How a former model designed concealed running shorts for women

In Georgetown, Texas, in 2002, college student Rachel Cooke went jogging on a winter vacation visit to her parents, just north of Austin. She was near the end of her regular four-mile run and was last seen just 200 yards from her family’s home. To this day, no one knows what happened after that, as Cooke was never seen or heard from again.

More recently, in another part of Texas just outside of Dallas, avid runner Amy Robbins never really worried about harassment or worse when training, despite reports that female runners were victimized like Cooke sure was. “I saw it happening, but it never really caught my attention,” she said. “Stories of assaulted and murdered women were always on the back page. I had heard stories but still felt completely safe.

Then one day, while training for a marathon, something happened to her. A van full of guys drove past her, then turned around and came back. She had a few moments of terror, but she was luckier than many others. “I was lucky,” she says. “I have been harassed and insulted and followed, but nothing worse.” While physical attacks and murders of female runners are rare, they obviously do happen. There is about one such murder per year on average, but it is difficult to find figures for minor disappearances and attacks. Meanwhile, 43% of women report some form of harassment while running, according to The runner’s world.

Robbins decided to do something. In 2017, she launched Alexo Athletica, her sportswear startup focused on producing women’s training clothing designed specifically to carry self-defense tools, including concealed handguns. “It was difficult to get support because we are disrupting a number of different sectors,” she said. “So my husband and I invested our own money to fund it. “

It is a bet that is paid so far. “We sold our initial shipment as pre-orders,” said Robbins. “Year over year we have experienced double and triple digit growth. Last year we had 200% growth even though we were only in production for seven months due to the pandemic. Alexo remains a transaction initiated today, although Robbins says she would consider an outside investment for the right kind of growth opportunity.

His first product was leggings for runners and walkers. She focused on keeping them fashionable and functional, with a specially designed wide and highly elastic waistband with multiple integrated pockets for secure carrying. It has since expanded its range with shorts, skirts and joggers, as well as specially designed tops and jackets for easy concealed carrying.

Along the way, Robbins had to overcome serious business difficulties. “I love to talk about challenges, because they’re the kind of thing every business owner has,” she said. “An American manufacturer stole our money and didn’t deliver our product, and we had to scramble to find a new supplier. We had to deal with a defective product – you can return it, but you can’t get a replacement right away. We fought off a trademark threat from a large company. But I’m glad we faced these things. It forced us to pivot and it boosted our confidence when we overcame them. I encourage other business owners not to give up!

Alexo’s offerings have proven to be extremely popular, and not just for training. “80% of my clients wear them, whether they are training or not, to facilitate concealed transport,” explained Robbins. Functionality is clearly the main driver there. Karen Hunter, Firearms Instructor, Range Safety Officer and Editor for various firearms magazines such as World of personal defense and Ballistic, is an enthusiastic Alexo customer for this reason. “I love them because when I wear they don’t move,” she explained. “My weapon stays in place. And I have room for additional magazines. I am a big proponent of carrying on the body, because otherwise an attacker can take your weapon from you. These keep it in the heart of your heart, in the safest place, where you can always access it. And Alexo products last: I got my first pair three or four years ago and they are still in great condition.

For Robbins, it goes beyond concealed porting. “When I started the business, I realized it wasn’t just about clothing resources,” she explained. “I wanted to help people on this journey to self-reliance and empower them for three pillars: sharp mind, strong body and armor. She specifies for this last point that while carrying a concealed firearm is suitable for some women, others may prefer to wear non-lethal protection such as pepper spray or a taser.

She has other great things planned. The first is its launch this year of a men’s line, which offered its own challenges. “You are difficult to conceive! ” she said. “You carry heavier weapons and you want a lot more flexibility with where and how you carry them. The second is a partnership with Springfield Armory, the iconic and popular producer of pistols and sporting rifles, to start working on a collaborative clothing collection this fall. “Inspiring new and existing gun owners is something we strive to do every day,” said Stefany Reese Toomer, clothing design and merchandising manager at Springfield Armory. “Through our partnership with Alexo Athletica, we hope to encourage independent living for everyone. Robbins added, “It is an honor to partner with a company that has recognized the new direction and demographics of gun ownership, and we are launching our first collaboration this fall with a full line for men and women.”

The demographic element is something Robbins sees as one of Alexo’s greatest strengths. “We were very lucky,” she says. “Covert porterage has increased by 500% since 2007 for women. There have been eight million new gun owners in the United States in the past year, and 40% of them are women. I want to make sure that we reach this new market segment.

She got help along the way. “Being a female founder in a very male-dominated industry has always been intriguing,” said Robbins. “Men are very supportive of me, but they want to see me do the hard work and prove myself. When I do, it makes it easier to collaborate with them. I have worked with so many amazing men, and many of them have become my mentors. They have helped me a lot in what I want to do, which is to give back and help other women in this space.

Joseph E. Golightly