daily life. When I get emails from college girls who can’t carry a firearm on campus but can carry a little mace in their pocket, they tell me, “I never realized how afraid I was to walk home at 11:00 at night from the library to my dorm, but what you guys stand for gives me the confidence. It is empowering to know that I’m part of a much bigger community and a group of women who are all self-reliant and who are all empowered.” That is what keeps me going every single day because let’s face it, being an entrepreneur and starting a company especially in something like this space is extremely challenging.
The highs are high, the lows are low and you have to find and dig in and say like, “What is it that keeps me going every single day?” There are many things that have happened along our journey that most people would have quit. Honestly, we thought about it several times. Right at that moment, I would have gotten an email from either a college student or an FBI agent telling me like, “Thank you so much for making me feel feminine when I carry.” The reasons why people love Alexo are all over the map that I couldn’t have even written the script on all of this. To hear from each and every one of them about what the brand has meant to them and what our stance because we take a lot of the punches for them.
It gives them confidence when they see that I’m able to go out there and I’m able to face the media. I don’t back down from what I believe in because I’m doing this for all of those women and the men too. I’m out there fighting for each and every one of them because of how important I believe this mission is. That gives them the confidence to know that they have. They can look at somebody who is not only making awesome apparel for them that makes them feel good and look good, and gives them all of this ability to carry their self-defense skills. They know we’re out there standing up for their rights. That is super important to them and that’s when they feel like they’re a part of this community, and they are truly the ones that keep us going every single day.
Amy, I’m pulling for you. That’s why you’re a guest on this show. I love how you have been able to explain your motivation and what continues to motivate you and inspire you. I would encourage my readers to go to AlexoAthletica.com to learn more. We’ll continue to watch your success. I wish you and your husband all the best as you continue forward.
Thank you so much for having me on. This has probably been one of my favorite shows that I’ve ever done because I love not just focusing on the firearm section but the actual business itself. I appreciate this opportunity. Thank you.
It’s been a pleasure. Take care.
How did Amy, who at one time was very uncomfortable even handling a firearm, go from being a fitness fanatic who lived with fear to an inventor of fashionable apparel that can accommodate whatever tool of protection a woman or man chooses? Whether or not you’re into running, walking, firearms or entrepreneurship, you’ll want to read Amy’s inspiring story and the customer stories that inspire her each day in leading Alexo Athletica.
About Amy Robbins
While hosting several different lifestyle TV shows, our CEO and Co-founder Amy Robbins’ passion for firearm safety and proficiency grew along with her desire to see women everywhere live a confident, self-reliant lifestyle. As an avid runner with a few bad experiences on her runs, Amy wanted the ability to train for a marathon wherever she wanted to, even in the wee hours, without fearing for her safety, so she obtained her License to Carry. After much research, she realized many women shared these same experiences and she wanted to do something about it. However, she quickly realized that having a license to carry or carrying other tools such as mace or a taser does a woman little good if there are no comfortable, functional (much less great-looking) apparel options that would allow her to exercise while also exercising her right to carry and still look and feel great.
Soon after, in 2017, Amy created Alexo Athletica because no product existed on the market that met her need to feel fashionable while carrying in activewear. She saw white space in the market and jumped on the opportunity to not only provide fashionable, functional carry wear but create a movement of empowered, independent women that could #carrywithconfidence.