Find power in your truth, not the life others design for you. This week’s guest blew us away: the amazing Annelise Loevlie, CEO of Icelantic Skis. Annelise shares her journey to feel like a real CEO and talks about focusing on self care first and embracing her own unique leadership style. This episode is a must-listen for any entrepreneurs, CEOs, or outdoor industry professionals.
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Lisa: Hey, welcome to episode 2 of season 4 of Outside by Design. You'll notice Iris and I got our echo fixed because Iris built a blanket fortress around us in my office... and we got some permanent walls, the construction’s going better.
Iris: We're sitting on a comfy couch. We're surrounded by a blanket fort. What else could you ask for?
Lisa: Yeah, so it's good. So thanks for bearing with us on last week's audio when Iris and I were talking. This week's episode I think is really really fascinating. I had the opportunity to speak to Annalise Loevlie, the CEO of Icelantic skis, and I think the most interesting thing about it is it kind of helps redefine what it means to be a CEO and what being a CEO looks like and kind of... taking initiative, owning your shit and taking care of yourself.
Iris: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting, Annelise became CEO of Icelantic in 2014. She talks about just her process becoming a CEO and realizing that she can be her own CEO. She doesn't have to do it the way that everyone's told her all her business books have told her and her process is really fascinating.
This is going to be our second episode centered around the word initiative for the month of February. So we get to hear what Annelise thinks about initiative, what that means to her, how she's embracing that in her life, her personal life and her business life. Enjoy.
Lisa: Thank you so much for being here today.
Annelise: Yeah. You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
Lisa: And the very first question we always ask everyone is to describe where they are and what they're looking at and where they are in the country.
Annelise: Nice. I am in Golden, Colorado, which is where I live and I'm in my home office and looking at a bunch of plants and crystals and books and a nice painting Travis Par is our artist [dog barking] and that's my dog Louie. Sorry about that. Yeah, that's where I am and what I'm looking at.
Lisa: Awesome, and you are on the podcast during the month we are talking about the word initiative. Which is exciting. Yes. And so I'm curious. You know, when we first told you that what first came to mind for the word initiative and what that means to you?
Annelise: Yeah, what first came to mind is the word ownership. I kind of equate those two, initiative and ownership and it's really an appropriate word and theme for me right now. The past couple years specifically, I've been really kind of meditating on and focusing on what it means to kind of like take initiative or ownership. I have for a lot of my life, and this might be surprising to people, but I've lived in a really kind of victimy sort of mentality for a lot of my life and I think becoming CEO was a big opportunity to kind of Step Up. And then even... so I've been CEO for four years now and in more specifically the past couple years I've been dealing with some like health issues and obviously growth issues with Icelantic that have really required me to own my shit basically in a lot of different ways. And that means taking initiative and taking initiative of my health and with my vision for Icelantic and yeah all all across the board. I mean I could talk the whole podcast about what this means to me but initiative in general, I mean to me it just means taking action and kind of... owning a vision or owning your action. I want to extrapolate too much. Yeah.
Lisa: Wow, that was an amazing answer and there's so much to unpack there for sure.
Annelise: That’s a loaded question. Yeah.
Lisa: Yeah, that's uh, that's amazing. So I'm interested, one of my questions I have written down to ask you is, do you feel like a CEO?
Annelise: Great question. That has been that has been my journey, you know, I mean, so when I took over as CEO, yes... I'll answer your question. Yes. I feel like a CEO now and it's been a really long journey because when I first became CEO, the company was really sick and I had to turn it around. To make a long story short and it was a really gnarly time. I mean we were hemorrhaging money everywhere. I mean there's millions of dollars that have been put into the business and we weren't making money and I had to reorganize the whole thing which meant firing friends and closing down offices and breaking hearts and blah blah blah. And I did all this from a weird place in my head that I thought that I knew what a CEO was supposed to do and how a CEO is supposed to act and I had some models I guess from being on the board of directors and the in the ski industry and I don't know...
