- Malia Warren
Lifting The Dream
“The greatest teacher, failure is.”- Yoda.
Oh, Master Yoda. You sure know how to quote ‘em.
Of course everyone knows the “Do. Or Do Not. There is no Try.” But I’m diggin’ this new one from the Master Jedi in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
You’ll hear it in speeches by leaders. Some companies will promise it, just to get your business.
Some will chase it their whole lives’ only grasping at bits and pieces.
Everyone wants it, but few will get it.
Like many of you, I am a strong believer in that you have to work for it to get it. Success doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes perseverance, and the belief in yourself and your work.
A little back story
Baby weight is pretty hard to lose, guys. My boobs were huge from breastfeeding my daughter, I was still carrying about 7-8 lbs or so extra from pre-pregnancy (on top of the few I added after having my son in 2011), and I was just not feeling groovy about my body overall.
But, I found a local gym with a CrossFit program and I was determined to get back into it. I’d been into CrossFit before, but fell out of it when we moved to a new city. In my search for cute workout tanks, I came across a few fun ones, but nothing that inspired me.
I was searching for motivation to work out after having my daughter, and found it in new fitness clothes. A new pair of leggings here, a fun sports bra there—it was my reward for remaining consistent with attendance to the gym and eating healthy.
You know, like sticker charts for kids when they do something good. Except mine was in the form of athletic gear.
But one day, my husband, Nathan, made a comment to me that set my creativity gears in motion.
“You should just make the shirts yourself.”
After some research, lots and lots of trial and error (and money and tears from ruining shirts), I taught myself how to screen-print and I started making shirts.
Making my own shirts, guys!
But I really wanted to share these fun sayings I kept coming up with, I mean, “Mermaids Don’t Skip Leg Day”?
Yea, that shit needed to be shared with the world.
And so, out of the ashes of failure Lifting the Dream was born.
"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
-- Herman Melville
After a month on Etsy, I finally had enough money to upgrade my equipment and I was able to keep up with the demand of my customers. In the summer of 2015, only 2 months into business, I came across an ad for a Fitness Expo in Sacramento, CA (near-ish to where I was living at the time).
With butterflies in my stomach, I contacted the organizer, Michael, and after a conversation on the phone, I had booked my first event. Even after talking with him, I didn’t feel ready to do it, I didn’t feel confident that I belonged there. I was going to be beside other big name brands, local fitness celebrities, and elite athletes.
My husband is, and always has been my biggest fan. But even his “go get ‘em” attitude couldn’t help me shake the sick, disgusting, liar-of-a-feeling: failure.
Anxiety set in: What if I can’t talk to people? What if nobody liked my stuff?
What if people hated it?
But then I got my first few customers in the tent. Something drew them in right? It sure as hell wasn’t my plain white tent and banner printed from Staples.
As the day went on, my thoughts of failure, turned to thoughts of action: I can do this.
Started from the bottom…My first expo event. August 2015
Everyone LOVED what I had.
Granted, it wasn’t for every athlete (I don’t see many Strongman wearing glitter) but I was able to meet my customers in person and connect with them about the brand.
Over the years we’ve done over a dozen events, including local CrossFit competitions, a few Fitness Expos, and many more.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey
I’d like to say that feeling of anxiety before events went away, but it hasn’t. I’ve just learned to recognize that it is because I am passionate about my job and what I do, that I am able to overcome it and instead feel empowered and excited before an event.
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney
By far, running a business has been the biggest test in mental strength. After attending my 2nd Total Health and Fitness Expo in Sacramento in early 2017, I began to realize my passion for cute fitness clothing went beyond catchy shirt phrases and empowering trucker hats.
We don’t just work out in shirts right?
After that expo, my husband and I made the super scary jump (mostly without looking) into the ridiculously overpopulated market of Women’s Activewear.
Real life photo of how I feel some days
When we decided to expand to our inventory to include Leggings, Sports Bras, and Performance shorts, it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the most difficult business decisions ever.
Sure, it was super cool to design leggings, sports bras, and shorts, and on the surface it seemed simple right?
GIF of Rafiki hitting Simba on the head
The preparation took months, but I was being really picky about choosing a design that would inspire confidence in the wearer. I was tired of buy one size 6 fits all size 6. We’re women, we have curves, we are not the same and I wanted to develop something that embraced that.
After many samples, edits, and ditched designs, I finally decided on a few buzzworthy pieces: a supportive sports bra, a sassy pair of running shorts, and the most badass leggings I’ve ever worn to date.
Some of our customers at CF Regionals with the amazing Brooke Ence rocking our trucker hats.
During all this chaos, I managed to apply for a vendor booth at CrossFit Regionals.
THE CROSSFIT REGIONALS, guys!
If you would’ve told me back in 2015, when I first opened the digital doors of my Etsy shop, that I would have a vendor booth at the CrossFit Regionals, the semi-finals of the CrossFit Games, I would’ve probably laughed.
My husband and I, along with one of our friends and CrossFit coaches, Mark, packed our Honda Odyssey to the ceiling #MomVan.
Poor Mark, he literally sat like a sardine in one of the passenger seats for the 7-hour drive from the Bay Area to Del Mar, CA. But, with the sun shining, and plenty of good music and road snacks, we arrived at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and checked in with the CrossFit Event staff. Even after walking through the gates, I couldn’t believe we were really doing this.
Everything I had worked for was coming to fruition.
Or so you would think.
I’ll be honest, when I got there, I was way out of my league. Like 10,000 leagues behind every other business there. During the set-up of our tent, the anxiety came back with a vengeance. I was overwhelmed by the size of the event, the number of people that were already set up.
The struggle was real, friends.
Day 2 of the CrossFit Regionals in Del Mar
But somehow, we were able to get the booth together in about an hour and start off a kick ass weekend in Del Mar. We got to meet some awesome athletes, including Josh Bridges, and the programming man himself, Dave Castro.
Photo of me (Malia) with 4x CrossFit Games qualifier, Josh Bridges.
However, the most important people we got to meet were our customers.
It was no doubt, an experience of a lifetime, and a leap of faith that helped shape Lifting the Dream into what it is today. We’re now a nationally recognized brand, known for our FUNctional lifting gear, such as Knee Sleeves, wrist wraps, and apparel.
Our mission is to celebrate fitness at any level. I’ve been there: the girl walking into the gym, feeling anxious, intimidated and self-conscious, and I’m here to tell you to keep walking. Keep walking into that gym every damn day, until you find the stronger version of you. Your strong might be being able to run a mile without stopping, or it might be attending a social event without anxiety in your purse. Either way, we want to celebrate your goals.
Every time you walk into the gym it should be a celebration, of life, of you, and most of all, a celebration of your strength.