When Cathy Schnaubelt Rogers, CEO of $1.4-million Schnaubelt Shorts, in Coraopolis, Pa., began designing cycling clothes for women, she wasted no time assembling a cross-country sounding board. She handpicked eight "leaders" in the states with the most female bicyclists. Each recruited 10 more women, ranging from weekend dirt bikers to racers. "Once I had the eight states, it was easy to network. The president of the Woman's Cycling Network gave me lots of names," says Rogers.
She met each of the 80 women in person and now mails them surveys and product samples every few months. Most companies don't ask women what they want, says Rogers. But her polls (which cost $500 each, including samples, to mail and tabulate) supply the skinny on product fit, color, and durability. "I found out that we had older riders and casual bikers who were very adamant about not being able to get what they wanted from bicycle shops." Rogers is now eyeing mail order.* * *
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