“If I Could Inspire A Movement It Would Be To Eradicate Fear” With Christy Raedeke, EVP at Cocona, Inc

“It seems to be the main driver of all evil in the world; fear of other religions, fear of people taking what’s ours, fear of people who…

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“It seems to be the main driver of all evil in the world; fear of other religions, fear of people taking what’s ours, fear of people who are different, fear of lack of control. What if we replaced fear with curiosity? Wouldn’t that be interesting?”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Christy Raedeke, EVP of Global Marketing & Sales at Cocona, Inc. Cocona makes 37.5 Technology, a fabric technology that’s been scientifically proven to increase performance, comfort, and sleep.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I’ve been working in corporate identity, communications and business development for almost 30 years, spending most of my career in high-tech. I previously worked at Microsoft in corporate communications and PR and also on the agency side as a creative at Landor Associates. Additionally, I directed marketing and PR at The Mountain Zone and at game startup Headbone Interactive. I also spent several years consulting, creating and implementing brand identity, brand content, and PR programs for high-tech, bio-tech and media clients. Before joining the 37.5 team, I was Director of Marketing and Communications for Massif, a worldwide leader in high-performance protective apparel and major supplier to the US Military and Special Forces.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Last year we did a risky activation with our ad agency, Work in Progress. To show that we would go to any length to get climbers the best gear when they need it, we created the world’s most remote pop-up. The Cliffside Shop was placed at an elevation of 6,200 feet on the side of a sheer rock cliff, and we had Dave Bywater, our VP Sales working in the shop. Dave had been a climbing ranger in the Tetons for more than a decade, so he was used to dangling from helicopters to help with high-altitude evacuations and for fun he will often climb routes that have him sleeping on a cliff wall for a few days at a time. But asking him to stay in the Cliffside Shop for two days while we opened to climbers was tough for me. We had world class riggers and safety crew from Colorado Mountain School, and WIP had thought through every logistical detail, but it was still so out of the box that I was nervous about the risk of having my friend and co-worker in this environment.

It turned out to be a great success! For every climber who made it to the shop we donated to the Access Fund and the climbers themselves got free gear from our partners at Adidas, Rab, and Point 6, so everyone was happy — including Dave, who said it was two of the best days of work he ever had. You have to be a climber to the core to love hanging on the side of a cliff for a couple of days!

Just last month we found out we won a Cannes Lion award for the Cliffside Shop, which was a delightful surprise. International advertising awards mostly go to the billion-dollar corporations who spend hundreds of millions each year on advertising. For me this was a major marketing spend, but when you look at the companies that made it on the shortlist with us, you see their marketing budgets are 200 times greater than ours. It was an interesting exercise in evaluating risk, preparing beyond what’s required, and trusting that great ideas will get recognized. And we now have a really innovative location for this year’s most remote pop-up…

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think the clever nature of 37.5 Technology is what really makes our company stand out. The volcanic sand is an ancient technology formed eons ago from one specific volcano in the world (its location is considered trade secret). The volcano creates a particle that absorbs light in the narrow spectrum that the human body emits it, equilibrates at 37% relative humidity and absorbs water. It took a genius Ph.D. photophysical chemist to find such a particle and then figure out how to embed it into yarn! The unique result is a product proven to increase athlete performance and human comfort. No other fabric technology can claim this.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes! We have a few top-secret and surprising brand launches that we can’t yet talk about until the fall, but one of the interesting new verticals we’re entering is the equine market. Turns out horses have the same core body temperature as humans and emit IR light in the same spectrum as humans, so 37.5 technology works brilliantly for them. No wonder we’re so compatible with horses! We’re working with a high-level race horse trainer in the UK on a new line of horse rugs for after training. These horses are elite athletes worth enormous amounts of money, yet there is no real performance technology in the rugs they wear to cool down after rigorous training, to stay dry in the rain or to keep warm in the stables. 37.5 technology is perfect for all applications.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

What I appreciate about 37.5’s CEO, Jeff Bowman, is that he hires smart people and then trusts them to do their best. There is no micromanagement at all. This kind of trust and freedom is really liberating and makes coming to work fun. Personally, I also think it’s important to find out what your employees and co-workers are passionate or curious about, and let them work those things into their jobs. I think one of the most important drivers of success is genuine enthusiasm.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

