Olympian Allyson Felix and her brother and business partner Wes Felix today announced that their footwear brand Saysh has closed a Series A fundraising round that raised $8 million. And the duo are quickly putting those funds to work taking the business to the next level, including expanding their roster of retail partners — and their shoe selection.

Series A was led by specialty consumer fund IRIS and Gap Inc.-owned brand Athleta, along with Redpoint Ventures and Springbank Collective. As part of the investment, Gap Inc. acquired a stake in Saysh and Athleta entered into a partnership to feature Saysh shoes on Athleta.com.

“We are thrilled to have Athleta as our partner,” Saysh co-founder and CEO Wes Felix told FN. “When you look at what their business is, they do a great job of building a business and a product that truly serves women – and women exclusively. She’s a great partner to have – kind of like a big sister who believes in what we do, but also understands the space and already has a customer who loves her products, knows Allyson, but is missing a piece to complete their outfit and it’s shoes.

Allyson’s Felix’s relationship with Athleta dates back to 2019, when she signed on as the brand’s first athlete partner after leaving Nike due to frustration with the Swoosh’s policies for pregnant women and mothers. .

The decorated runner has collaborated with Athleta on fitness apparel collections, but during the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, she found herself without sneakers to run in. This led the Felixes to launch Saysh in June 2021, a shoe brand “by women, for women”. which is focused on community building.

Allyson Felix wears a pair of sneakers from her Saysh brand.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Saysh

Wes Felix noted that his sister will continue to work with Athleta on the apparel line, and Saysh will create exclusive colorways for the retailer’s website and eventually its stores. “We’re also excited about what we can do together from a community perspective, with Saysh Collective and Athleta Well,” the CEO said. “We think there’s a lot of crossover to create purpose, create belonging and ultimately create a place where women can come together and talk about what they need and where we can listen and respond to create products that meet those needs.”

Below, the exec says more about what Saysh has planned for the coming months:

Does the Athleta partnership restrict you from working with other retailers?

Wes Felix: “No. We’ll continue to go out and build more relationships with wholesalers. As we look at the shift you’re seeing around direct-to-consumer, where it’s getting a lot more expensive, a lot more difficult — and as people leave their homes again and start going out and shopping in stores — we want to make sure we have a strong presence from a wholesale standpoint We think the Athleta partnership helps show other wholesalers the type of quality product that we manufacture and that we can meet the needs of some of the largest retailers.

It’s been a year since you debuted the Saysh One lifestyle sneaker. Is a new product in preparation?

WF: “We are excited about the Saysh Two [lifestyle sneaker], which will arrive later this year. It will be a shoe you can walk in, wear every day – more premium materials, not as sporty as Saysh One. And then for 2023, that’s where Series A funding really helps us. Next year is all about performance and activity. We know this is the shoe she’s been waiting for since day one. But it took a bit of time to deliver the performance product to ensure we were genuinely able to deliver the best quality possible.

What type of performance product?

WF: “We will offer two different performance products in 2023, spring and fall. We’ll do the race, then click after the race, watching the workout.

If not, how are you using this new funding?

WF: “This will allow us to focus more on our wholesale business and not be so strictly direct with the consumer. We have a new partner that we are going to announce for Saysh Two. We started talking to them pretty soon after we launched. We knew this was a retailer we wanted to do something with, so we’re glad we were able to get together. And then we really want to know who these e-merchants are [wholesale] retailers are going to be. We’re trying to be really strategic there, so not only who are the biggest electronic communication platforms, but where are [our customer] shopping right now.

What does Saysh bring to the table?

WF: “We believe we can form great partnerships with some of the most reputable brands and hopefully help them tell a real product story around some of the products we launch. It’s something we think we have a great opportunity to do, because we’re not looking for the story. We were born from a story. We were born out of a real, real experience that led us to create this brand because we had no other option. So that authentic storytelling is something we hope to bring to some of our retail partners as well.