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Topic: Podcast - January 31 2023
Episode 103. Changing the Game in the Pool with Zygo Founder, Sheera Goren

Sheera Goren is the co-founder of Zygo, the first submersible headset for swimmers that receives radio frequencies from a poolside FM transmitter which is paired with your smartphone - enabling athletes to listen to music underwater, receive coaching and of course listen to the VOICEINSPORT Podcast. Sheera graduated from UCLA with an undergraduate degree in Communications. She reminds young women that the degree you achieve is just one part of your story - and never limit yourself to go a different direction after graduation. We love the inspiring conversation of rolling with your mistakes, and using them as learning experiences. It’s never too late to start something new and as Sheer Goren shares with the VIS community “I think failing is not ever starting something.”

By: Kate Tugman

VIS Creator™

Topic: Podcast

January 31 2023

Voice In Sport
Episode 103. Sheera Goren
00:00 | 00:00


📍Stef " Why do you think women athletes will make great entrepreneurs?"

Oh man. How much longer do we have? For so many reasons. They're disciplined. They are dedicated. I think that they have a high emotional eq also. They have a drive to continue to get better, and I think a lot of female athletes also have like amazing balance of being confident and humble.

Where you know, you can do it or you, you know, that you can learn to do it while also knowing that there's more to learn always, and that perfect balance I think, especially for female athletes is so strong.

welcome to our founder series on the Voice and Sport podcast, where we're bringing more visibility to incredible women entrepreneurs in the sports industry. In this series, we highlight women athletes who started their own companies in sport and beyond. We will share their biggest tips for succeeding in the industry, their founder story, and just how these women built their incredible companies.

We hope this inspires you to build your own company or tap into your potential as a leader and build better products and services for women in sport. If you have any ideas on potential guests, we'd love to hear them. Please email us at info voice and  Today we're speaking with Shera Gorin, the co-founder of Zy Zygo and Underwater music streaming service and digital swim class instructor. Today Shera shares with us her experience with entrepreneurship. She explores the ups and downs of growing her business during the peak of Covid 19.

She explains the lessons she learned and the mistakes she made throughout this journey.

Sherra. Also encourages other young women to pursue entrepreneurship even if they hadn't considered that path yet. Or if it seems challeng.

Before we get started. If you love this podcast, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and check out our extended version of this episode on the Voice and Sport platform. So let's get started. Let's talk about first the why behind your company. So what is the mission of Zy Igo

So we are the only streaming option for swim. So anything else out there is an MP3 player, which I imagine anyone 23 or younger might not know what an MP3 player is as it's a relic of the pass of their parents might pull out of a box. But so that is like the very simple answer is that we're the only way that you can stream audio underwater.

Why should your music stop when you get to the edge of the pool or the start of a shoreline? You should be able to stream audio underwater the same way you do when you go on a run, when you go on a cycle when you're walking.

The same rules apply to swim and Z goes here to change that.

So what was the initial moment when you first thought of the concept? If you can take us back to that moment. When was it and how did it come about?

So unlike you, I was not a competitive swimmer. I played soccer in college and that was my sport. But the impetus for this was my co-founder and I, we wanted to do our first triathlon. And we knew how to run, probably could bike enough. And swimming was really that one last piece of the trifecta that was really intimidating.

And so at first we were just like, let's take a class, like a soul cycle of swimming where it's fun and we can learn some things. And nothing existed in the space. And so we kind of looked at each other and we were like, Maybe we should create a swim class. Like something we would want to take came from a very selfish desire to take a class that didn't exist and we knew the basic formulas of boutique fitness.

You know, you have your warmup, you have your mindset, and then you have like a cool down and maybe like a mindful moment at the end, and we're like, The playbook exists. Let's just apply it. The pool. And so we created a class and you know, we did it very do it yourself, diy. We didn't own our own pools.

We're like, we'll rent some pool time, we'll create , a swim class on class pass. And we're like, if no one comes or people come and they don't like it, then it doesn't exist for a reason and you know, we'll have to go do something else. And so, Very quickly. People were coming, they were signing up.

And the biggest piece of it was we had hacked a headset it was a bone conduction headset. We learned that not all splitters were created equal. It was like wires going everywhere. It was like kind of a bad science project. But everyone kept asking us to buy the technology and so I'm not an engineer, never did I think I would create a piece of hardware, but.

Was basically asking us for the solution to a problem that we didn't really know existed this large. And so we very quickly were like, Hmm, maybe the hardware is where the actual business is. So it happened in a very organic way over the course of like five to eight months of running these classes and haven't really looked back since.

