In high school, Amy Cullen couldn’t get enough of snowboarding. She devoured every magazine article she could find and followed the careers of all the top performers. At the time, you could count the number of women snowboarders on one hand, which felt discouraging. She tried snowboarding herself and enjoyed it, but Amy never felt like she belonged in the sport. She eventually moved onto other interests, but she never forgot that feeling.
Over the years, Amy thought about what might be behind that feeling. She didn’t let it stop her from pursuing outdoor sports—she became active in everything from kayaking to rock climbing. But it would bubble up whenever she heard from women who couldn’t imagine themselves doing certain activities because they thought they might not have the strength or endurance, or because they might be outcast for their size or for being slow. Amy made the connection between how outdoor sports were marketed for the extreme athlete and the way girls and women who didn’t match a perfect image of fitness lacked confidence in giving it a try.
Then a year ago, Amy participated in the Midwest whitewater kayaking championships, a contest completely out of her comfort zone. She experienced that rumbling fear of the unknown, thinking of all the worst-case scenarios, mixed with excitement and joy. Amy leaned on her experienced paddler friends who helped her to stay present and shift worrisome thoughts into actionable steps. That experience inspired her to launch Ladies Who Shred, which began as an Instagram group to amplify the voices of the incredibly supportive women she met.
While attending an event at The Coven, an inclusive co-working community designed to be a catalyst for personal transformation, Amy felt inspired to start a business. Eventually she realized Ladies Who Shred could become that business and decided to model it after The Coven in many ways, in particular by encouraging vulnerability. She believes it’s about putting yourself out there and trying new things, just as you are, rather than waiting until you look more fit or can execute the moves flawlessly. And while shredding looks different for each person—from starting an activity for the first time or after many years away, to pushing your body harder than the day before—Amy encourages women to trust their capabilities.
Ladies Who Shred has grown into a thriving online community that welcomes women of all ages, ethnicities, economic means and more. Amy’s goal is to disrupt the status quo—to build confidence and shatter perceptions of women who participate in outdoor sports. Her unique approach to building peer-to-peer relationships around a multitude of activities sets Ladies Who Shred apart from other women’s groups. Amy also recently launched a membership website—becoming a member is free and supported in part by sales from Ladies Who Shred merchandise.
Amy enjoys watching the progress of the women who make up the Ladies Who Shred community. When she hears from women who say they could never do what she does, Amy answers each one by radiating positive energy: “Yes! You totally can. You really, really can do this.”
To learn more about Amy’s business, visit LadiesWhoShred.com.
Photo: Ladies Who Shred
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