It was really strange and in retrospect looking back on it now, you know, I wasn't acting from a place of truth from my own, you know place of compassion. Basically, if I were to do the same thing now, I would do it pretty differently with a lot more empathy and compassion. But yeah, so I hated being a CEO for a minute because I was just really disconnected. You know my head and my heart were just like severed, I felt, like from each other. And yeah, and that's kind of been my journey of initiative and ownership is to find out what it meant to me to be CEO and what that looks like because I'm me and I'm different from everybody else and I'm not a man and yeah, I require different things and so yes, I do feel like a CEO now and that's it.
It's kind of an interesting thing to say but as CEO, I just feel like my role is to sort of protect this this entity that we've all built together, and I'm good in that role and by doing that. I mean, I have to take really good care of myself. That's essentially my role, like taking good care of myself so I can take good care of my the people and company that we're creating. And that's intense.
Lisa: It really is. Yeah, I know a little bit about what you're going through in my role as I've always been a creative director, but my company so big now I have had to transition into CEO of my agency and it is like not it's not as fun. Quite frankly. It's not as fun and you have to be like very, you know, just kind of like have a mental fortitude to be pretty calm and you know dealing with numbers and like really really objective things when maybe your heart wants to be subjective. Do you find that to be something you encounter as well?
Annelise: Yeah, definitely and I yeah, I've gone through so many renditions of that of like feeling sorry for myself because both of us are in creative businesses and creative Industries. And I'm sure everyone around you like me, they have a lot of creative freedom and they're just you know traveling and making things up all the time and I'm like... this is exaggerating a little bit, but I'm stuck, you know, at the office reviewing the numbers and reporting to investors and yeah, I get stuck in that. But for me personally that is you know, when I find myself feeling sorry for myself in that role a little bit. That's an indicator that I am sort of in the victim mentality and then it's time for me to flip on the initiative or ownership switch and and you know, be grateful for the role that I have and the role that I'm creating because honestly... and what I've come to, and this kind of gives me chills just talking about it, but I am you know, this role that I have, that you have. Can be the most creative role there is. I mean, to create a vision and a direction for a whole Community or entity is a pretty pretty exciting, you know opportunity to have.
Yeah, so I think what I'm coming to and I mean I still kind of get in the dumps sometimes but all the like financial and boring more objective work is just kind of the vehicle to that supports the more creative visioning work that really kind of turns me on and brings me life. So there's always, with every role I've found, because I've done every role in Icelantic and Beyond, you know, not every role but you know, I've done quite a bit and there's always work that's not fun and that's kind of draining. You know, so I think just looking at it like that has has been a big one for me. But yeah, I think... and maybe you can relate to this too. But the responsibility sometimes is really heavy on me. Just kind of feeling that and but then at the same time it that gives me motivation to to remain strong, you know. To remain strong in my body and mind and spirit and it's just like that is my motivation when I feel the weight of responsibility because it's heavy sometimes.
Lisa: Yes. And I like being a little bit nimble. Like if I have an idea, I'm really excited about there's no one that that tells me no. Yeah, you know and I think that's the most exciting part.
Annelise: Totally and your whole team probably supports that moment when you have it, right?
Annelise: Yeah, that's pretty cool.
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Lisa: Wow, I thought that was one of the most interesting things I have heard in years and kind of finding the creativity in that CEO position and the ownership of like, these are all choices that we've made to get to where we’ve gone and I've definitely been thinking about this part of our conversation since Annelise and I had it. It's been shifting my viewpoint actually ever since she said this so thanks for those words.
Iris: Mmm. Do you feel like it's been a journey becoming a CEO?
Lisa: Oh, absolutely I mean I started my company when I was 22, and I didn't know how to be a boss when I had employees at age 24, you know, and now after 10 years in business, everything is a lot easier, but absolutely every single day is different.
Iris: I feel like any business owner can relate to Annelise's process coming into her own and taking on a position that maybe you don't necessarily know what to do, but you figure it out and you own it.
Iris: All right. So let's hear a little bit more from Annelise about her leadership style.
Lisa: And so what does leading a team look like for you now?