So you started with something completely different andit led you to a product. Right. And I think that's what's so wonderful about entrepreneurship is the stories of just starting, like starting can be the whole. So at what point, I guess when you were thinking about starting this swim class,did you say, How am I gonna make money?

Is this gonna work? You know, or did you just kind of go all.

So it's interesting you say that because one, I think I always say that starting is like the biggest thing I can ever say. Like, just do it. If you end up realizing tomorrow it doesn't work great. So you lost one day or you gained all that experience it really is never. A fail at all. So just doing it for someone like me who's very planning it, can work foreign against you as an entrepreneur because there's no answers along the way.

And all I want is structure and people to tell me, things are gonna be okay. Or that making this decision leads to this. And so what I tried to do was set milestones. So we started. Beta testing these classes. And by beta testing, I mean, we were like in my parents' pool, trying to do stuff.

I'm imagining like an aerobics class here, or like, how do you make swimming laps fun? what was your concept,your first concept in your mom's pool?

I'll give you a, better image than my grandma in the pool. So because we were in LA we found actors that had swim back. So they were charismatic and good looking. And we had fun playlists. So the music was there and instead of just aerobics, it really was like you would do a warmup.

And then the sets were either like, you know, sprints back and forth or we had some like relay races, so it was like more like team oriented. And so you maybe sw. A thousand yards, which for someone like yourself who was a competitive swimmer, that's not a ton, but you did get a decent amount of yardage in.

But I think between the coach telling you you're doing a good job, you know, correcting form and then the fun playlist, it wasn't just like circuit training on the side, instead of, if you're familiar with Soul Cycle, instead of tap it back, we had lap it. So we really, we had a lot of fun with the puns there.

Yeah. And we ended with what we called a swim asana, like our mindful moment where you would lay back on the pool and there'd be some like, calming music. It was actually the best, but the business model did not work. But it was a really fun time.

but I guess that's kind of my point is that you don't always have the revenue coming in, like right when you start your idea. And I think that's an important part to talk about because you're not gonna be making money right away in most cases when you're starting a company from scratch. And especially if you're doing it by yourself or with a co-founder and no investment, you have to sort of like think about, okay, what's my length of time here where I'm gonna kind of do. Testing or MVPs where I know I'm not gonna make any money, versus going in with the mindset of like, Okay, from day one, I better be making money.

Totally. Totally. And I recognize that everyone has a different tolerance for how long they can be in that phase. But you know, we had about like six months to give. But our story is very much like we were just creating the class cuz we wanted it to exist and we thought it would be fun having no idea if the numbers would work or if it would be a viable.

Business. But again, like we spoke about, just getting started then very quickly led us to kind of what we're doing now because we were passionate about it because we felt like if it was a problem for us not being able to find it, without doing a ton of market research, probably a problem for other people.

And there's only one way to learn and it's to talk to people and it's to put the product out there and see if there's any sort of appetite for.

Okay. So you started doing these classes. I'm imagining all these like amazing actors, actresses,

in the pool with you, at your mom's house,


I guess at what point were you're like, Oh, we need a headset in order to make this class work. Was that where the headset came in because you wanted to talk to the people in the pool? where was like kind of the initial onset of that?

yeah. Cause our thinking of the class was like, We love SoulCycle. We love Barry's Bootcamp and yoga and boxing. But a big piece of that is because you have this like studio environment that's engulfing and you have this 45 minutes and you're transported to a different world. So we were like, how do we create that studio environment?

Underwater for all these people. Mind you, in a pool where like there's tons of other people. And so we tried above water speakers below water speakers, and very quickly we were like, none of that works. And so we went down a rabbit hole of trying to find any sort of headset that would work underwater and we ended up finding one from a small.

Factory in China. Like we were searching Google, Alibaba, like very resourceful, just trying anything. And this one headset came to us and, and it worked. I, it's not totally legal in the us which is why we couldn't just like continue to use it. That's maybe a side note, but again, you have to ask for like forgiveness, not permission at the beginning.

And so we launched with these headset. In our minds, they were totally janky, like wires were coming out of it. Like, I was like, People are gonna come. And they're like, What? Like, we're paying $30 to take a class and, you know, the, insides were exposed and so people came and they, they liked it. So for that purpose, it, it worked.

And the headsets were like the key factor for the classes to, to really run smoothly. But then also, The key component of what we were even offering at all.

