This week on the show: athlete, social media manager, and nursing student (!) Alex Pavon! Alex manages social media for Juliana bicycles and focuses on spreading positivity and doing good in the world. Alex chats creativity, content creation during COVID, and adding substance to social media.
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Iris: Hello, outdoor industry friends. This is Iris with another episode of Outside by Design. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for listening. I am so glad to introduce today's guest. We have Alex Pavon. She is social media manager for Juliana. She is a professional athlete and she is also studying nursing. So she has a lot going on on her plate.
And as a social media manager myself, as well as the proud owner of a Juliana Joplin, I am so stoked about this episode. Alex talks about how being a social media manager allows her to create this global community that she wouldn't otherwise be a part of. She talks about what she loves about the creative process and how to level up to step up and be a leader and be the person that you see the world needs.
She also talks about how Juliana creates a community by women, for women and how happy she is that those kinds of communities with Juliana and Liv exist in the cycling industry, for people who are looking for them. I love this episode and I'm excited for you to hear Alex's interview with Lisa. So let's get started.
Lisa: Thank you so much for being on our podcast today.
Alex: Of course, happy to be here.
Lisa: And the first question we ask everyone is where are you and what are you looking at?
Alex: I am sitting in, I'm actually in my parents’ office at their house because their internet is better than mine is at my house. And I'm staring out the window at the San Francisco peaks. And the rain clouds. Looks like it's about to start raining.
Lisa: Wow! What's, what's a normal day like for you? Because you do a million things.
Alex: I suppose it depends on the day of the week, a normal day pre-COVID would have entailed, like, waking up and drinking a bunch of yerba mate, and then going and riding my bike or skiing or water skiing - mostly just doing as many things as I could possibly fit into one day. Or going to work. I work in the emergency room. Now in COVID times, since there are no bike races to go to, a normal day during the week looks like waking up and going to school. I'm in an accelerated nursing program. So going to school for four or five, six hours a day. And then coming home, going on a bike ride or a run or going water skiing. So yeah, that's what a normal day looks like.
Lisa: As well as being a social media manager for Juliana bicycles.
Alex: Yes, I am the social media manager for Juliana bicycles, which I get to do from the comfort of wherever I happen to be at the time. So, yeah, that's a fun job. That's... it's nice to be able to kind of be able to do that whenever and not have a super strict schedule. Like I don't have to be in an office in Santa Cruz to do that job, which is very convenient.
Lisa: Yeah, that's awesome. Why do you think that they went with you for that position?
Alex: You know, I… Sarah Leishman who now works at Sram was our social media manager for a long time before me. And when she started taking on more work with - at the time she was with Arc'teryx and she was doing a whole bunch of stuff for Arc'teryx working full time for them. And she was just super busy.
And Sarah and I are close friends and she was like, “you know, I think you'd be really good at this.” I was like, “are you joking?” Like, I know nothing about like digital media marketing or communication really, other than like, I'm pretty good at talking. Too much. But Sarah was like, “no, I think you'd be really good at it. You should do it.” And I was like, okay. And so then it was just like one day she was like, yep, here's the passwords. Good luck. Godspeed. I was like, okay.
And I don't know. I think that it's such a cool job because I get to, like… not only am I a racer and an athlete, but I like really just enjoy, you know, connecting with people and, you know, that's kind of been our biggest thing and Juliana is like, we're heavy on community. We want to like create a sense of community. And being a racer and an athlete I know so many people like either personally or by association, across the globe, which has been a cool part of doing the social media is that like, I know what everybody is doing and I can reach out to these people and ask them to share their stories or send me photos.
So I think, I think maybe that had something to do with it. I was just in a cool position to be able to do it and do it sort of, well, maybe.
Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. And you're a professional fun-haver, you know, so you are very much an athlete, on the pro team for Juliana and Sram. You're a Lululemon ambassador. And you're a brainiac in nursing school. So you have this cool trifecta of like, people skills and medical skills and athletic skills. And they kind of all tie together in a really weird way, is my observation of you from the outside.
Alex: Yeah. Somehow.
Lisa: So how do you, how do you kind of like, how do you land in all those things? Like, do you identify as an athlete first or are they all equal weighted to you?
Alex: I've always identified as an athlete. And I think that most people... I think it's funny sometimes how people maybe don't identify themselves as an athlete. Like people think that to be an athlete, you need to be like a paid professional sponsored athlete. I think pretty much anybody that likes to go outside and exercise can consider themselves an athlete. You know, people that are paid professional sponsored athletes are a different category of athlete. You're an elite athlete. But yeah, so I've always, I've always considered myself an athlete.