Annelise: It's really a lot of listening. Because I feel so lucky. Our team is so killer and we just have a lot of self starters who take initiative, take ownership of the rules. And so it's really, I do a lot of kind of observing. And listening and advising which sounds kind of funny. But yeah, people come to me with like ideas or problems or solutions. And I you know, I hear them out, talk it through with them, and you know kind of like let the direction or the answer or whatever surface through that. And that was one thing I always struggled with when I became CEO was I had this idea of like this like rah rah soccer coach in my head that like got up in front of everybody and pumped them up and like, you know, like lead with like fire stick in my hand. And you know in front of everybody, and I was like... it literally was like tearing me up inside because I would just had so much self-doubt around that. Around you know, just the possibility of me being that and I would keep telling them. I'm like, I'm not that, I can't do it. I can't be CEO. I'm not this and yeah, so and I'm not that.
And my business partner Ben who, we basically co run the business a little bit. I mean the buck definitely stops with me, but he's... I call him the Pied Piper and he's way more of that and he's really good at it. That's his natural, you know that's like his natural disposition. He loves that and people follow him. But yeah, so for me leading is much more about just kind of like, I guess, a term that people knows like “leading from behind.” That's much more comfortable. Just kind of supporting people and feeling it out and observe. A lot of observation both on a micro level in the company with specific people and then also on an industry sort of world level too. I mean, I like zoom in and out to kind of just keep keep pulse on what's going on so I can make appropriate actions. That was a long answer.
Lisa: but an awesome one.
Annelise: Thanks. Thanks. Yeah, leading is so different for everybody. I think, and I mean, I think probably the best advice I could ever give to anybody. And leadership, you can be a leader as a mom or sister, you know, like leadership is not just our positions that you and I are in right? But yeah, I think leadership probably is... it's a Pursuit that you have to really figure out for yourself because then, once you're in your authentic sort of truth, place of power, then that's where you become a leader. So.
Lisa: Oh, I have never heard like your truth is your place of power, tell me about that. That's a really cool concept.
Annelise: Yeah, this is something I'm pretty into recently. Um, yeah, I mean my, a lot of my journey has been I mean, I was really pretty far off from my center. Just from like, you know different events in my life and different things that I was born into and whatever and just being around really strong people. And you know, I didn't... yeah, I mean that's that's been my journey for the past, man, decade or two is just kind of returning to self and returning to my own sort of Truth or nature. And as I've done that I've found my power because... So much, you know we have all of these cues that that create us, millions and millions of little cues from the time we were born that shape us and shape our belief systems and our patterns and everything like that. And it's really easy to kind of just go with those and not question them, but I think digging into them which is what I've been doing recently is such…. It's just a place of power because personally, you know, I've just kind of come to this place and realized, like for example, the CEO story is a great example of it of like man, that was not me, how I was leading. I was like acting from these ideas that I had in my head that people have told me how CEOs are supposed to act or that I read about or whatever. And really like taking time and space to to like question who i really am what's important to me? What are my values really beneath all of the other, you know, like noise that Society has? That's where I’ve found my like, true, true power. And it's a never-ending Quest I think. But I've had really great success with it because then you're then you're grounded, you know who you are. You don't, you know, I don't question decisions as much anymore. You know, I mean when I'm grounded and solid and acting from a place in my heart and gut rather than just in my brain, it's like a fuckin Game Changer. That was a little... I hope you understood that.
Lisa: I did, I love it actually.
Annelise: It’s hard to articulate.
Lisa: Yeah, I love it and in your shift as a CEO and kind of returning to your truth around leadership and having a team that entire time, do you feel like your team kind of morphed with you and they were like, okay, you know, you're guiding the ship. We're on for the ride. Or do you think that was just a difficult thing for everybody?
Annelise: It was a really difficult transition for everybody like the first year. Just because, I mean, it was a disruption, a major disruption. We were on this like nice sailboat ship just cruising along, you know, and then I kind of came on and had to do it. But through the process, I mean. All of the relationships that were sort of compromised for a minute have become much stronger, much richer and deeper. And in terms of our company now, and you know everybody that we work with both within the company and like contracted out and everything. I mean, it's a really beautiful culture that's kind of emerged from all of this. And so yeah, to answer your question. It's been yeah, it's sort of dispersed throughout the culture. Absolutely. It's a really nice open transparent culture with sort of an emphasis on truth and self-care. And yeah, yeah, and it was never you know, explicit in that that's what we wanted to create or wanted to do. But I think just by, yeah, by my actions that I've taken in kind of like turning inwards into all this stuff. It's yeah, it's kind of by default let others to do the same thing, so it's been a really cool thing to witness.