So you mentioned it earlier, but you know, I'm gonna go date myself here, but back when I was. School in the nineties. I was this on swim team and I, I quite honestly was super bored cuz I was a soccer player, but I got injured so I had to go

swim and do something to get myself back into soccer shape. So I joined the swim team, super bored and I researched and I found these little kind of like almost your pod type headsets that I could wear underwater. But to your point, it was mp3, it wasn't

Right I enjoyed them, but they fell out all the time and people kind of looked at me funny.

Cause I mean, this is in the nineties,right, Like, I guess I was ahead of the

game here a little bit. I I totally had that problem when I was in high school. So, fast forward to now, you know, 2017, you guys are doing this class and trying to work through how you create this. Walk me through the iterations of the product when you finally said, The class not gonna happen.Like the class is not our business model.

The business model is the product.

Now take me through that journey, of developing that product and how you got it to your first one that you actually sold.

Yeah. Again, my cove or I are not engineers. So just putting that out there because I feel like, especially as a female, it's like you have to know everything or you have to be an engineer to build something. And it's not, you have to be resourceful. You have to know how to ask questions and just continue to have conversations that lead you to the right person.

So the first step was we took what we learned from. Those janky ones that we'd use for the classes. And we took it to an industrial designer who, so again, being naive and the big first mistake I ever made was like, I thought if we took it to an industrial designer who's more kind of like how products look, not how they work, I thought they would give us something.

The deliverable would. Here's the product and this is how it works and you're good to go get it made. Paid a lot of money for a design that had no mechanical engineering and no electrical engineering, and so, Lesson one was you can either build a product from the inside out, like how it works, and then make it look good.

Or you can have, I'm gonna make it look good. And then you give it to people that are like, Now you have to make it work within this form factor. But a massive lesson on my first hardware journey.

I love that

I'm just giggling because, you know, my husband's a designer,

so, you know, it's great if things look amazing, but if they don't function, you know, especially with what you're trying to do, it's not gonna, not gonna, be successful. Okay,

So mistake number one, then. What did you do?

So once we learned that we had nothing but a pretty design we took that and again, talking to people. So our ID group had connected us with someone who had used to work at Apple, who had mechanical engineering team that then we took the product to, and he also had an electrical engineer.

That had done work within radio frequency, which was the technology that we needed to work in. And so we had this distributed team that was global starting to work on it. And so from end of 2017 to 2020 was like basically three years. Development because hardware takes so much time. And then because I don't know that we could have picked a harder product to make because it's waterproof, it's audio, it's on someone's head.

So like sizing, just for so many reasons, it was a very complicated product. Also, the fact that like physics doesn't want any radio or audio waves to penetrate water. So we were trying to go against the laws of physics. So it took us. Three years to actually develop it until the point of September, 2020, we finally shipped our first product to our first customer.

So in the of, We shipped.

So during those three years walk me through a little bit of what you decided in terms of how you funded your company and why you chose to have a co-founder. Two very important decisions, especially when you're in this space of research and product development that takes years and years. And you know, you have to create molds at factories and it can get. Pricey.

Um, so what decisions and how did you make those decisions along the way and I guess in the end, you obviously decided to find a co-founder. But what about the funding options?

Yeah, so my co-founder and I actually went to high school together but we spent 10 years apart, like our own collegiate, post collegiate journey and reconnected. At a mutual friend's wedding over our shared love of boutique fitness and also wanting to get into swim. So again, that for me kind of happened very organically.

I think companies can be built in a lot of different ways. I cherish having a co-founder even though he lives in London right now, so we're not even together all the time. But just having someone else along the journey, I think was important to me. And even if you don't have a co-founder having someone in your world cause also you think differently when someone else is around or has a different point of view, which I think is important.

and it can be lonely, like being an entrepreneur, especially when you're, again, developing something that takes time. It can be super

Yeah. And it can be lonely even having a co-founder. Like it's a journey for sure. And so then in terms of fundraising, again, never having fundraised for any company and then again for hardware, which is capital intensive. At the beginning we were. Pitching first of all, anyone that would talk to us, but we exhausted our network in LA mostly.

And so we were taking checks as small as like $5,000. For us, it was more important to have people that we really trusted and loved in our corner and on our team. It wasn't just about finding the biggest check. And also at the beginning we just couldn't find any big checks. So we were very hand to mouth for the.

Three years. We pitched venture capitals or VCs. Early stage hardware is a very, very tough sell, but even though we got a hundred percent nos, like we don't have a single institutional capital in our investment group, but it taught me so much about how to pitch my company.