And then I got that to a point where all of a sudden, I was like getting paid, which put me in a different category of athlete. But I've never... like, that has never been the like one thing that I define myself on. I like to call myself a Jill of all trades, master of some. Maybe not none, but some. And I think that it probably had a lot to do with my parents wanting me to be a really well rounded person. Both of my parents are super athletic, but also work their butts off in regular, everyday normal people jobs. And you know, my mom from a really young age, I grew up ski racing and just like every kid, like wants to like go to the Olympics when they're a tiny child and you don't understand how hard it is to do that. My mom always was like, well, you know, you probably shouldn't rely on that. You should probably continue going to school. You know, there was definitely like a big academic push, always in my life. And I have always really liked school.
And, and I've always like... being an athlete is really cool and really wonderful. And it's allowed me to like, travel the world and meet so many wonderful people. But I've always wanted to like, make a difference in another way too. And I think that's kind of how I fell into the medical field. I wanted to be a doctor for a really long time until I decided that I didn't want to go back to school over eight more years, which is how I fell into nursing. And so, yeah, I think I define my self as all of those things equally.
Lisa: Yeah, I think you show up that way too.
Alex: Oh, well, that's good. I try, I definitely have not been feeling like the best student in the world lately going. I graduated from college in 2016 and I've been working in the emergency room as an EMT since, but haven't been like in school since May of 2016 and all of a sudden it was like back to school, back to being in class for like 48 hours a day and having to do homework. And it went from like Alex being able to do whatever she wants and ride her bike whenever she wants to like, Alex has to do her homework and be studious. And that was a rough adjustment, but it's gotten better.
Lisa: Yeah. Gosh. Yeah. I can't even imagine going back to school, it'd be tough.
Alex: It's... for some reason, like, I don't have any issue going to work. I think it's wrapping your head around, like you're paying someone, your money to go work your butt off. Instead of like, getting paid. I was like, “Oh, this is different than I remember it being when I went to college at 18,” but it's good. It's... luckily it's only a year, I will survive.
Lisa: Yeah, you will. I'm curious if you have the same - or similar - kind of situation that a lot of athletes get put in, which is that you're an athlete because you love to move your body. And then as that becomes something that you're getting paid to do, you suddenly have to spend a lot more time in a digital setting, whether that's like working with photography or managing your own social media, which I think is kind of ironic because athletes are so physical and then they end up putting this really digital situation.
It's kind of... to me it feels like a broken system, but how, how is that for you? Is that something where it's not a problem kind of coming up with content for your own social media?
Alex: Yeah. You know, I think that, um, I really like, I enjoy the… I would not call myself like a particularly creative person, but I enjoy like the creative process.
Like, at least for my job with Juliana, like I love sitting in our marketing meetings and coming up with cool projects, whether it be like a photo story or a video project or a blog, I love brainstorming that kind of stuff. I think it's really fun. And I like to really be a part of them too, because usually it means you get to, like, go do something cool with some other cool people. And even if you're not like riding your bike as much as you want, ‘cause you're actually just like hiking up and down one section of trail with your bike all day long, I do think that it's really fun.
And then, you know, for my own personal social media, I don't actually worry about it too much. I, of course, like to produce content and promote the brands that I ride for. But I think that I, I try to do it in like a really like, normal, natural way instead of like making it seem pretty obvious that like, I'm just like blurting out, paid promotions, which I'm not. So I usually, you know, I just like take pictures of what I'm doing whenever I'm doing anything, whether it's like running or water skiing or biking. I don't… you know, I think that I just try and showcase myself as an athlete in any capacity. And don't particularly worry about making sure I have the coolest pictures of me riding my bike because it takes a lot of time and effort to do that. And it's not that fun to do. So yeah, it is interesting to have to worry about like, oh, I need to like, you know, I need to do that, this, this, and this for social media. It can be a little annoying sometimes, but the truth is, is like, none of my sponsors personally are like, hell bent on like, we need X amount of this, and this is where our logo needs to be placed and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It's like pretty, you know, they just - most of my sponsors just want me to continue being the person I am. You know, I think that I'm sponsored by those companies because they like who I am as a person. And like what I was doing previous. So it's working out I think.
Lisa: Yeah. And what, what does it mean to you to like show up for your community in all these different ways that you are in the world?
