The Good, the Bad and the Bike: Julie’s Journey to WHOOHA
We met Whooha Gear co-founder Julie McKinney at a race expo and started talking. We had no idea the messages on her women’s tees come from such a personal place. Thank you for sharing, Julie!
When asked about how Whooha Gear was founded, I usually catch myself giving the short -and-sweet version: “Started it with my best friend …. saw a need for women’s shirts in the sports we loved …”
However, one of the biggest things that being an owner of Whooha Gear has taught me, is that the best way to give and receive inspiration is by sharing our stories. We all have a story and, while, parts of it may be uncomfortable, it is worthwhile to share because you never know who you may be able to help/inspire just by telling it. So, here is my story….”warts and all”!
I often joke that I have met the most important people in my life on my mountain bike! I guess I am only half joking because in many ways it is true.
About a year out of college I made the crazy decision to move to Las Vegas. As a small town East Coast girl who only knew one person in LV (a college friend) this was a dramatic move. Though I somehow found the gumption to do this, I really did not have a lot of confidence in myself and I struggled to feel like I belonged in the bright lights and fast city of LV.
This all changed as soon as I started biking. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and had brought a barely used mountain bike with me on my move. I talked my one friend into going with me to the mountain bike trailhead that we had heard about. It was the toughest, most exhausting thing that I had ever done, but I felt excited and energized from it. Next thing I knew I was riding every chance I could get. Every time I went out, I would meet another awesome, inspiring group of people. Before long I had a wonderful community of friends and a new appreciation of the unique desert environment that I had moved to. I had found a home.
One day on a group ride I met a very charming man. Something told me he was special so I took the chance and gave him my number. We were inseparable after that. We road together constantly and through his encouragement, I began to participate in races. I was always an athlete but never a great one. With biking, for the first time I felt like I had found something that I was good at. My newfound confidence on the bike flowed over into other areas of my life. Looking back, I can see that this was the point in my life when I started figuring out who I really was. This was crucial in helping me to grow into the more confident woman that I am today.
Anyway back to the boy! For the first time in my life I was in love. I knew I had found someone that I could spend my life with, we married a couple years later. Through our many cycling adventures, I was also fortunate to meet some of the most inspiring and fun women that I know.
I didn’t know quite how fortunate I was to have such a wonderful community of friends until the day life threw me a major curveball. My wonderful healthy husband of six and a half years was suddenly gone. He keeled over during a dirt bike race and died for reasons still unknown to this day.
As you can imagine, I was devastated. Our community of cycling friends came through in ways I could never imagine they would. I am forever grateful to the love and friendship they showed me as I found a way through this terrible loss.
Amy, whom I had met, you guessed it, mountain biking, had become my dearest friend over the past several years. From the day my husband, died she was there for me every step of the way. When I asked her how I was going to go on she simply replied “one minute, one hour, one day at a time.” And that is how we got through it.
Going after her own inspiration
Amy and I had often talked about starting our own company, making women’s apparel for the sports that we loved. We decided that this was the time. I needed to find a way to bring some positive focus into my life and she was looking for something to supplement her job as a full-time mom. So we created Whooha Gear, inspirational apparel for women. Our name stands for Women Having Optimistic Objectives and Healthy Attitudes. This company brought inspiration into my life when I needed it the most and I can only hope that through our products I can share this inspiration with others.
I couldn’t bike for a little while after my husband died. I finally made myself set a date to get back out on the trails. I put it off half the day and finally went when I hoped no one would be around. I put on his iPod and bawled my eyes out the entire ride. But, I felt him with me that day and every day since.
Finding something that I truly love doing has been undeniably helpful to me in finding the person within myself that I can love. I am not great with words but, I can say that in many small ways cycling—as well as the many other activities I have taken up since—has helped to bring me:
- A healthy lifestyle
- Some of the best friends I have ever known
- The confidence to start a business that I am passionate about
- The strength to face loss
- The courage to love again
Yes back to the boy again! I remarried again about a year ago. Whoever says true love only happens once doesn’t know what they are talking about (at least in my case). I bet by now you can guess where we first met!!!!
I hope by sharing my story I can encourage other women to find positive things in their life that will make them truly happy and help them through the ups and downs that are part of our lives. Take that leap in to the unknown, try something new. Yes it’s scary but, I don’t believe you will regret taking that chance.
Co-Founder of Whooha Gear
Women Having Optimistic Objectives and Healthy Attitudes!
Play Hard – Take Chances – Keep Smilin’
PS: If you’re a member, take advantage of your discount on Whooha Gear! Look for the discount code in your Members Only email.