It made me more confident in what I'm pitching for all the nos and all the question marks around market size and hardware and all the things that they all loved to say. It was probably the best experience I could have had cuz I think it really sharpens how you talk about your company and your why, because it's questioned every single time you talk to someone. And so it just becomes part of who you are by getting all of those nos along the way.

And how do you stay confident when you get those nos? You can relate it back to sport a little bit, right? Like when you fail or when you don't do well in a competition and get back up. Entrepreneurship and raising money can kind of be in a similar vain. So how do you maintain confidence? Especially if you really believe in your idea, but you don't actually have a product

So even yourself, you're questioning a little bit, Is this think we're all, as entrepreneurs sort of have this, is it

gonna work moment?

I'm still thinking that every day it's highs and lows. Yeah, I mean, I'm a human, so like some days were tougher than others and then you know, it's also very easy to get excited about a potential partner and kind of see what that looks like. For me, my biggest saving grace was.

Staying as close to the product as possible. Cuz anytime we were able to kind of test the product or I would use it I would have these moments in the pool of like no one before us has ever streamed audio underwater, even if this goes nowhere, that is such a cool thing that I built something that didn't exist before.

Or even if it's not totally novel. Just the fact that you've built something and you can experience it if it's a product or a service. And then also I think that's why. I always encourage people to talk to people. I think people hold ideas and things so close to their chest, like someone's gonna steal it.

It's like, you know how hard it is to build a company. Like no one's taking your idea. But I think when I continue to talk to people for my own experience, people would be like, Oh my God, that's such a great idea. Or like, Oh yeah my dad's been talking about like wanting to stream music and like when you get reinforcement from outside cuz you put so much weight.

On getting a check, as if that means you're successful when I know a lot of companies have got a lot of checks and they're not in existence today. So I think it's trying to find other ways of getting positive reinforcement and not just focusing on. The actual dollar coming in, which again, easier said than done.

Also, there's a reality of needing money to build a company. But I think those two things helped me stay sane for the past five years.

Okay. Well let's talk about the funding mechanisms that you did. So walk us through, did you start with an angel? Did you start with a friends and family round? What did you use as your mechanism for

First money in was from family and friends. And we used a safe document. Which is now I think, pretty widely used for startups and it's very founder friendly and it's very simple. Even though I was a lawyer in my past life, like the benefit of it is that you don't have to pay a ton of legal fees around it.

Pretty much, once you have the template, you can send it out yourself. Pretty easy to manage. And because it's friendly to the founders you know, and the most of the money coming in kind of are in your corner no matter what. So once we had friends and family in our network, we blasted out.

Like even if they're not an investor just connecting us with anyone who knows Angel investors and starting to talk to them, we had this massive spreadsheet. Looking at Crunch Base, you can see people that invested in similarly situated companies. We'd be like, Okay, who invested in Peloton? Who invested in Tonal?

And then just the amount of cold outreach I'm sure that my scent folder has a ton of no responses from people. But it really was just blasting everything because we ended. Finding a couple family offices who wrote the biggest checks for us. And all of those came from networking and random groups or asking someone to connect us to someone who then led us to the next person.

And so again, that stretched my comfortability just talking about it all the time. But so it's all been on a safe. And it extends from family, friends, small angels and family offices. So no venture capital yet.

Well, that's amazing. And if there's anybody listening out there, a great safe note to use is the y. One. Easy to download, easy to just use and get going like you mentioned. Okay, so let's fast forward, well kind of going back a couple years, but 2020 when you launched your first product. Walk us through the last two years, so from your first product that you launched that you sold to launching your website and then starting to create some content. Around, The actual product, what has happened in the last two years because it's also not easy to start a company in the middle of a pandemic. You and I have

that in common. Um, sure. Glass of Wine at

yeah. Huh?

Yeah. I don't know if we get a medal at the end of this road, but that feels like we should


I feel like .Can we get one right now?

Wow. The past two years have been a whirlwind. I mean, we are all direct to consumers, so from that perspective, during Covid you know, of course. Air freight and shipping times, like everyone is affected in some ways. But the fact that we were able to get product out our first year, so the 2021, we were sold out of inventory the entire year.

Like we would get some from our factory and we already had presales, so we would be sending them out. But again, as you put a product out there, like we did as much testing as we can, but inevitably until the field and people are using. You don't know exactly how your product is gonna work or fail or what issues are gonna come up.

And surprising things came up that we couldn't necessarily foresee. For instance, our headset is one size fits most. It wasn't adjustable. Again, a learning. When we were designing it, our designers designed it adjustable and our mechanical and electrical people were. No , like can't do that. And so when it was getting stretched in a certain way, part of the antenna was breaking on the headset.

