Team Scarlett 1130 600 px

Q&A with Team Scarlett

By: Parker Ohlmann  December 05, 2022

Building a team can be fun, but comes with its own challenges and hurdles.

Ever wonder how teams come to existence? We sat down with Team Scarlett's co-founder Elianne Fisher to hear more about how building a team can come with both times of success and tribulations.

USA Cycling: How did the program come into existence? What did you feel was missing in the current landscape of clubs and teams?

Elianne Fisher: Team Scarlett started as kind of a pipe dream between myself and the girls I met through the Colorado High School Cycling League. We became close through the 2021 season, and when it came to an end we weren’t ready to stop racing together, even though most of us were graduating and continuing on the college the next year. We all started talking about ways to preserve the friendships we had created, as well as our love for mountain biking, and decided that creating a team that can include all of us, beyond high school, was the best way to do so. My Co-Founders (Katie and Piper O’Neill) and I decided that we wanted to address the way women’s cycling is typically approached when we started Team Scarlett. We felt that women’s sports are most often seen through a lens of fun and participation, rather than competitiveness and a serious mindset. Although these qualities are very important, especially to our team, we firmly believe that women’s cycling has far less opportunity for competition than men’s cycling, which is something that we hope to change through Team Scarlett.

USA Cycling: When you started down the path of starting a team, where did you start? What did that look like?

EF: Unfortunately for us, starting a team requires a lot of legal and financial obligations, which were almost entirely unknown to myself and my Co-Founders until we started this process. Initially we were excited about coming up with our team name, planning our kits, and getting riders to represent us. We started the process late in the game, past the time of year when teams typically ask for sponsorships from businesses, so the process of getting the team really put together was a long one. We reached out to countless brands and businesses and built up a good number of sponsors and logos to put on our jerseys. One of the hardest parts of starting Team Scarlett was finding athletes that were not only serious, but also willing to learn along with us as we started this team. So far, we’ve found ten athletes to race for Team Scarlett.

USA Cycling: When you started sharing the idea of starting a team, I’m sure it was not all rainbows and sunshine. What were some expected and then unexpected barriers that you’ve come across since you’ve launched the team?

EF: One of the biggest barriers has been timing, which was out of everyone’s control. We started during the off season, but since we were starting entirely from scratch, it was hard to meet the deadlines that we had originally set for ourselves. Getting jerseys designed on time, opening bank accounts, creating websites, applying for pro deals, writing sponsorship letters, and going through athlete applications were just a few of the responsibilities that we took on from the beginning, never mind the extras that piled on as the process continued. I would say that the hardest obstacle we encountered was the fact that myself and my two Co-Founders are all minors, and when you’re dealing with legal and financial responsibilities and needs, that can be a hard battle. Luckily we pushed through and got everything put together to make this happen. I’m so grateful for Katie and Piper for all the work they’ve put into this team.

USA Cycling: I see you’ve brought on a few sponsors. How did you approach these organizations to sponsor or partner with your team?

EF: We didn’t really know how to get sponsors at first. All three of us had raced for our high school mountain bike teams, and I had seen the sponsorship request letter on a few occasions, so we essentially went from there. We drafted a letter and sent it to as many places as we could think of, getting responses from only a few. As time went on and the process to get team kits proved to be a long one, more and more sponsors started to roll in, providing funds and motivation for us. The more logos we received, the more real this dream felt, and the more excited all of us became. The biggest part of getting support from these brands and businesses was sharing our goals and our message, which was received very well from the cycling community.

USA Cycling: How has it been thus far running and managing a team while still being in school, were you already proficient with your time management or by starting this team you realized there was still room to grow?

EF: The transition was actually a lot easier than expected. Katie and Piper were both Juniors in high school when this started, so their time was limited, but being a senior with a loose schedule, I had a lot of time to work on the foundations of Team Scarlett. As a management team, Katie and Piper and I would often meet after our other obligations and talk for hours trying to figure everything out. Mostly these conversations were just fun, since we’re all friends and we love each other’s company, but sometimes the pressure of our time constraints was felt and the tensions were high. Once we figured out the brunt of the new territory we were walking in to, it was pretty much smooth sailing! That’s not to say that things weren’t still hard and that deadlines weren’t still tight, but when you’re working with the right people, any process can be surprisingly fun.

USA Cycling: With the process still fresh in your mind what would your advice be to other junior athletes looking to start a program like Team Scarlett?

EF: If you’re looking at starting something because you see a gap in the activity you love, just do it. The world has so much room for improvement, you might as well jump in and see what you can do. As far as starting a team specifically, find something that you want to change, be the representation you want to see, and stick with it. Start with a solid foundation, and the best way to do that (in my opinion) is to surround yourself with a team of people who are like you, who are driven, and ultimately, who you can hang out with and have fun with. Katie and Piper and I still feel like there’s no way all of this is really happening; it’s all been so much fun. We’re all so grateful for each other and for this team.

USA Cycling: Looking back on what you’ve done thus far, how much would you contribute to it to be right place right time or hard work and determination?

EF: I would say that the timing actually wasn’t in our favor. We put so much time and energy into this project, sometimes we looked at each other and said, “I guess if this doesn’t work out it’ll be kind of a funny story,” but we held out and did our best to get it off the ground. More than the timing or determination being a factor in our success, I can honestly say that most of our success has been possible because we’re all friends, we’ve known each other for years, and we all believe in the message that Team Scarlett is trying to spread.

USA Cycling: How would you describe your team in three words, then explain why you chose those words.

EF: Fun, determined, and energetic. We believe that no matter how serious an athletic team becomes, fun should always be at it’s foundations in order for the athletes to perform their best – plus Team Scarlett is full of awesome people who love to have fun on their bikes! One of the requirements to join the team is to show your commitment to cycling, which to Katie, Piper, and I, means a determination to do well on your bike. Team Scarlett also represents a problem in the cycling industry, which is the attitude that women's athletics is typically approached with. I would say that Team Scarlett can most accurately be described as energetic: we’re all friends, we all love mountain biking, and none of us can wait to get out on the trails in our pink jerseys!

USA Cycling: Where do you hope to see the team grow in 2023 and beyond?

EF: My hope is that this team grows and becomes a resource for everyone who needs it, but mostly that we can draw attention to women's cycling. We would all love this to take off and really become something, but its roots are most important, and the values that Team Scarlett has been founded on are pertinent. We hope to see pink jerseys across the country, representing Team Scarlett at national events, and we hope to create lasting relationships through the program as well. Largely, Team Scarlett is a resource, and will hopefully become a way for women’s cycling to be more widely recognized as a competitive and serious sport. If we can make this Team into what we want it to be, we could provide funding for female cyclists who might otherwise be overlooked.

(Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)