As a nine-time marathon runner, Carrie Sporer was seriously over having to wash and blow dry her hair after every sweat session.
As a fashion industry consultant, she’s well versed in bringing problem-solvers to market.
That’s how she invented her own.
SWAIR Showerless Shampoo cleans hair–something dry shampoo doesn’t actually do–without the shower, making it easier and faster for busy women like herself to get out of the gym and into the office.
“We should not have to plan workouts around washing our hair,” Carrie told Bare Necessities. Find out how this month’s Power Figure goes the distance, one step at a time.
Q: So tell us about Carrie.
A: I grew up in a “normal” nuclear family in the 1980s with my parents and older sister in Edison, NJ, which is coincidentally the corporate headquarters for Bare Necessities. There was a lot of emphasis on education and leadership in our house. My mom in particular demanded excellence and pushed us to get good grades. It was her dream for me to go to an Ivy League school, and when I was in the throes of the SATs and the college application process, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. I focused all of my energy on getting into the University of Pennsylvania because I knew it would make her proud, and I did it. Luckily, the cancer went away after months of extensive treatment and years of follow-up surgeries, and now she’s more than 20 years cancer-free.
Q: How did you get to where you are now, running your own consulting firm and launching SWAIR?
A: After graduating with majors in Economics and Communication, I started my career as an assistant in the international division for Kenneth Cole. I would see the corporate sales team meeting with buyers, discussing marketing plans, and traveling to stores, and I knew that was what I wanted to do next. I found an opportunity at Judith Leiber. It was a really strange time in the industry; all communication went digital almost overnight, and they were looking for tech-savvy people to add to the team. I was able to move up the ranks quickly, going from sales assistant to director in a few years.
I thought I would be there for my entire life, but after a change in ownership, I decided to pursue an opportunity at Edie Parker: I was the second employee at that company, which really pushed me to flex my entrepreneurial muscles. I had to set up the infrastructure that allowed the brand to scale, and I became involved in most aspects of the business. Being forced out of my comfort zone gave me the confidence to set up CS Consulting when the timing was right. I knew the basic ins and outs of how to run an accessories brand and was excited to work with more start-ups.
Many people would ask me why I didn’t want to start my own brand since I had the know-how, but working so closely with founders, I knew the high-highs and low-lows of owning a brand that makes tangible products. I realized I would have to find something I was incredibly passionate about to take that leap, and when I thought of the idea for SWAIR with my co-founder, Meredith Krill, it wasn’t a question of if I would do it but when.
Q: How did you get so into fitness, and how do you make time for it?
A: Growing up, I was never very athletic but I always loved to exercise. I remember doing my mom’s Jane Fonda videos in the den as a child. In middle and high school, I found my outlet in cheerleading but couldn’t finish a quarter-mile lap around the track without walking (please keep in mind we were more like the cheerleaders in Grease than on ESPN).
In college, I got certified to teach group fitness classes at the gym, but it wasn’t until after graduation that I started running. My roommate would jog in Central Park before work, and I was so impressed by that. I started running on a treadmill and challenged myself to go .1 mile, then .2, and slowly built up until I could comfortably run a few miles, then eventually marathons, legitimately a tenth of a mile at a time.
Now working out is a part of my daily routine, and I’ve found that the best way to stay consistent is to make it the first thing I do every day. I’m out the door by 6 AM to make it happen, but having that “me time” makes me a better mom, wife, friend and worker during the day. I have also become pretty attuned to my body and know when I need to take a day off without guilt. Rest and repair are as essential as sweating it out.
Q: How did SWAIR go from idea to tangible product? What hurdles did you have to clear?
A: SWAIR came one hundred percent from personal need. I met my co-founder in 2007 when we were training for the New York City Marathon, and we always complained about how long it took to wash and dry our hair after every sweaty run. We tried dozens of dry shampoos and quick-dry products but never found the miracle in a bottle we were looking for. Meanwhile, in my career, l was working with founders and learning more about how to run a business. Late in 2019, I decided to combine this personal problem with my professional skillset, and Meredith and I set out to create the dream product that was missing from our post-workout routines.