And so we had a lot of issues like that. So we actually had to kind of pause production to make a tooling change for four months, and that four months lined up with basically like may. Of 2021 to September. So our first year in sales where we're supposed to hit summer, where it's like, you know, everyone's swimming and everyone's outside.

We were not shipping units, so it was a very painful time. We had no control over moving faster because we just wanted the product to be better. But that was a very low point in the past four years for sure.

Yeah, that's never fun when you have to pretty much stop production, go back to your drawing board, change tooling. I mean and those of you who don't know what tooling is, I mean that can be very, very expensive to change

at your factory, especially when you're a young company and

you're so small, right? Your units are not gonna amortize across a large. So I can understand that to be really painful. So how did you get through that moment and what advice would you have to other young entrepreneurs who might have that moment of failure, which happens

to us all?

Yeah, one, it's just tough. So I think accepting that it's hard. And two, I think the benefit for us in that period was that we still had a lot of people reaching out to us because they were like I wanna buy it. They're like, Okay, whenever it's ready, I'll buy it in September.

Again, it's kind of staying close to the customers who do love it and realizing you're doing this because it's gonna benefit the product, benefit the customer experience. And because it happened where we already had about eight months, nine months of sales, we had customers using the product. And so we were hearing positive along with what this felt like of just the black hole of negative and then two, And you kind of alluded to it, we have an app of guided content similar to the Peloton audio experience which is optional.

It's not mandatory, but we really took those four months to focus on content. Again, like kind of control your controllables. I'm not in the factory. I can't make the tool go faster, but we can start building out our content. We have control over that. We can find maybe new instructors, especially during covid.

Different sorts of people had time also and they were home. And you can record content wherever you are. And so we took those four or five months to find some really excellent instructors who are producing content for us now on our app. So it felt like we were also progressing on that side, even if the hardware was completely stalled.

Okay. So then you came out with essentially your second

version of the product, and how has that been performing in the market so far? And are you seeing yourselves mostly in the US or is it global sales that are also happening?

We've been doing really well and we have some really exciting new products coming out in terms of, we have a large coming out, which is gonna be a massive help for us. We call them our big brain customers, but there are a decent amount of swimmers with some large, large brains. .

Some big heads

You said it. And we're also introducing metric tracking, which we think will help make the app really sticky so that after your workout you kind of get that like, you know, hey staff, you just swam the length of the English channel, or things like that that you can gamify it and make it more fun.

At the beginning we were shipping anywhere. We realized, again very quickly as a small company shipping internationally. It's great to see that so many people swim. It is very difficult from a customer service perspective to offer the high level of customer service that we want to offer, and so we've slowly backtracked and they're now just focusing on the US just because it's hardware.

Inevitably, if something goes wrong, it's very easy for us to be like, Hey, send it back to us or send it to our engineers. We can fix it. We can send it back to you. When we were having people in like Australia or Japan, it just became. Not a great experience for them. We don't like being in a position that we can't help cuz like customer service is our thing.

Like I'm not an engineer, can't make the product, but I can assure you that you're being responded to and handheld. And so the international thing hopefully will be able to grow somewhat organically in terms of our presence internationally. But the cool thing is we get people who travel with their units and.

All over which is fun for us to see. And we do have a list of people international, but right now just us.

Well, I love that you also you're not afraid to say, Oh we made that move, and now we're gonna backtrack a little bit. And again that's sort of the name of the game when you're an entrepreneur is not to like, take every decision too hard, not to be too hard on yourself either, Right?

it's an iterative process. Even after you launch a product, you still have to think, iterate, iterate, iterate, especially when you're doing something

new, like what you're. Doesn't exist. Right. It's so interesting the word failure, right? Because as an athlete and you fail all the time, right?

And I remember this distinct moment when I was at Nike once and I was leading a group that was more like a startup and I was talking about failure and how we all need to get behind this word and accept it and celebrate failures. And um, but there was so much stress behind the word. We struggled even at Nike to believe that it's okay to fail. And so I think this is a really interesting concept for us to talk about as entrepreneurs, but also as women athletes. Like how do you think about failure across. What you're doing now and, did being an athlete when you were growing up being a soccer player, I know you

played two years at Michigan.

That help you sort of face the challenges that you're facing now as an entrepreneur?

Yeah, it's a really good question and it's funny because when you said failure and iterating like my nickname when I was playing, so like they would call me li which stood for l I let it go because I'm still thinking about the bad pass I made in 1994. , like I cannot. Cannot let it go. Like, it's just like, it's in my dna.

