I don’t particularly consider myself a sporty individual.
I do exercise and love to dance.
Which is how I met Kathy Thomas and Sara Zilkha.
I knew these two were in shape.
But had no idea just how outdoorsy they were.
Both are avid skiers and surfers.
They’re also women who want to look fashionable no matter what they’re doing.
Enter Salt + Snow – the e-commerce site Thomas and Zilkha launched this year that serves as one-stop shopping for sporty women who also want to look good.
Believe it or not, that didn’t exist.
And, as I always like to say... filling white space in the market is a great place to start.
ALINA CHO: Let’s talk about how Salt + Snow was born as an idea.
KATHY THOMAS: I started surfing after I had four kids.
I skied my whole life, and I've been an active outdoor person my whole life. After I learned to surf, I asked my dad to come watch me, and he would try to [find me] down at the beach and [couldn’t because] I would be in a sea of black wetsuits.
ALINA CHO: Of course.
KATHY THOMAS: So, I went on a quest to find clothing and particularly a wetsuit that would set me apart from the rest but also that didn't fit me like I was a guy.
ALINA CHO: Right.
KATHY THOMAS: I found all these great brands, a lot started by women — many that were trying to make the world a better place, trying to use better fabrics, more eco-friendly things. I fell in love with these brands and started wearing them. I started thinking that it would be incredible to have a marketplace to showcase all these great brands that are so hard to find.
ALINA CHO: Sure.
KATHY THOMAS: Around that time, I started planning surf and ski trips. I met Sara and asked her to come along with me on one of the trips and she fell in love with surfing immediately.
ALINA CHO: What did you think when you heard Kathy's idea?
SARA ZILKHA: Instantly, I was intrigued. But in my mind, I was like, “Oh no, it's not just surf, it's golf, tennis, cycling, hiking — any kind of outdoor activity." There was not one place to go to for a woman who wants to shop for themselves, shop responsibly and doesn't want to have 50 tabs open.
ALINA CHO: And look good.
SARA ZILKHA: And look good. We did the research. There’s REI, DICK’S [Sporting Goods] — very technical and functional, but nothing that really talked to the woman and helped her make those decisions. [A place where you could find] these niche brands from around the country and world that are really producing some fabulous functional and fashionable outdoor apparel.
ALINA CHO: Was this an a-ha moment for you?
SARA ZILKHA: It was, I mean it really was. I think we both felt this was something that had to exist somewhere, but it didn’t.
ALINA CHO: Fabulous name, by the way.
SARA ZILKHA: Yeah.
KATHY THOMAS: We trademarked that immediately.
SARA ZILKHA: So, they will find a mix of active wear for various sports.
We go from golf, tennis, yoga, eventually we want to have fishing brands. Cycling, hiking, obviously ski and surf and swim and paddleboarding. And it's not just for women, we also have kids and men’s as well.
Most of our stuff will be for women, but for the woman who shops for their partners and families as well, we want to make sure we take care of her.
SARA ZILKHA: [There’s also] “The Wanderist,” [a blog] to figure out what kind of wetsuit you need for what water, to celebrate those who are doing their first 5K and those who are doing their third ultra-marathon.
We're a resource and a community as well as an e-commerce destination.
ALINA CHO: That’s great.
Our customers will find that we've vetted these brands. We have these nine seals of responsibilities — BIPOC, women-founded, sustainable, [and] we really want our brands to check a few of those boxes, so [we can be] a trusted source.
KATHY THOMAS: If someone's saying, "Hey, I'm going to learn how to cycle.” Or, "I'm taking my whole family on a cycling trip," [we want] their friends to turn to them and say, "You want to go to Salt + Snow, you’ve got to check out the blog because they've got great ideas of where to go on these trips and they're going to tell you what to buy and you can buy everything for your whole family." That's what we'd like to be.
ALINA CHO: You’ve talked about surfing as being a safe space.
SARA ZILKHA: It’s kind-of become this women’s secret. You realize when you get out in that water, "Oh, no one can reach me right now."
It is the most calm, meditative Zen activity out there. As much as we love everything that's going on in our lives and the busy-ness and kids, pets, whatever, it’s just one of the very few activities where you can really get out there and be in the moment and you have to be in the moment to actually partake in it.
KATHY THOMAS: So, I have a group of guys that I surf with in Southampton. It's a group of local guys who basically have adopted me. Took me very many years to get taken in by them.
ALINA CHO: To be accepted.
KATHY THOMAS: I'd go out with them at the break of dawn.
No cellphones, the kids are not awake, so they're not screaming, "Mom," from the beach, and even sometimes when they do, I do the old, "Can't hear you."
ALINA CHO: Ha!
KATHY THOMAS: But my kids have learned how to surf, and one day, they paddled out. And I don't remember what they were arguing about, but I literally was like, "You two stop it now or I'm sending you to the beach," and the guys were dying. When the kids paddled away, they're like, "We've never seen ‘mom mode.’ Oh, my gosh." Some women go to a spa. For us, surfing has sort-of become that.
ALINA CHO: Well, it's interesting, because now I'm wondering if the reason why I haven't started surfing is because I don't have kids.
KATHY THOMAS: I'm going to get you out there this summer. We are doing it.