Especially in this industry, that's like, you know, run on testosterone and kind of you know, our values are sort of measured by how poorly we treat our bodies and how far you send it and you know, I mean, there's so much competition. And it's just not the most gentle industry there is, but it's been cool to see. Yeah, the transformation in our company, I feel really proud about that.
Lisa: Yeah, and I think it's really a refreshing stance to take in the ski industry or snow sports industry in general because like partying has always been so celebrated and you guys are a little bit more like yeah, well, maybe make a smoothie too like...
Annelise: yeah, totally.
Lisa: Yeah, it's just seems really fresh.
Annelise: Yeah. No, it's God. It's like the biggest relief ever. I mean because, jeez I was right there with. everybody partying hard for a long time, and I always like knew in my heart and body that's like, oh I hate this. But I did it anyways because that's what everybody else did. Yeah, and now it's so fun. There's like a real culture of Health in our company and like, you know, people aren't afraid to like say no now. And you know, everybody still has a great time and obviously there's never any judgment around any of that because we've all been there. But yeah, it's fun and God it feels so much more healthy and sustainable. That's... I am like all about that, that’s like more important to me than anything else is like just taking care of our ourselves because without without that we have nothing. So yeah.
Annelise: I think the ski industry is getting a little better maybe but I don't know. I also, I mean we're in our... you know, like the founders, you know, there's four of us at Icelantic but we're all like mid-30s now and so that's the probably has a lot to do with it too. But hey, I'll take it and yeah, the next Generations are definitely tuning into that, too. I mean SIA this year, our snacks were like carrots and hummus and tea. It was like such a good, not just like bottles of vodka.
Annelise: Yeah it felt really good.
Lisa: Yeah. My favorite part about being in my 30s is getting like dialed. And it shifts as my interests shift but like I hired a nutritionist out of Breckenridge to like help me not Bonk while I'm skinning and you know, just getting really dialed has been a fun process for me and it used to feel a little arduous. But once I was like focused more on the process, it really has become like my favorite thing about getting a little older.
Annelise: Yeah, it's cool and it's the dividends are kind of endless, you know? Like learning how your body works and what fuels you and what drains you and yeah, that's awesome. Good work.
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Iris: So Lisa, what did you think about Annelise's process becoming a leader and and her idea that your truth is a place of power?
Lisa: I thought that was brilliant and incredibly relevant to all human beings whether you're a CEO or you're working your first position in the outdoor industry. I think that operating from a place of truth is incredibly difficult to do but it feels the best and then you know when it feels right and you attract more good when you're when you're being truthful to yourself. So I think that's a relevant tidbit to anyone.
Iris: Yeah, business owners or not.
Lisa: Yeah, and I loved what she was saying about the culture of Health she created at Icelantic and creating a culture of health. And I think that's, again, another personal thing and making sure you take care of yourself before you can take care of others is a really big deal. This is just a hell of a podcast, I think.
Iris: Yeah, let's get back to it.
Lisa: And the other thing that I've been thinking about a lot is, I'm a snowboarder not a skier and snowboarding in the scheme of things is relatively new. So I never had like an old lady hero that was a snowboarder to look up to. And so, you know, there wasn't like an old like Warren Miller type of snowboarder because the sport’s just not old enough. And so I always thought that like, oh, yeah. Well one day, you know. You don't see adults snowboarding. So you're going to have to give up snowboarding and I'm realizing that it's just changing with me and it's something I still do almost every day. But maybe I'm not hitting rails. Maybe I'm skinning or like, you know, just taking a lap with my dog or something. And so like I'm really enjoying the evolution.
