SHEEX’s Susan Walvius, formerly the women’s basketball coach at South Carolina, shares her thoughts about Women’s Basketball with MSNBC. Her interview is highlighted by her statement that women’s basketball is more “pure” and “traditional” than the Men’s game and, “that 4 of 5 women in senior executive positions at Fortune 500 companies competed in intercollegiate athletics.” Watch the interview here, Walvius’ interview begins at 2:31.
Article from Pennlive.com, written by Eric F. Epler
The year was 1991 when Michelle Marciniak was properly introduced to basketball fans across the nation. Two pages in Sports Illustrated documented the 17-year-old’s passion for the game, her love of Michael Jordan’s drive to be the best and, of course, that signature ponytail, the one Allentown Central Catholic opponents were caught staring at 9.9 times out of 10.
There was no question Marciniak was a gifted player, that rare combination of talent and nerve that turned the 3,000-point scorer into perhaps the most recognizable girls basketball player in Pennsylvania history.
In a career defined by competition, Marciniak still relishes in reaching that lofty number.
“Scoring 3,000 points was a huge milestone for me in high school and something that I, to this day, mention in the speeches I give,” said Marciniak, away from basketball these days but still in heated competition.
Marciniak and former University of South Carolina head coach Susan Walvius co-founded SHEEX, Inc., the world’s first performance fabric bedding company, in 2008.
“I think any basketball player who is extremely competitive and successful will tell you that it’s not something you set out to do, scoring 3,000 points, but rather it comes from working hard and focusing on getting your team Ws and playing your best night in and night out.”
Building her reputation through hard work and a willingness to sacrifice is all Marciniak has ever known. And here is the payoff.
Named the Naismith National Player of the Year as a senior in 1991, Marciniak also garnered national player of the year honors by Parade Magazine and Gatorade finishing her illustrious career under coach Mike Copp with 3,025 points and two PIAA championship appearances, both losses.
“The only regret I have in my high school career was not being able to win the state final for my school,” Marciniak said. “Getting there and winning while there are two different animals.”
No matter, Marciniak made up for those near-misses shortly after the Notre Dame freshman decided to transfer to the University of Tennessee, where legendary coach Pat Summitt was assembling the greatest collection of talent in the women’s game. Marciniak fit like a glove.
Drawing the nickname “Spinderella” for her brash ball-handling skills and fearless demeanor, Marciniak led the Lady Vols to the 1996 NCAA title, banking tournament MVP honors along the way.
Always a fan favorite through her 11-year run with USA Basketball and six-year professional career in both the American Basketball League and WNBA where she starred for the Seattle Storm, Marciniak later became an assistant coach under Walvius at USC.
While today her focus is building SHEEX, which specializes in sheets and pillowcases constructed of athletic-performance fabrics, Marciniak was quick to point out those teammates and fans that helped her those many years ago.
“I was fortunate to play for one of the best high schools in Allentown Central Catholic and played for the best HS coach in the country,” said Marciniak, who had her Vikings No. 23 jersey retired.
“I played in a state and local area who supported girls basketball like no other state or city in the country. In addition, I had talented teammates who played the game at such a level where opposing teams could not focus so much on me and my scoring. If they did, my teammates would step up and score.”
I joined SHEEX as an intern in October 2011 as part of my MBA course curriculum and have never looked back since. I work on data analysis and get to research on all the cool new technologies out there in the market. Having come from a totally different industry, every day is a new experience for me right from understanding the bedding industry to the science behind the products. You get complete freedom to select projects which match your interest and future career goals. Having come from athlete coaching background both Susan and Michelle emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility and constant encouragement is always offered. Having worked in SHEEX for almost a year now, not only have I grown professionally but also personally. One fond memory I will hold for ever working in SHEEX is the Christmas party when everybody started doing standing pushups, Michelle walked right in and said she wanted to do it was well. After using SHEEX I have never been able to sleep in any other sheets. With the unique combination of performance and quality offered I believe SHEEX will be the bedding of choice for more and more people for years to come. Overall working in SHEEX is same as using the SHEEX products, both are super COOL.
My name is Chris White and I joined the SHEEX team in late 2011. I have recently completed my degree from the University of South Carolina in Finance with a minor in Economics. Throughout school I was active in a variety of different organizations including the National Economics society as well as a men’s club soccer team. One of my personal interests is SCUBA diving, which has led me to seven different countries with over 450 dives. Being from Denver, Colorado originally I have set a lifetime goal to summit all fifty-three 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado. During my senior year I was selected for the Second team all state recognition for Rock Canyon soccer (Nationally ranked #31 August 2007-2008).
