2019 Honorees

Cassie Abel

CEO & Co-Founder

“In terms of launching something, just start. Wherever you’re comfortable.”

How did you start working in eCommerce?

I worked as the global communications manager at Smith Sport Optics for a handful of years in addition to several other brands and agencies prior to that. Due to a headquarters relocation, I came to a crossroads of moving to a big city, leaving the mountains, and continuing with the same great company, or venturing off on my own.

I ultimately decided to stay here in Sun Valley, Idaho, and launch a PR & marketing consulting business. Through that was how I connected with my eventual business partner, Katy. We launched a women’s mountain apparel brand called Wild Rye that’s dedicated to bringing women beautiful and technical mountain apparel.

Katy and I had both been in the outdoor, ski, and cycling industries for well over a decade combined. Year after year we’d go to trade shows and be frustrated with the offerings for women. With bigger brands, there’s a lot of talk about the hard goods and outerwear, and soft goods were oftentimes overlooked. So we launched Wild Rye to bring better products to women who like to get after it in the outdoors. In addition to accommodating the needs of pinnacle athletes, we also strive to make the brand and its products more approachable for women who are interested in dabbling in outdoor sports.

What does an average work day look like for you?

The first thing I do in the morning is snuggle with my dog, Kirby, and drink coffee — lots of coffee. I still run my PR & marketing consulting business, White Cloud Communication, which is one of the primary ways I’m able to fund Wild Rye’s growth and pay my mortgage. White Cloud also helps me stay connected with and support the growth of some really amazing brands in our industry.

On the Wild Rye side of things, I’m doing everything from packing and shipping orders, spearheading customer service, talking to our technical designer and illustrators about product development, working with suppliers and our factories, and running all things marketing & PR.

Outside of work, I do my very best to eat well, get fresh air and exercise, (ski if it’s a powder day) take my dog out for a walk, and spend some time with my teacher husband and friends.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that I have the flexibility to do what I believe in, whether that’s designing a product or putting together a campaign. All of those things tend to revolve around boosting women, whether it’s celebrating women’s experiences in the outdoors or creating better-fitting, nicer-looking products.

On a whim last fall, I put together a marketing campaign called Women-Led Wednesday, initially for Wild Rye to boost holiday sales. But it turned into a much bigger campaign to support women business leaders across all industries. The goal of Women-Led Wednesday was (and still is) to drive awareness and create discovery opportunities for business that were founded by or have women at the helm. Women-Led Wednesday encouraged consumers to support a more gender balanced economy by “voting for women” with their dollars.

I got to do that because I’m working for myself. I’m super passionate about it, and I’m now working on sponsorship for Women-Led Wednesday so that it can be even bigger next year.

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What advice would you give to others looking to work in the industry?

Be true to yourself. I got out of college and I was doing the things that I thought I should be doing. I worked in investment banking and very quickly realized that that was not my life.

So you need to stay true to yourself, and find something you’re passionate about because that’s going to make going to work so much better every day. Also, in terms of launching something for yourself, big or small, just start anywhere, wherever you’re comfortable.

I was most comfortable in PR when launching Wild Rye, so that’s what I did, PR. I “PR-ed” Wild Rye as much as possible because that’s what I knew — that’s where my relationships were. Over the years, I’ve gotten more comfortable in every other aspect of the business. You just have to start.

What do you think is the next big trend that will define the industry?

I think we are looking at ways to pair the convenience of eCommerce with a very personal touch and experience. So, whether that’s in-person events tied together with eCommerce, or ways to try before you buy, we’re humanizing the eCommerce experience.

Are there other women in the industry that you admire & why?

There are so many women I admire! For starters my Lady Shred crew, a group of women within the outdoor & action sports industries who have come together to support, encourage, bounce ideas, love, laugh, cry, have fun, share war stories, and so much more. We get together every year for a retreat we’ve coined Camp Lady Shred
, a weekend I’ve come to see as the recharge I need to take on the next year. I have endless admiration for every woman in this group.