Annelise: That's awesome. Good work. Yeah, that's huge. And that's another great lesson. I feel like in you know being a leader too is like… remaining... kind of like, tuning in and tuning into the present and you know, questioning relevancy because things change all the time and if you get attached to like... Yeah, being a park rider or something, you know, then yeah, you're going to be disappointed when you're 45 or 60, you know. And man, if you like see opportunities to yeah, skin with your dog. Yeah, that's awesome. I love that. You got to always evolve. That's a mantra at Icelantic. It's just, you know, always growing. It's natural. Once you stop moving you die.
Lisa: Yeah, you rust.
Annelise: Yeah exactly.
Lisa: Has that happened to you for skiing, like where skiing is kind of growing and changing with you from a young age to where you are now?
Annelise: Yeah, I mean, I've done every snow sport. So I grew up Nordic skiing, Nordic racing. Classic and skate. And then I started snowboarding and snowboarded all through college competitively and then I teli'd for a while like 10 years or so and then I started Alpine. I've been alpining for the past six or seven years. So I've kind of kept it fresh, but recently because I live on the Front Range of Colorado, you know, which is the busiest place in the world to ski, it's very frustrating and so I've had to definitely shift my patterns around skiing. Like I don't really ski resorts anymore, especially not on weekends. And yeah, so I've had to… it’s been a little humbling for sure, but now, God, I just love touring with my dog kind of like you. And that brings me so much joy. And I ski a lot less now than I have at certain times, but I'm really happy with that because I'm kind of into other things. And I think the main thing for me is not judging myself and not kind of comparing myself to others or you know, like letting Instagram make me jealous or anything like that. It doesn't anymore which is great.
But yeah, it's been being psyched with what I have and being grateful for the times that I do get out. And yeah, skiing is always going to be a part of my life and it's in my blood. So yeah, I take it easy. I don't put any pressure on myself to go skiing or to not ski. Yeah, because that, man, that makes you crazy. Makes me crazy. And if I lived in Whitefish, it would probably be different, like I was up in Steamboat this weekend and I'm like fuck, I really miss living in a mountain town. Because then you wake up and it's like God, in five minutes I can be on the Mountain, ski for an hour, come home, but here it's like it is a such an ordeal to ski from where I am right now. So I do aspire in my older years to live much closer to skiing. And yeah, everything goes in waves, you know.
Lisa: Absolutely, and Golden is a sweet spot.
Annelise: Yeah golden is a sweet spot. It's really nice. I live here... I mean I moved here because there's trails, so many trails. I'm a big trail runner and hiker and so like out my door I can hit six different trailheads that are all unique and awesome. And yeah, Golden's great and there's a river that runs right through the town that I swim in every day in the summer and it's close to Denver. It's close to the airport. And it's relatively close to the mountains. So yeah, Golden's great.
Lisa: Yeah. That's a that's a good spot.
Annelise: Are you from Montana originally?
Lisa: No, I'm from Fort Collins.
Annelise: Oh, you are! Nice, you understand. You know what I’m saying.
Lisa: Yeah, I understand. Yeah. Yeah, and then I actually started my agency in Crested Butte where I lived for quite a while. You know, Crested Butte is so small that I basically had designed everyone a new logo in town and then had to move.
Annelise: [laughs] You worked yourself out of there. Nice.
Lisa: Yeah, that was before like, you know before the internet was as viable as it is now, but yeah, that's my little twenty second origin story.
Annelise: Nice, I like that. Good work.
Lisa: But yeah, and so you moved, I think I have this fact right, you moved Icelantic from Denver to Golden?
Annelise: Yep. Yeah, that was part of the reorg. It's so funny too, because it's like the ski industry, like how serious can it get but... I found myself commuting in traffic every day. And I was just like man, this is not at all what I want to be doing. And Denver is a great City, and we had a really cool office in a co-working space that was super vibrant and fun and but man, I would like, I found myself like leaving my house that whatever 9. And coming back at like five or six and like not... I mean just like being in the city the entire day in an office all day just like wasn't me. And so yeah, that's one of the things I did when I became CEO was I polled everybody to get their thoughts on moving West and everybody was psyched.
