=PR= Owner Spotlight: Cathy Pugsley

In honor of International Women's Day, we are spotlighting Cathy Pugsley, co-owner of =PR= Run & Walk. Cathy has an impressive background. Her running resume includes running track and cross country in high school at Langley High School and in college at Duke and William & Mary. She also ran post-collegiately with the Reebok Enclave group. Before becoming a female business owner, she worked as a consultant for 10 years. 21 years ago, she made the jump from consulting to starting a business. Cathy, her husband, brother-in-law, and sister started =PR= Run & Walk with one location in Ashburn. Today, =PR= Run & Walk has 9 locations in northern Virginia and 1 in Richmond. In addition to her business and running success, Cathy is also a mom to two daughters. Cathy is a great female role model to all =PR= employees, women runners, and female entrepreneurs. We caught up with Cathy to learn more about her background and what it's like being a female business owner. 

1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself growing up.

I spent my early years in the midwest and moved to Virginia when I was 8. We lived in Great Falls before the mansions, and initially had to drive to Sterling or McLean for groceries. I started in youth sports playing basketball and soccer, and fully intended to do those sports in high school at Langley. I started cross country to “get in shape” for basketball and found myself on the best team in the state, with a big group of freshman girls including teammate who would eventually win two national titles. I quickly realized I was better at running than ball sports. Fast forward to college, where I started out running cross country and track att Duke and then transferred to William & Mary, where I stayed through graduate school to use my fifth year of eligiblity and get a another degree. I have a master’s in Public Policy — I use the policy part never, but the economics a lot. After college, I ran for the Reebok Enclave, one of the first post-collegiate training groups in the US, which is where I met Ray.

2. Did you have any female role models or female figures that inspired you growing up?

When I got into running, I started reading Runner’s World and idolized Joan Benoit (Samuelson). As a government/public policy student, I also admired Sandra Day O’Conner and Margaret Thatcher. And, though it sounds cliche, my Mom somehow raised 5 kids (I’m the oldest) and she gave me a role model every day.

3. Tell us about starting a business! Did you always want to own your own business? What made you decide to start a run/walk speciality store?

I honestly didn’t think about owning my own business until I was nearly 10 years into my career as a management/strategy consultant. While I liked my job and had career success, I couldn’t see it being what I did for the rest of my life. I really wanted something that would let me have a direct impact on people that I could see (maybe writing a report could do that, but I didn’t see the outcome!) At that point, my brother-in-law, Brendan, (who worked at the same firm and felt the same way) and I started brainstorming what could we do on our own. Ray and I and my sister, Margie, and Brendan all had sports backgrounds and 3 of us had grown up in Northern Virginia - we had a passion for athletics and lots of local connections and loyalty. We considered youth camps and programs but ultimately hit on run specialty. At the time, there were very few stores in the Virginia suburbs and we thought there was a gap in the market. We started our business plan on a cross country flight back from a client meeting in California!

4. What is your favorite part about being a female business owner?

It’s been exciting to watch our industry change and evolve. When we started out, I was often the only female in the room in meetings with other store owners and brand leadership. Now women sometimes outnumber the men, and there are initiatives to develop female retail owners, enable women to meet and work together, and more. More personally, I enjoy bossing Ray around (even though we are partners) :)

5. Any advice for females looking to start their own business?

I would advise anyone seeking to start their own business to do their research, go through the exercise of developing a complete business plan, and make sure you seek help. For women specifically, look at opportunities for financial or other support associated with being a women-owned-busiess, and seek out female mentors who can help you with the unknowns! There is a massive support network out there if you look for it.

6. If you could meet any 3 inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be?

Joan of Arc — I was intrigued by her story as a child, and she was a true female badass.

Margaret Thatcher — First women leader to succeed in the political space dominated by men since the beginning of time.

Taylor Swift — Yes, I like her music and my daughters love her, but in addition appreciating her art (and endurance in performing 3 hour shows), I’m fascinated by her business acumen. If I were back in grad school I’d want to write a paper about how she’s built her empire.