After college I moved to Seattle with no money, no car and no real job prospects. My dream was to become an ad copywriter and as I applied to ad agencies in Seattle, I paid the rent by working in retail. I scrounged for bus change on the floor of my roommate’s closet — it was bleak! Then my friend Tonya Dressel suggested I give up the agency dream and work in-house as a copywriter at Microsoft, where she worked in PR. She got me an interview, I got the job, and I spent the next 7 years learning from the best in corporate communication and PR during the company’s explosive growth period. This was in 1988 and most people had never heard of Microsoft; when anyone asked where I worked I had to say, “A software company called Microsoft.” It was a fantastic experience, and I’m still extremely close to many of the people I worked with there nearly three decades ago. And, of course, I’m still very grateful to Tonya.

Senior picture, 1984. Before life beat the hope out of her dewy eyes.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I wish I could say that I have devoted my life to nonprofits that make the world a better place, but I’ve been in the business world my whole career. My pledge to goodness is to always make deals where both parties feel like they are really getting something special, and to work with products that improve lives somehow. 37.5 Technology can make apparel more comfortable and improve athlete performance, but where it can profoundly impact lives is in sleep. Bedding with 37.5 Technology has been proven to give users deeper, more restful sleep. I’m a huge fan of sleep! My dream life is as important to me as my daily life. Knowing that we’re improving such an important part of people’s lives makes me feel good.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became EVP” and why. (Please share a story or example for each)

1. How important it is to both challenge opinions and have your opinions challenged. Debating is not fighting! It’s good to know the difference. We debate a lot here at 37.5. Not only does it force you to look at every angle of something, it forces you to think bigger and smarter. What I love about ideas is that they are so democratic — best one wins. There is no hierarchy when it comes to ideas and opinions; I listen to all of them. Most of the time it’s the people in the trenches who have the most valid opinions and freshest ideas.

2. How much time I would spend on a plane. 35,000 feet in the air has become my second office! With so much travel, I’ve had to be very diligent in maximizing my time and prioritizing activities for plane time vs. office time. However, being trapped on a 12-hour flight can yield a lot of productivity — no interruptions and nothing more interesting to do (after you’ve seen all the movies and are scraping the bottom of the barrel by watching old episodes of Chopped).

3. The importance of empathy and emotional intelligence. Whether it’s with colleagues, partners, or customers, understanding the position they’re in and what motivates them is the best way to evaluate a winning solution for all parties. This is something I’ve honed over the years and now try to instill in younger colleagues. The most important skill here is listening. When you listen more than you talk you learn a lot.

4. How important writing skills are. I studied Journalism and started my career as a copywriter. Once I moved to broader marketing and business development, I thought this skill would no longer be of central use, but I was dead wrong. The ability to communicate well in writing was essential as a creative, obviously, but the surprise has been how instrumental it has become in structuring deals. When I hire people, I make sure they have excellent written communication skills. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I’ve seen a serious decline in the ability to write, which is unfortunate.

5. The extent to which my professional and personal life would blur. I have met some amazing people and made lifelong friends across my various roles at different companies over 30 years. I’ve been pleasantly surprised throughout my career with how nicely work and personal life can meld. I especially love how LinkedIn can keep me connected with what old coworkers and friends are doing all over the world. It’s really fun to see how people evolve with what they’re doing and what ideas they’re pushing forward in the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wouldn’t call myself a person of great influence, but if I could inspire a movement it would be to eradicate fear. It seems to be the main driver of all evil in the world; fear of other religions, fear of people taking what’s ours, fear of people who are different, fear of lack of control. What if we replaced fear with curiosity? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s a quote by Albert Schweitzer, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and they’ve all been equally interesting and stimulating. I like a challenge where I can employ both sides of my brain. I think as long as you love what you are doing then your work will nourish you rather than drain you.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would love to have brunch with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I really respect his humility and focus on empathy as an underutilized skill in business. I admire him greatly.

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