And so yeah, we ended up finding the like dream spot right in downtown Golden. It's this cool old garage that we got to make into exactly what we wanted. It has these two huge garage doors that we open wide up in the summer and it’s right on Main Street. So we opened a little retail store. And yeah, it's been... and I can walk there, from my house, which is a game changer. Yeah, commuting in traffic was kind of wearing at my soul, even though it was only like a 30-minute commute. I don't know how people do it for like an hour each way every day. I’d go nuts. But yeah, good move in general.
Lisa: Because now you can just walk right over.
Annelise: Yep. Now I just walk right over. Sometimes I'll go swimming on the way in, my dog always goes swimming on the way and it's really nice. And most of our employees live West like Evergreen and kind of golden area. So it made way more sense. I know, I mean people are so much happier. It was it was a mega lifestyle move for sure for the company.
Lisa: That's cool.
Annelise: Yeah. Thanks.
Lisa: Is there anything else that you want to tell our audience that I haven't asked you?
Annelise: No, I mean, I'm really on this self-care kick right now. Like I kind of alluded to in the beginning. I would say, especially women, and I don't like to, you know, specify men or women because men need it too, absolutely. But as women are, you know, coming out into this world as leaders and kind of starting to own their power. I really deeply believe that the most important thing you can do is like dig in, and dig into self-care and yeah. Just take like extra extra good care of yourself. Whatever that means, you know, like is that is our source of power. And it's so easy to get sideswiped in this world if you're putting yourself out there, and more you can be grounded and trust in your in your strength and the better off you'll be better off, the world will be. We need more… need more heart-centered peeps out there. So yeah, I'm really into this right now because it's served me well and yeah, that’s what I would say.
Lisa: Do you have an example of like something in your routine that you changed that made a big difference?
Annelise: Yeah, not going to the office every day was huge for me. And just kind of, I was always going to the office out of kind of guilt and like, knowing this idea that I had to be there to set an example for people. When really, I like was kind of wasting time when I was there and I was just like it was a placeholder. I was just kind of you know, I wasn't as effective as I could possibly be. So... and it's been a long process. I'm not a hundred percent where I like want to be, but I feel much less guilt now around going to the office because I know that when I'm there, I'm there a hundred percent and I'm there to you know interact with people and do that role well while I’m there. And then when I'm not there and usually doing something that's feeding my soul like being outside or skiing or just working from my home, which I just work a lot better, you know in quiet and privacy and stuff. So, yeah. That's one great example of just not going to the office as much, which maybe I shouldn't encourage on this podcast, but we're all so different, you know, like people are so different. And the Industrial Revolution was a weird time where we're all like, oh, we're machines. And we don't live like that anymore and we don't work like that anymore. So yeah, we're not machines and we shouldn't get paid for our time. So yeah, I don't know, finding your own flow with work is a huge… that has been a huge deal for me. And I'm so lucky. I mean, I know not everybody has this freedom. And I know that maybe this isn't relevant piece of advice for a lot of people, but I think more and more and in offices and in companies, especially in our industry, there's a lot more flexibility with that. So yeah. Yeah, speaking up about that is is important.
Lisa: Yeah, well, I love that answer and I really enjoyed this conversation.
Annelise: Yeah, thanks Lisa.
Lisa: I think yeah, I think you're a really cool lady. So I'm really honored that you were on the podcast this week.
Annelise: Well thanks for having me.
Lisa: Thanks so much for being here Annelise. It was really amazing to have you on the podcast and all these words of wisdom. I think that our listeners are going to love this conversation as much as I did. So thank you so much.
Iris: You can find Icelantic, their website is Icelanticskis.com or @icelantic_skis on Instagram. And Annelise’s Instagram is @Anneliselovely. And you can follow her there. Don't forget to subscribe to Outside by Design so you don't miss our new episodes every Thursday morning, and leave us a review on iTunes, that helps us a lot. We love having feedback if you love us or hate us. We don't care. Just leave a review.
Lisa: Thank you!
Iris: Next week we have Mallory Ottariano with Kind Apparel. It's going to be a great one as well.
Lisa: I like Mallory. She's a lot of fun.
Iris: Yeah, so subscribe to Outside by Design wherever you get your podcasts and we'll see you next week.