“Launching a brand during a pandemic was definitely not in the business plan”
Launching a brand during a pandemic was definitely not in the business plan. Luckily, we had selected a lab and finalized the formula just before shutdown, but most of our work to bring SWAIR to life was done during Covid-19. Launch was delayed because the lab was working at lower capacity for social distancing. Packaging was delayed because our suppliers were overwhelmed with orders for sanitizers. There were some silver linings, though: We were able to hire some amazing creative consultants that would have been out of budget any other time, and we used the extra time to fine tune our social media strategy and improve our website.
Q: How did you learn how to lead, to follow your gut instincts, to strike out on your own?
A: I came from a family that nurtured my independence and taught me to have high expectations of myself. It was instilled in me that the question you ask yourself is not “can I do this?” but “how will I do this?” You also have to accept that your idea might not work, and that’s okay. If you frame failure as an opportunity to reset rather than the end, it becomes a lot less scary.
“If you frame failure as an opportunity to reset rather than the end, it becomes a lot less scary”
Q: What’s a typical day like?
A: As you know, we’re living in unusual times, and while I tend to thrive when I have a solid routine, I have had to learn to be much more flexible. In general, though, I like to start my day with a short meditation and then some form of a workout. I usually sneak out when everyone is still asleep, then come back to a crazy scene with my two young boys running around.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have a lot of help; my husband is super hands-on, and we have a nanny with us for a majority of the boys’ waking weekday hours. We divide the school drop offs unless it’s a virtual day, then I head to a private workspace I rented so that I can be productive and safe during the pandemic. We live in an apartment, so working from home and actually working is not a thing.
The bulk of my day is spent emailing, muting and unmuting myself on Zoom, and making calls. I come home in time to have dinner and hang out with the boys, and I’m getting better at leaving my phone in another room so that I can give them my undivided attention until they’re in bed. Then there’s usually some life admin to take care of, hopefully a little wine and QT with my husband and, if everything has gone right, my head hits the pillow before 10 PM.
Q: What challenges did you have to overcome in business?
A: In my professional life, I was always referred to as a “girl” or my colleagues as “the girls.” It didn’t bother me straight out of college, but it’s still happening and, now that I’m almost forty, it drives me crazy. That I am often the shortest person in the room doesn’t help. At first, I used to think it was because the person didn’t respect me or my authority. Now I assume that the person refusing to refer to me as a “woman” or “founder” is subconsciously asserting their own position. I’ve never called anyone out, but it lights a fire in me to show them the badass they’re really dealing with.
Q: What drives you?
A: Professionally, believing in my product drives me. It has been hard to remain optimistic and dialed-in during Covid, but I’m so proud of creating SWAIR and confident that it’s a game-changer for giving women back time in their days. Personally, my kids drive me. They’re at exhausting, beautiful ages where they have so many questions about the world, and I want to make it a better place for them to grow up in.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: This year, I’m trying to grow brand recognition for SWAIR so that we become better known in the fitness and beauty communities. We’ll also be launching new time-saving products to complement our Showerless Shampoo.
Q: What do you want women to know who are coming up behind you?
A: I think it’s an incredible time to be entering the workforce. Many employers are more flexible with work/life balance, and employees are expected to have the skillsets of digital natives, all of which benefits young women. Having said that, I still think women need to be reminded that it is always okay to negotiate, whether it is for more pay, more vacation time or more flexibility. You will never get it if you don’t ask for it.
Oh, and don’t let anyone call you “girl.”
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CARRIE
Best sports bra: The Brooks Dare Scoopback High Impact Wire-Free Sports Bra is amazing. I’m a huge fan of Brooks running gear in general, and this bra prevents the dreaded uni-boob.
Favorite workout: Heather Roberston’s free workout videos on YouTube got me through quarantine.
Personal mantra: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I stole it from Winston Churchill.
Best way to de-stress: Group hug with my boys and husband.
Top trait: I don’t sweat the small stuff.
Coolest trip: Botswana.
Superpower you wish you had: The ability to slow down time.
Greatest compliment: “You’re brave.”
Kindest thing you’ve ever done: I’m five feet tall, and I offered to trade my aisle seat on a long hour flight with a very tall gentleman uncomfortably sitting in the middle.
Biggest risk: Leaving my 9-to-5 to start two businesses.
Bad habit: Mindlessly scrolling Instagram.
Most useful emoji: The shrug.
Current obsession: Bridgerton and 1,000 piece puzzles.
Happy place: Central Park.
Comfort food: Mac and cheese. Kraft, not the fancy stuff.
Now reading: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
In a word, I am: Growing.