Like I make one bad pass that whole game. Like,

Oh, this is good.

it was my screen name. I don't know if anyone younger than me knows what a screen name is, but it was my thing, . So letting things go, we're making a mistake and just like moving on is really tough and it's really tough to not personalize.

But I think also especially for women, and especially for female athletes, what makes you so good is because you recognize that that maybe wasn't perfect or it was a mistake, and then you don't make it again, and you learn and you keep growing and you practice. And so I think in those moments, like there's been so many failures, like I've learned so much in the past.

Five years, and I won't make those same mistakes again. But I'm not fooling anyone. I still think about them , they don't just go away. I can't just forget anything. And as a total aside, I just took up golf and I'm like throwing my clubs. I can't let anything go. And it's like now just putting everything in perspective as an adult, not letting things go.

So I'm a work in progress too, with the whole concept of failing. I think within entrepreneurialism, failures really are the biggest lessons. Like you really do learn so much when you make a mistake that I'm almost scared of, when I don't, because I don't know if I've even learned what I did right.

So much as like I. I didn't like falter in any way. And so especially when you start something you really should celebrate those moments, even just after the fact because it's like one more thing that you know, and it's one more thing you won't ever, duplicate that same mistake.

I love that you're so honest about this I can't remember which book I was reading about Failures when I was trying to lead this group at Nike. Cause it was a new division. It was all entrepreneurial, direct to consumer, speed to market group at Nike. And so I created these failure awards to celebrate the failures and it like destroyed some people, they were so Upset about it and I took a step back as a leader and realized, Wow, okay, I gotta remember where am I right now? Right. I am in a machine that's not used to failing, that doesn't like

to celebrate failures.

And it's such, so interesting because that, that concept is so important as an

entrepreneur. Like you said, you have to be okay with, with messing up

yeah. Right. And, I guess that's the word, right? You're messing up or it's a mistake it's on a failure. And even if like, it would be tough, So like the emotional aspect aside, if this ended tomorrow because of whatever reasons, like everyone was like swimming. No one swims anymore.

The amount that I learned is still like that journey of like me being able to do what I've been doing over the past five years of building. This is still in and of itself. I don't have that perspective all the time, but it is a success story regardless of it I started something, I built something, other people have used it in the world who, not just my mom like that is all like a good story. To tell nothing about it is failing. When you start something, I think failing is not ever starting something.

Yeah, I totally agree. And that's what I wanna hit on a little bit. I've heard you say kind of your three key things to. Think about when you're starting a new business, cuz it can be intimidating. So when you're starting a new business with completely new set of ideas that you're working through I've heard you say this before, but I wanna you to share this with the community.

What would you say are those three steps you should take if you do in fact have an idea?

Start like I think we discussed that. I think you just really have to Put the first action, step forward, whatever that looks like. I guess I spoke about this too. Talk to people about it. Everyone and anyone, again, like we said, no one is going to steal your idea, just takes too much time, and work. And I think the last thing I would say is just staying really close to your why and your product, because I think it helps you through those dark days no matter what.

Absolutely. Yeah, that's like, I love that last one because the more you're focused on who it is you're trying to serve the better your product

or your service will be and the further and further you get away from that. That's like why, when companies get bigger and bigger, it's harder sometimes for them to innovate because they're not in that constant contact with the consumer, with the user, um, or with the group that they're trying to inspire

someone said this to me who recently just sold his company. It really resonated because staying close to the consumer, the person, whoever's using your service, your product is really important. But also having the wherewithal to separate out anecdotes from data, which was like a big thing because everyone's gonna have an opinion, everyone has a thought on how you can make something better or different.

But like is it a personal preference or is it like you should pay attention to it because it's a lot of people talking about it and it becomes significant. It's really easy to hear one opinion and be like, We should change this. And then another thing is like, we should change this. And you're kind all over the place.

So trying to also, take everything in but then really analyze it from an objective perspective on how that should actually impact what you do.

So what is the future of your company look like now that you have gone through, you know, one, you launched in Covid two, you've gone through a couple bumps. Um, now the sky's the limit. I feel like you're working on content, you're considering bringing in new measurements for your athletes, which is really cool.

Kind of gets you in the field of like garment. Like all those brands that are tracking stats for athletes. So when you think about the future in the next five years, where do you see your

Yeah, thank you for allowing me to dream a little bit. Our zy igo world that we really think about is like, again, if. Pre SoulCycle, Pre Peloton, maybe , the audience might only know a world in which those exist, but before those existed spinning was niche and it was not as big of a market.

