by Sean Watkins and Chris Bagg
Ed. Note—2019 marks Wattie Ink.'s 10th birthday, and like any tween, we're really looking forward to the impact our brand and athletes can wreak on the world in our second decade of life. Today the founder of the brand, Sean "Wattie" Watkins joins the blog to talk about who we are, where we came from, and where we're headed.
I always tell people "There was the team before there was the brand," and it's completely true. Years before we sewed our first stitch into some cloth, Wattie Ink. first existed in the minds of a few athletes who believed we could do something different in the triathlon market. Triathlon—if you weren't here yet or don't remember—needed a little kick in the butt ten years ago: a fresh look, a team approach to an individual sport, a community that wanted something bigger than personal achievements. With Heather's help, and the confidence of our founding members, we began building something by athletes, for athletes, knowing that what we wanted to do was to provide the sport with the best apparel possible to do the sport they want to do: triathlon.
This "by athletes, for athletes" is more important to us than it may seem at first, and it's central to our existence. The Wattie Ink. Elite Team first launched in 2010 and provides (straight up to this day) the crucial testing ground for our look, our ideas, and our brand. In many ways, the team is the brand. Several founding members from that first team still remain on board, and they, along with our professional athletes and the input of our employees, shape everything that we do. That kind of commitment speaks to something big and important in their lives, something we had no idea we were making when we started, but something we're incredibly proud of, because it means we've made something bigger than a brand, bigger than any simple apparel company—we've managed to make a difference in our athletes' lives. Is this an extravagant claim? We don't think so. We've seen firsthand the commitment of the athletes on The Wattie Ink. Elite Team, and we feel lucky to have empowered that enthusiasm and commitment. Each year we are blown away by the number of applicants we have for the Elite Team—over 4,000 for only 120 spots—and can't thank those athletes enough for their passion about the brand. It spawned The Wattie Ink. Hit Squad, our ambassador program now in its fourth season. We wanted to grow our family while preserving the tight-knit nature of the Elite Team, to build the team presence at races and events around the globe, and to make the same awesome team experience available to more athletes. The Hit Squad and Elite Team have developed a brotherhood of sorts, the scrappy younger sibling to its seasoned elder, and today, at races, you can hear members of both communities calling out to each other as they pursue their shared goals: fun, personal growth and achievement, community, support.
Today we announce a new facilitator for both The Elite Team and The Hit Squad, in longtime member Tu Tran. Tu, as Director of Team Programs, will live our values of empowering and supporting athletes, because he knows that athletes get behind something they help build. Since we began, our athletes have taken aspects of the brand and company and run with them, transforming them from "Hey, this is something we should do" into crucial aspects of our ecosystem. Tu, combining his backgrounds on the team, the US Marine Corps, and the tech industry, is perfectly positioned to support the team's mission of Rocking the W and to grow the brand in new directions: louder, prouder, humbler, stronger, tighter. He's already been instrumental in launching our yearly Wattie Ink. Elite Team Camp, which opens today, and we couldn't be more excited about his new role on the team.
So here's to the next decade of Wattie Ink. We never dreamed that we would be counting our existence in decades, yet here we are, and here we will stay, doing what we've always done: supporting athletes on and off the race course, providing world class apparel to support the activities they love, but also providing a place for them to engage the sport and its community in a deeper, more personal manner. We are incredibly grateful to you, reading this, since you're a part of this movement, too, and we can't wait to see you at your next race.
Thank you, from both myself and Heather,