As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Le’s.
She has a strong love for fitness and travel. Lynn is passionate about combat sports and holds a brown belt in Krav Maga, and formerly taught kickboxing and enjoys training in boxing and kickboxing, and loves testing the limits of human speed, strength, and mental and physical agility.
Lynn gathered different heights, weights, hand measurements, and fit preferences of women to really understand what they wanted to feel and experience in a boxing glove. Society Nine puts women first, in an industry where women have little to no options dedicated solely for them. She has mentored business school and entrepreneurship students at the University of Portland, as well as students in the University of Oregon Sports Product Management masters program.
Many thanks for doing this for us; please let our readers know about yourself and your boxing brand?
My name is Lynn Le, and I’m the founder of Society Nine, a modern femme sports brand providing boxing gear and sportswear to empower women and their fight. The name “Society Nine” is an important one – it’s actually the first product we created.
Looking back in American history, there’s no greater historical event in women’s sports than when Title IX was passed. For those who need a quick history lesson, Title IX states: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
The passing of Title IX was a catalyst for female fighters everywhere – across all sports. That’s what OUR society, our community of customers and beyond, honor. It pays homage to the fighters before us and the fighters now amongst us. It speaks to what the future holds for the modern female fighter – she is capable of doing absolutely anything.
We’re celebrating the new society of women who will continue to carry that torch forward.
How did you come up with this business idea, offering high-quality boxing gear to active women?
As a former kickboxing instructor, my own (female) students were the ones who essentially presented the problem to me. I was often asked where one could find “good women’s boxing gloves,” and my students would tell me how frustrated they were that literally, all they could ever find for women was low quality, bubble gum pink boxing gloves. That’s what led me to realize that the lack of options was both a literal and symbolic injustice. Women didn’t have easily identifiable products designed with them in mind in fit, performance, and aesthetic; and by not having the tools to enable them to do the activity (boxing, kickboxing), it was like the industry was saying, “You don’t deserve to have your own products, because you don’t deserve to be here.”
I didn’t start Society Nine just to make women’s boxing gloves. I started Society Nine because, at the root of it, women were not given options for tools that enable them to get stronger mentally, emotionally and physically, in martial arts and combat fitness. The oversized, low-quality pink glove symbolizes everything that is wrong with not just boxing but women’s sports and fitness in general – that we are made to feel secondary in these environments.
What challenges did you face at the start of your business, and how did you overcome those?
There are challenges every day, and still to this day, so I don’t know that there are only challenges at the start of it all! It just evolves 🙂
If we’re to talk about the start of the business, it’s the fact that I simply was/still am a first-time entrepreneur, and everything – sales, marketing, operations, supply chain, production, e-commerce, web development, etc. – is still new to me, every day. I learn a little more about every business “department” every hour; it seems like! The key to overcoming that, though, is to constantly admit humility that you don’t know everything. You’ll be amazed at how many people, and the caliber of people, will step up and help you.
How this activewear fashion is evolving, and what is your take on it?
It’s exciting to see how the general fashion industry is evolving to gender-neutral sizing (we’ll (Society Nine) get there, too… soon!) as well as describing product lines as “tomboy” or “femme,” vs. “men’s” and “women’s” (again, we’re getting there!). There’s also the evolution into expanded sizing that continues to explode, which is awesome and incredibly necessary.
It’s also really exciting to see how companies big and small are incorporating thinking about sustainability into their materials usage, including recycling and upcycling and renewable materials.
ALL of these changes are a long time coming, so it’s really cool to be a part of the generation in which these changes are happening.
What was the response from women when they bought your products?
I think our reviews speak for themselves! We’ve done over $1m in sales on boxing gloves, and I feel like we wouldn’t have been able to do that without creating a product we believe in, and product customers are proud to invest and train in, and replace again with our brand.
Do you think working women somewhere neglect their health?
This is a super loaded question because I don’t think it’s as simple, or fair quite frankly, as framing it as “working women neglect their health.” Working women face a lot of systemic oppression in their lives as career women, working mothers on top of pay equity issues. When you couple that with the data around the discrepancy around equal pay amongst women of color in particular and the discriminations faced in the workplace – there are a million reasons why physical and mental health are difficult sometimes to manage. Simply put, women are jugging and managing a lot, and women of color juggle a lot on top of systemic racism.
How do you keep yourself motivated and humble throughout the day?
I tell myself regularly that I am my ancestors’ greatest dream come to life. There’s so much I can’t control on any given day, given hour – but whenever I start feeling like I’m struggling, I remind myself that being right here, right now, where I am – is such a gift.
Share your five best activewear pieces?
- Society Nine Bia Boxing Gloves. Tried and true, always.
- Society Nine’s Float + Sting’s hand wraps in white/gold. They’re nice to touch, the color quality is great, and they’re made of recycled polyester.
- Athleta bike shorts
- Zella studio longline bra
- Society Nine Eos High Tops in black/gold
Your advice: How can someone get the motivation to start exercising?
Be gentle and kind with yourself when you start. It’s not easy to do, and I feel PROUD that you are taking ACTION! I can completely understand why people feel so intimidated to get started—the fitness industry profits off of shame – which intimidates people to get started. Just remember, by taking action, you’ve SUCCEEDED. And, also remember – don’t care about what anyone else thinks. Truly. Focus only on the JOY you feel inside your body – that is all that matters. This journey is yours and yours alone.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I do my best to stay connected with peers in the boxing and fitness industry because we’re all a part of a community that’s both big and small all at the same time. And we’re all emerging businesses, so a lot of operational struggles can be mutually shared and understood. I also really try to make all team meetings really energetic and connective – everyone’s here at Society Nine because they chose to be, and as the founder, they chose to trust me as well, so that camaraderie is important to build.
What do you think: what this world needs the most?
Empathy. A lack of empathy is the reason why there’s so much hatred, violence, and pain in the world.
Lastly, what does success mean to you?
No matter the outcome, success means taking action. There are many different elements that are out of one’s control; success has the self-awareness, willpower, and wherewithal to keep on choosing to take action vs. being complacent. I think in the startup culture, success is only ever framed in the context of how much money was raised from investors or that a company became a unicorn startup and is worth a billion dollars even though they haven’t been profitable ever.
Some of the bravest founders I know are ones who had to take action by making some of THE hardest decisions ever because it was the RIGHT thing to do. Culturally we need to re-frame what success means because it’s still so binary.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.