And now it's ubiquitous and everyone's probably done a spin class and it's a widely accepted form of workout. We really feel like swimming hasn't had its moment where it's not intimidating and monotonous, and we want it to be community driven. And engaging. And so our wish is just that people incorporate swim into their fitness or just into their life or like, you know, maybe you run one day a week and you cycle one day a week and you swim because you know it's good for you.

It's easy on your joints and it's fun because. You have one of our , 30 minute hit workouts going, or you're playing your favorite podcast or listening to an audio book. And then swimming really is in your whole fitness journey where your metrics kind of go in and you have all these options for run bike and now swimming is just as easy and approachable as any of those other sports.

Like you don't have to be an Olympian. To be a swimmer. We see it as like every body is a swimmer's body, and as long as you won't drown, you're a swimmer. Like that's our cutoff. So that's the world that we wanna be playing in.

I love it. Well, it's funny because I love that you said that you want everybody to swim and you want it to be fun because I feel like the, and you want it to be fun, is a big part of what you're solving

with your product. I almost like dread going to swim cause I'm just like, Oh, to be so boring. But if I couldlisten to the Voice and SportExactly. know,then I would do it.I would do it a lot more. Or the audio books or whatever. So I love that. I love what you're doing. Let's talk about the role of the athlete in your company. Are you guys currently sponsoring athletes? We have a lot of incredible athletes at voice and sport. How do they get involved and, and what have you done so far?

We have done some outreach to some swimmers. First of all, we'd love to talk to anyone, anyone who's, you know, a swimmer now, wants to be a swimmer, whatever level. As a small startup also starting to engage with athletes. Like it just has not been in our budget to be able to fully sponsor. We've done some product trades, so like having swimmers use it.

Swimming's been an interesting one. I think that more and more athletes are starting to get like agents and sponsored and more professionalized in a lot of ways and. Whereas before, they might have just kind of worked with a smaller brand on the side. Now we've talked with some agents of swimmers and it hasn't been the right time.

But we are still looking for kind of our modern day swimmer that gets it from a serious swimmer perspective. And then also sometimes swimming doesn't have to be a competition and it can just be. You know, for the training days, for the fun days. So that's all to say we've dabbled and we're always willing to have a conversation but haven't really found our face, if you will.

Amazing. Well, we

can help with that at Vis. There's a lot of amazing swimmers that I'm sure would love to get involved. Um, maybe we could work in something

fun with the Voices Sport Podcast,

for sure.

That would be a pretty

cool partnership actually. Thinking about how you deliver content differently in in a meaningful way.

I think one of the biggest things with swimmers too is body image and confidence. And at this, we are creating our platform and community to have conversations around these things, um, so that young girls feel more confident about their body. And swimming is one of those sports in which your front and center is your body. I do think that the role of the athlete could be really powerful in your company. And maybe we

no, I'd love it. And, and on that note, I, as a female was so sensitive to, especially when running the classes, making everyone feel. Comfortable. And I don't say that cuz I'm an amazing person. I say that because I'm self-conscious because if I was showing up to the pool, like this is how I would feel.

So understanding it from my own perspective. But the interesting thing that, again, you see so many things like not what you were anticipating is that once you're in the water, it's a total equalizer, right? Like you're not. On a bike in public, or you're not running outside, once you're in the water everyone's equal.

You can't really see anything underwater. And so the amount of diversity of people and bodies we got in the pool. And because swimming is so technical, so we had people show up with the six pack and they couldn't make one lap, right? Like it's not just.

That it's also just about knowing how to swim in the form that I do feel like swimming has this power to also allow people to be confident when they're just underwater. Which I guess is our aspiration for the company and swimming in general.

It's so interesting too to think about. I know that one of the reasons why I love swimming is just like

how it makes you feel afterwards. You know? You just feel like your body just feels so incredible and every time it's like the struggle to get in

the pool. Is like hard and I'm talking hard, right? And then it's like you get out and I'm like

the best feeling ever. How do you create sort of that like momentum where you can get that first part

to be a little less of a struggle? Because that will help you guys so much as a company to get the more people swimming. So that is, an interesting component, at least for me,

uh, to get

But if you had a new

how do you then

think about

a VIS podcast that you wanted to listen to, you'd be like, Okay, great. It's 45 minutes. I know I can get, I can get through this podcast. It's gonna be fun. And then you're not focusing on like the actual activity of swimming. You're like, I'm gonna do this. And to us it's like we have seen people be like, I used to dread going to the pool, and now I'm on my sixth audio book because I can't stop.