Alex: I think that it's just no matter what community I am a part of at that time, whether it's like the cycling community or my medical community or my friends and my family. I think that it just means showing up and being the best person that you can be. You know, I think that especially the cycling world, people talk about like, what does it mean to be a good ambassador? And I'll tell you my personal opinion. I don't think being a good ambassador has anything to do with how many Instagram followers you have, how many likes you get on your pictures. I think that, you know, being that good ambassador and showing up for your cycling community is being a good, approachable person that like people want to come talk to and people want to ask questions and they're not intimidated by you. You know, like a mom can come up to me at any bike race and be like, “Oh my gosh, my daughter really wants to ride a Juliana. And she really wants to race Enduro” and like have her daughter be able to come and talk to me and not be afraid of me or something like that. And with work it's showing up. And, you know, when I go to work in the emergency room, normally it's like, I'll be gone for like a month. ‘Cause I'll be off riding my bike. And I still expect myself to show up and know what I'm doing and be able to like perform my job the best that I can, because you know, you're saving people's lives. And so I think that it's all of that. It doesn't matter what you're doing. It's just showing up and being the best version of yourself that you need to be at that moment.
Lisa: Yeah. That's awesome. I like that. So we are called WHEELIE because a wheelie is like, you know, you pull your front wheel up, level up, so we have this whole metaphor around leveling up. And so to you, like, what does it mean to level up?
Alex: I think leveling up to me, like, I don't think you have to be like this really outstanding, like sensationalized person to level yourself up. I think that you just need to like... it seems like humans in general - this is, this is just my personal opinion - we have become pretty okay with being mediocre. And there's a lot of mediocrity in the world and. It's not that hard to be better than mediocre. You know, it's not that hard to just like put in a little more effort and, you know, like go above and beyond and show that you care and that you're trying, you know, I think that we've like… I feel like there's like a bit of a lack of trying sometimes. Like, we're all, just some of us are okay. Just like floating through life and getting by, you know, doing the bare minimum. And I mean, I'm not going to lie, sometimes I do the bare minimum at school so that I can like go on a bike ride and not spend six hours studying. But, you know, I think it's just like leveling up means like putting in that extra tad bit of effort. It's not that much more extra work, but it makes a big difference. And, you know, I think in the world today, we need people that are willing to be extraordinary and be leaders. And not many people are like stepping up to the plate. And it's not that hard to me to like, want to just be that person that's going to make a difference. That's what I think.
Lisa: I think probably the best thing you could say for someone who works in the emergency room. Yeah. Step up. I'm going to do my best.
Alex: Right. Exactly. There's like, there's just not a lot of room, you know, for, for mediocrity. If you only give mediocre, you know, you're only going to get mediocre. So I think you should just try a little harder and you'll get a little more and you'll be happier and it'll be sweet.
Lisa: Right. And I like the lack of entitlement in your position there. That's like, if you put in the effort, you are giving more and you will get more, not like, Oh, I showed up, so I deserve everything.
Alex: Right. Yeah. No, it turns out that, you know, the world doesn't owe anybody anything. Unfortunately. I don't mean for that to sound like really callous, but you know, like working in the emergency room, you… and this is like the perspective I tried to bring with me to all facets of life is like working in the emergency room, you see so many unfair things happen to really good people, really healthy people. The world owes you nothing. You have no idea if you're going to get diagnosed with some ridiculously rare form of lung cancer at 35, or if you're going to get a car accident at 18, or if you're going to live to be 96, like the world owes you nothing. And I just, I just try to remember that most of the time. It's like, you show up, you do your best. You live your best life. You try to have fun and you try not to hurt people. Like that's what I try to, you know, remember. Of course I definitely like have bad days and days where I'm just like, “man, I just want to ride my bike. And school is dumb” where definitely sound really entitled. But I try pretty hard to like recenter myself and be like, no, no, no, no, calm down. It's all going to be okay.
Lisa: Mhmm. That's in really good alignment with a caption on your social media that says how you choose to show up magnetizes what shows up for you.
Lisa: So show up sparkling.
Alex: Exactly. I mean, it's so true though. Like to me, it takes such an incredible amount of effort to be in a bad mood, like, like, or to like be angry or be negative. And like, we all have our moments where, you know, life isn't always like sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. But you know, if you're... if like most of your days aren't good days, like, maybe you should look into why that is and try and figure it out and, you know, get the help that you need if that's the case.
