Last year, three weeks before Susan Gregg Koger was to speak in front of a large crowd, she found herself shimmying up a 22-foot ladder to launch herself on a trapeze. She got hooked instantly.
"It gave me such a confidence boost," says Koger, co-founder of the retro-inspired clothing company ModCloth. "It was like, if I can survive the flying trapeze, there's no way I'm going to die when I walk out onstage." And, sure enough, when she did appear onstage at New York City's Lincoln Center, she wowed a crowd of 900.
Now, at least once a month, Koger drives 90 minutes from ModCloth's San Francisco headquarters to a facility in Sonoma where she practices hangs, catches, and flips amid giant oaks and acres of rolling vineyards.
She goes more frequently if her schedule allows, but, as the chief creative officer of ModCloth--which she and her husband, Eric Koger, founded back in 2002--Koger is often on the road. And all that travel can present a problem. "You get pretty sore after trapezing," she says. "It's not necessarily the kind of thing you want to do before getting on an international flight."
In 2014, ModCloth went through two rounds of significant layoffs, and in January her husband stepped down as CEO. "Last year was a tough one," Koger admits, but she says ModCloth's 2014 holiday season was its best yet. And trapeze has helped her deal with her company's ups and downs.
"Being able to understand that pit in my stomach," Koger says, "often takes the power away from it--knowing I'm scared, and it's OK that I'm scared, whether I'm 30 feet off the ground or giving hard news to someone one-on-one." As she points out, "we're not supposed to be fearless when we jump off of things."