I just wanna keep listening. So I think it's focusing on like how it can be just a good experience or fun experience. But yeah, I mean also sometimes showing up for workout is hard and it's always gonna be hard to some extent. So we can't solve all of it.

I guess you can't, I can't,

of everything, but you're solving a really big part. Ok. Well, let's talk about, as we kind of wrap, just like your biggest learnings, I guess, and lessons from the experience so far of founding your own company. What would those, biggest learnings be so far?

I think my biggest, just macro general is that you don't have to be an expert within whatever you're doing to start. The company or the product, you could almost know none of it, but you know that there's a need for it or you know that someone would use it or you would use it. Again, I come to this company, not a swimmer, not an engineer, never having found a hardware company.

And yet that's exactly what I'm doing. And so I think that's my learning is like any self-doubt that I had is that you really. Don't need to know cuz you can learn and there's other people that you can hire that know things that you don't.

That's right. And just to confirm that Shera has an undergraduate in communication studies and went to UCLA for

So nothing to do with,Right. So

that totally matches with what you're doing right now. I just wanna point that. Underwater. There you go. So, totally relatable.

I'm sure you were

thinking about that in your undergraduate class. I always like to point that out though, cuz we have a lot of incredible interns at biz and, it is not totally irrelevant what you study, but in a way it, it is like you're going through a part of your life and you're, learning things and then when you finish and graduate, it's like the sky is the limit.

You decide what you wanna and don't put yourself in a box because of your degree, uh, or don't think that you can't change it

Totally. I also,

a big thing for me is always like, I think the focus is so much on what you wanna do. Like you have to pick a career and I'm like, maybe take a step back and, Cause that feels daunting a lot of times. It's like, okay, so what kind of people do you like working with? Or like, do you want a job where you're active all day or do you wanna be in meetings all day?

Or like the little things of how you like spending your days and then starting to kind of have that lead you, because at the end of the day, you're not gonna necessarily know exactly what you wanna be. But I think there should be a lot of emphasis on how you wanna spend your time. Cause you're working, that's gonna be the majority of your time.

And not to put so much pressure on be choosing that industry.

That's right. That's such good advice. Okay. Well what is, um, a myth or misconception about entrepreneurship that you would like to shatter?

I go back and forth on whether it's a myth being entrepreneur right now is kind of glamorous or like, it's like a cool buzzword. It, I don't know if it's a myth that it's hard. I mean, it is hard if that, if that was a myth it shouldn't be a myth, but, It or if it's a myth that it's hard, it's also really enjoyable.

So whichever one is a myth for whoever's listening I wouldn't trade it for anything. It is like a crash course in business school. And I think that no matter what happens, the process and journey of it is totally worth it regardless of the result.

. What are three words that describe building a business as an entrepreneur?

Challenging, rewarding,

and fun.

I wish I would get asked this sometimes as an entrepreneur, you know, like obviously you do your marketing and you have your website and you've done your 📍 product but sometimes you step back and you're like, Okay, what is one thing that you wish everybody knew about your company?

I think a lot of people who engage with us know this, but I would want everyone to know how much we care about every single person's. Experience like we are our own customers. And so every single person that uses it, there is nothing more rewarding than getting a positive email about someone having a good experience.

So I think from that perspective we're not in it just to build and sell a company. It really is for that individual who's single swim in a random city in the US has been benefited by their use of their zy.

This week's episode was produced and edited by Kate Tugman, a cross country and track runner for ucla. Sheira inspires all young women to pursue anything their heart desires, especially when society tells them that they're not capable of doing it. We're so thankful that we had this conversation with Shera today to learn all about her incredible journey building Zy Igo.

We can't wait to see what the future holds, and we encourage all of you to check out her product and especially the next time you go swimming. Please listen to the Voice and Sport podcast . You can follow along with Shera in Zy Igo at Zy Igo Graham on I. Please subscribe to the Voice and Sport Podcast.

Give us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and send this episode using the share button on voice and sport to a friend that you think might enjoy the conversation.

If you're interested in other inspiring founder stories, check out episode number 1 0 2 with Sports Bra founder Jenny Wynn, or episode number 1 0 1 with Reley founder Jordan Robbins. You can head to the feed on voice and sport and filter by podcast to hear all the extended versions.

If you're interested in how athletics can help you prepare for business, take a look at one of our incredible articles about five women who started as student athletes and then became CEOs.

Thanks for tuning in and see you next week on The Voice and Sport Podcast.