But you know, it takes so much energy to be negative and angry all the time and it doesn't really take that much energy to just be like happy. And more good things happen when you're happy. It's like that positive outlook thing really makes a difference.
Lisa: Yeah, definitely. Do you kind of bring that into being a social media manager as well? I feel like you post really happy content for Juliana, but also kind of gritty and real content too.
Alex: Yeah. You know, I think that, uh, my position with social media and Juliana's position with social media as well is like we... and you and I have talked about this. Like, we don't want to just like pump out a ton of meaningless content. Like yeah, not every photo that we're going to post on our feed has like some in depth story and meaning behind it. You know, often times they're just pictures of really cool bikes and that's sweet. But when we post a photo that is tied to a photo story or a blog, we like those to have some kind of like actual meaning to them and it be tied to, they're usually tied to cycling, but not always. And you know, we just like to tell, we like to tell stories that means something, that create a sense of community and don't necessarily... I've never wanted our social media to come off as like something like... yes, we are obviously just trying to sell you bikes. Because everyone is obviously just trying to sell you a bike. Like that's social media’s main purpose is to drive sales. But I've never wanted it come off that way. I have always worked really hard to make sure that our social media comes off, that we are trying to create a community, which is absolutely what myself and our brand manager are trying to do. And our hope is kind of like by creating the sense of community, this place where people want to come and be a part of that, then that will drive sales. So yeah, we try and keep it pretty positive and happy on the channel. We definitely tell some, tell some pretty feely emotional stories sometimes on our blog or on like some of our video projects with the Going Places have been heavy, for sure. But for the most part, we're just trying to keep it real, you know, keep it real.
Lisa: Mhmm. And Juliana is one of the last standing- well, the original women's mountain bike. And a lot of brands have drifted away from women's specific necessarily. And, you know, obviously Yeti, you got rid of the Yeti Beti line and all of that, but Juliana is remaining strong in having a women's specific community and kind of what are like, why does that make you happy to represent that? And what does that mean to you?
Alex: Yeah. You know, it's funny because like, if you… there's Juliana and there's Liv, are like the two big women's brands and both are great. And they serve a purpose of creating a community. I don't... Juliana is special to me because we don't change our bikes at all. Like a Juliana is a Santa Cruz with a different paint job. But tied to that different paint job is also a community of women that's run by women. You know, we work super closely with… we're a four person team at Juliana, technically, but obviously we're under the umbrella of Santa Cruz. So we worked super closely with all of the guys at Santa Cruz and they're all wonderful and they support us in every way. But we're a really small team and we take pride in the fact that we have our own brand, that we are separate from Santa Cruz, but we also take pride in the fact that we are not that much different than Santa Cruz. You know, like a guy can ride a Juliana or a girl can ride a Santa Cruz and we're not going to be upset if there's a chick on a Santa Cruz. That's fine. Of course I would love it if all women were on a Juliana, but they're harder to come across.
And so I just think that it's special to have our own brand because we do carry with us our own sense of community. And a lot of women aren't quite as comfortable, like showing up in an event maybe that like men and women are going to be at. I think that we do these things called ride outs with Juliana - except for this year, if there's ever gonna be one because of COVID - we show up with all of our demo bikes and, you know, we have 50 spots. We do yoga, we do breakfast, we go on a bike ride. It's women only, it's super comfortable, super non judgemental. It doesn't matter what your skill level is. It doesn't matter if you're a pro or if you've ridden once. And I think that that... it's kind of like what Roam Fest is doing, right? Like you're just creating this community for women by women and that's pretty special and Liv is doing a good job with that as well.
And, you know, I think that it's important to have brands like Juliana and Liv to remind women that if that's what they want, then that's... like, we're here. And if they don't care, then ride a Santa Cruz or a Giant or Transition or Yeti, you know, it doesn't matter. But I think it's just, it's cool to have that sense of community. And I think it makes some women feel a lot more comfortable stepping into a world that's really still dominated by men.
Lisa: Yeah. True that. I think Juliana does really fun events, you know, like they’re not cheesy. Yeah. They're really fun. I think they're super fun.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, we just like to ride bikes. We don't try to, none of our events are like really clinics. Of course, if you want some pointers, like we'll give them to you, but you know, they're just meant to be like a bike ride with your friends. Sort of like Roam Fest. It's just a big bike gathering with your friends.
Lisa: Absolutely. I think you're a great person to have at those events too. You know, who knows when you'll do another one, but.
Alex: Oh God. I hope soon.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: But I don't know. Maybe, maybe in October.
