Katie Rock, co-founder of Activyst first shared her startup experiences for our 1000 Stories Campaign

The Story Exchange, Sports, Girls, Women, EmpowermentWhen Katie left her job as an attorney to work with the World Health Organization to promote sports in Nicaragua, she found that girls lack opportunities and safe spaces. She co-founded Activyst to help girls in developing countries get healthier, more confident and stronger through sports.

Reason for starting
Sports have been a huge part of of my life and have greatly contributed to my ability to achieve in all areas of life. I noticed a few years ago in Nicaragua that I never saw girls playing sports, though I saw boys playing everywhere. I knew that girls’ conditions in the region are also very poor. When I found out that girls who play sports are statistically less likely to get pregnant or be in an abusive relationship, and are statistically healthier, more confident, and happier, I truly became committed to this cause. I started Activyst because I believe that sports are a catalyst to change girls lives, creating a ripple effect to benefit their communities as well. Our bright, super-functional athletic bags are perfect for women’s everyday active lives, and also support girls’ sports projects in the developing world so that girls worldwide can have access to an active life.
[pullquote]I found out that girls who play sports are statistically less likely to get pregnant or be in an abusive relationship, and are statistically healthier, more confident, and happier.[/pullquote]
How do you define success?
I define success in many ways, but the common thread is “creating”. Success is making progress and moving forward, as opposed to being stuck. This progress is something we have to create and drive. Success is, after much hard work, seeing the final product or “creation”. It’s incredibly powerful seeing something that would not exist but for our decision to make it exist. Success is being happy and fulfilled doing what you’re doing. Many people never find work that they enjoy. After a day of work being “in it”, brainstorming, the time flying by, and loving it, I feel very successful. This type of work is difficult to stumble upon. More often than not, you have to create it for yourself.

Biggest Success
On this project, our biggest success was probably seeing the final prototype of The Active Bag, our signature product. We learned more about bags and athletic bags than we thought possible, investigated product features and materials, identified suppliers, designers, bagmakers, and tested out tons of bags out there. We did many iterations and had many long days in sew shops. When we finally saw that we’d achieved a product we love and that others have loved too, it felt great.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The top challenge is probably fighting the urge to make everything little thing perfect, and instead focus on making progress. I and my partners are perfectionists, and we sometimes get “stuck” because we want to make something just right. High standards are a good thing, but in a start-up with limited time and resources, and where being able to move swiftly is one of your few true advantages, an unchecked need for perfection can be an impediment (and 9 times out of 10, most people from an objective viewpoint would think whatever we were hemming and hawing about was great). We’ve had to focus on identifying priority items where we agree we should invest extra time to make it exceptional. And in other areas, we’ve had to learn when it’s “good enough” and then move quickly and decisively to the next “to do”.

Who is your most important role model?
As an individual, there are elements of many people that I try to model myself after – the friendliness and out-of-this-world networking ability of my mom, the calm-in-the-storm temperament and principled decision-making of my dad, and the sense of humor of many of my friends. As a company, there are many out there that we really admire. Tieks (shoes) does amazing work in the fashion realm. Patagonia, Krochet Kids, and Warby Parker do great work as socially-conscious businesses.

Are you a woman who has started a business? Submit your story and it will appear on our site. We will use it to find candidates for our 2013 filming season and for blog posts.