With the recently announced theme for the 2017 US Trail Running Conference, Making Strides in Innovation, this is the next in a series of posts focused on participating sponsors and our expert panelists on how they have used innovations to drive their products, service and races. This time we interview Samantha Pruitt, Founder & CEO of Race SLO, Ultra Athlete, Lover of Human Badassery
Race SLO has been around since 2008. How long have you been involved and what first attracted you to race directing?
I founded the company in 2008 with a business partner. I was the companies Race Director in charge of all aspects related to R&D, production, athlete and agency relations.
I bought out my partner 2 years ago, took on the role as CEO and have been FULL STEAM AHEAD ever since in pursuit of leveling up. I have a natural entrepreneurial spirit, owning several other businesses prior, and love the energy of working hard on a values driven mission. Prior to Race SLO my career was in sales & marketing. At 32 I got off the damn couch to get healthy and became a certified personal trainer, then professional endurance sports coach and finally a certified Race Director. My entire life and body have been transformed through discovering endurance sports.
How has Race SLO grown or developed and what have been the key drivers to achieve this?
In the last 9 years Race SLO has become the dominant sports production player of the California Central Coast. Myself and my GSD team (Get Shit Done) have worked relentlessly to create not only the highest quality experience for our athlete customers but the most authentic to our brand and town. We went from having one 800 person trail run and bike ride event, raising funds for a local cancer charity, to now producing 7 San Luis Obispo County races and festivals in 2018 consisting of the SLO Marathon & Half, the Healthy Running Conference, the Warrior Trail Run & Adventure race, the SLO Ultra, the SLO MTB mountain bike race, the SLO GranFondo and the Paso Robles Half Marathon. All of this growth has come solely through blood, sweat and tears (of both pain and joy). As we all know- this industry requires not only a tough skin and a solid work ethic, but to truly succeed you must also take risks and believe 110% in your mission.
What is the Race SLO mission, and how successful have you been in realizing this goal?
“Through Human experiences, we create social and economic impact to share our legacy.” – Race SLO Mission
As we take honest inventory and re-position ourselves for the next level up year, we can truly say we are rock solid in doing exactly that. Though we work mostly for pennies and love, we patiently realize that our time will come. Meanwhile, the powerful impacts we have made on the local economy ($4 million+ econ impact to our county in 2016, the $500,000+ raised for and donated to our non-profit partners, the life changing social impacts we create with physical, mental and relationship building events for the 30,000 people we have touched more than solidifies our success. Our 5 north star values guide us through the storms of this turbulent industry and allow us to stay true to ourselves when we fail to meet our goals. Our Race SLO values are:
1) Human connections are above all
2) We are relentless learners & explorers
3) We are customer service & solution oriented
4) We handle both stress & success well
5) We win or lose together – as a unit
You recently carried out an economic impact assessment for Race SLO. How useful has the output from this been to Race SLO, and what difference has it made to leverage relationships with DMO’s or other relevant organizations?
We have done several and hired an outside agency to do it for us so it would be factual. First we focused just on the largest annual event, SLO Marathon & Half, in order to gain much needed support from our city and sponsors. We proved that for about every 1,000 runners we hosted close to $1 million in county economic impact was generated through hotels, food, gas and shopping while they are here for the weekend. Each runner brought an average of 2.5 people with them as well. For us producing events in this year round tourist destination location, we average 65% out of area at our races. That is powerful. In 2016 we had the report done on all three current Race SLO events and the findings were $4 million in county economic impact. For 2018 we will produce 7 events and we will no doubt be one of the top economic drivers in this local small business sector. We use this information to tell our story, get permit and agency challenges resolved, to ask for sponsorship support and to prove our mission.
How has Race SLO used innovations to grow your participation rates for your races?
Innovations! That’s a hole mixed bag of nuts. Frankly, I see that the seduction of innovations and technology has not fully served the industry and its human customers. There are many things (timing, tracking, registration platforms, marketing and social networking) that have been transformed in the time we’ve been in business but honestly I feel we all need to take a step back and cut through the noise a bit. Reality check- we are in the business of the Human Experience. So yes, we creatively market and communicate to our customers in the always evolving sexy digital world. We use the latest and greatest Race Roster platform (because they too are customer service driven) and look for vendors – suppliers who are on top of their game. BUT we still need to talk and listen to, relate to and build loyalty with our HUMAN customers. As the CEO of Race SLO and the Commander of our mission and values, I role model and lead using our 5 core values daily, human connection above all.
How important has developing a Race SLO brand been to you?
Huge. We were called “Get Off The Couch Potato Sports Productions LLC” at birth. Though I was a true ex-couch potato, who at 32 lost 60 lbs the hard way by chipping my life and body out of endurance sports, the brand did not feel authentic. Race SLO was the team oriented sub brand I used with my athlete outreach. It felt right. SLO being the coined term for breathtaking small town San Luis Obispo and Race being the obvious- what we do. Over two years ago I went through a huge investment in re-branding and digging deep into every aspect of who we truly were and where we are boldly going. What emerged was an authentic look, feel and voice of our company. A brand that all who touch can now honestly say not only reflects our values but also our sassy and badass heart. Because we are not one race (and therefore single event brand) we needed that umbrella brand of Race SLO mothership to represent all our customers and fans from all walks of life and sports.
You will be an expert speaker panelist at this years US Trail Running Conference. What are you looking forward to for this event?
HELL YES! I love this conference and fully believe in its team and success. I am ALL IN. However, I do not consider myself an expert at anything. I do think of myself as a relentless learner, a risk taking entrepreneur, a fully engaged person of service and untimely lover of human badassery. I love nothing more than (except endless solo running & mountain biking hours in the wilderness) connecting with like minded people who are open to share and explore their potential. Each of us has a unique gift and ideas to offer the industry and world. Together when we express and support these ideas and gifts…….that’s when the magic happens!
What changes and developments do you have planned for the future of Race SLO?
We are strategically growing the company in a variety of ways. Investing in good people, expanding our 2-3 day festivals, finding new sponsor-partners who appreciate the social media community & activation we have built, digging deep roots with brand ambassadors who share our values and basically GSD (getting shit done)! The biggest NEW project for 2018 and beyond will be the partnering of myself, the Race SLO brand, Terry (YOU) owner of the US Trail Running Conference, and ATRA. This new project is something I personally (as an ultra runner, mountain biker, trail builder and dirt lover) am beyond passionate about. I see great things in the future of our trail running sport and the relationships I have made in the dirt over the years are invaluable. I will work with this new team to ensure this conference flourishes and continues to provide the expert industry voice we all need for success. My goal is to ensure both Race Directors and athletes find the resources they need to WIN. I’m honored to be of service and sincerely hope you all dare greatly with me.