Lisa: Yeah. So where do you spend most of the year living?
Alex: I spend most of my year, I would say in Flagstaff, Arizona, but during normal times, if we were racing our bikes this year, I actually don't spend much of my summer at home. I usually am on the road from the end of April to the middle/end of September. And I would... like, last summer I would come home for, I'd be gone for six weeks and I'd come home for like four or five days. And then I would leave again. I spend a lot of time up in the Northwest, just because I have teammates up there and it's close to a bunch of races, so. But no, homebase is Flagstaff. And I spend a lot of... like, most of my winter here and when I'm not racing my bike, I'm at work in the emergency room here. So this is home base and this is where my family is. And, um, so yeah, Flagstaff, it's pretty rad spot.
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. That's cool. I like that the internet allows you the freedom to kind of, um, represent Juliana and then still, like continue doing that job, without relying on events.
Alex: Totally, totally. And you know, it's been, it's been tricky as I'm sure you guys know with what you do. I think that it's been hard trying to figure out how to produce content in a time where, like, we would usually have so much content coming in from traveling and racing and events. And now we don't have any of those things.
So it's actually like... at first I was like, Oh God, what are we going to do? But it's been a really fun process to figure out how to produce content during a time like this, where you're totally unsure of what the next thing that's going to happen is, or when your next next event is going to be. It's been fun. It's been a learning experience.
Lisa: Yeah. Big time. For the whole world.
Alex: Yeah, ain't that the truth. Maybe we’ll come out smarter.
Lisa: I hope so.
Alex: God, me too.
Lisa: I hope so. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to tell our audience of marketing managers and brand managers and photographers?
Alex: No, I think, I think maybe like one thing I would say is that I am in a position fortunately where I'm like surrounded by other rad women. And I'm surrounded by men that take into account our opinions - and by our, I mean, like, women's opinions. And I think that it would be super beneficial if just like everybody would do that. You know, like we are still super underrepresented in the cycling world in media, on social media, like pretty much everywhere.
Like yeah, it's getting way better for sure. And it's really cool like, you know, lots of brands are using women to like launch new product, which is rad. But I think we still have to do better at like reaching out to women and asking them, you know, what their opinions are and what they want to see and what marketing looks like to them. Because I know for certain that marketing for women is so drastically different than what marketing is to men, or like what men want to see on social media. So much different than what women want to see. Which has also been like something interesting for me to learn is like some things I post and I'm like, why didn't that do well? Like, I thought that was super cool, but I'm like really like a part of the industry. And so I think that sometimes even my views don't reflect the views of like our normal women riders that aren't professional athletes. So I've spent a lot of time reaching out to all sorts of women, like anybody that sends us a message on the Juliana Instagram. I try to respond to literally every message I get. And it's been a little overwhelming sometimes, but I've learned some really helpful things just like talking to a random 46 year old woman in Spain. Like, I don't know. So I think that's... I think that's something we could be at all think about is just, how do we market to women? It's not the same as marketing to men.
Lisa: It's not. It's not.
Alex: As you know.
Lisa: Yeah. That's part of the really fun thing about being a woman owned creative agency.
Lisa: Yeah. We have quite the diverse staff at the moment, but it's, it's fun. It's a really fun job.
Ales: It is. I love it. I like, I never would have ever like thought I would actually be doing this. Like, like I said before, like I don't really consider myself to like, be a super creative, digitally driven person. But I really like thinking about like the psychology of it all, the psychology of marketing is pretty interesting to me. ‘Cause it's scientific, so I'm into it. And it's just funny that I'm the one doing this. Well also I'm like, “I'm going to be a nurse.” And also a social media manager that really has no training, but I'm going to figure it out.
Lisa: Yup. I mean, you figure it out in the emergency room. So.
Alex: Right, right. Because you have a team, a team of people around you to help you, which luckily I have a team of people at Juliana and Santa Cruz to help me.
Lisa: Awesome. Cool. Well thank you for your time and for being awesome and positive and being you.
Alex: Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate it.
Iris: Thank you so much for being here, Alex. I can't wait to meet you in person someday, hopefully. And to all our listeners, please leave us a review if you haven't already, that helps us get out to more people. And you can find podcast, transcripts and show notes at wheeliecreative.com/podcast.
You can follow us on Instagram at @wheeliecreative, and you can find all of Alex's links in the show notes. So you can go follow her as well on Instagram. And with that, have a great rest of your week. And we'll see you next time. Bye.