I came to SHEEX because I wanted to work with a company that was relatively new and small in size so I could feel like I was making a larger contribution. At SHEEX, I believe I can make a difference on a day-to-day basis, and my work is therefore more rewarding. I especially like how I was able to take an idea that I believed had potential (The Travel Pillow) and get company approval to make it a reality within the same year. I look forward to growing as a SHEEX employee by developing skills that I can use throughout my life. For instance, my public speaking skills and customer service abilities have grown in leaps and bounds from being a part of the SHEEX team. I have developed a better understanding of how a company really functions and how every job comes together to form the web-like daily operations of a business.
What are Susan and Michelle really like? Susan and Michelle are extremely giving, funny and motivating. There isn’t a day that goes by where a joke isn’t told or a complement given while still managing to keep my ego under check. They never make you feel like your anything other than family. I couldn’t have picked two better people to learn and grow from.
Without a doubt my dream celebrity SHEEX endorser would be Michael Jordan. I was asked this question at one of the first meetings I ever had as a SHEEX employee and I when I responded with MJ the room promptly busted out laughing. I guess they where looking for a slightly more serious answer.
Michelle and Susan attended the ESPYs once again this year so naturally there were some fabulous SHEEX giveaways. 150 lucky attendees received a pewter or black SHEEX travel pillow and a King or Queen set of SHEEX! Kaye and Chris put a lot of love and effort into packaging the gifts, all of which was done at the SHEEX office in South Carolina.
The glamorous night was spent amongst the biggest stars in sports and was followed by exclusive cocktail and dinner parties.
Michelle alongside another WNBA superstar Chamique Holdsclaw.
Get a sneak peak at SHEEX in the ESPY goodie bags at the beginning of this clip from ESPN Sportsnation:
SHEEX is currently featured in the July 2012 issue of Inc. Magazine thanks to Susan and Michelle’s out-of-the-box approach to fund-raising. Inc. Magazine is a publication known for offering advice, tools and services to help small businesses grow. In their article, “Investors: the More, the Merrier?” Inc. highlights Susan and Michelle’s ability not only to attract a “flock of angel investors,” but also to maintain majority control of the company while still offering a worthwhile return to their 69 investors. Clearly when it comes to SHEEX, it pays to travel off the beaten path. Read the whole article here.
Susan and I get asked a certain question time and time again: “How have you done this?” What people are in search of is a deeper answer than the obvious. Typically, the answer would revolve around the nuts and bolts of putting together a business. For us, it is deeper and less than obvious and that is exactly what SHEEX is all about.
What first was an adventure of figuring out how to build a sheet out of athletic performance fabrics, a concept never thought of in the marketplace prior to SHEEX, has now become a quest of carving out a whole new category of bedding products and building a global mega-brand all about sleep and rejuvenation as it relates to performance. Susan and I have poured our hearts and souls into building SHEEX and although this was our brainchild, we have some key advice for everyone who wants to start their own entrepreneurial venture.
Susan and I have built SHEEX through relationships and networking. One meeting, one dinner, one phone call after another – asking questions, following leads, listening and making yourself available to anyone who will give you the time of day. You often hear the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That couldn’t be more true, but I’d add something to the end of that statement: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and how willing you are to follow through with each relationship.”
It takes a considerable amount to time, care and effort to cultivate and maintain relationships – they don’t happen overnight nor with the snap of a finger. So, yes, we have sexy-edgy-cool, cutting-edge products in SHEEX, which is vital to the success of any company large or small; however, our SHEEX brand has been built through people – so many who have been kind enough to reach out and help us.
Earlier this week, Susan and I attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit for the third year in a row. Many of our key relationships originated at the MPW Summit three years ago. A gathering of 450 executive women from around the world … and as humble as we feel when we are among these incredibly successful women, we have learned – from them – to reach out to others just as they have reached out to us. On, on!
Michelle and I decided to start this blog because we wanted to share our journey with you. For my first post, I want to introduce you to some very important people who have helped us along that journey, and whose wisdom and guidance has proved instrumental in getting SHEEX to where we are today.
When Michelle and I made the transition from basketball coaches to entrepreneurs, we knew we were in store for some big changes. Sports and business are two separate things, of course, and we anticipated a learning curve as we transitioned into something entirely new and exciting.
Over the past several years, building and leading a business has without doubt been a unique experience for us, one that requires special skills and a willingness to always grow and learn. There have, however, been some important parallels between our past experience as coaches and that of developing and growing SHEEX – and one reality in particular has been of critical importance in guiding the success of SHEEX just as it was critical for success on the hardwood.
In sports, you win with talent and experience. These key ingredients, Michelle and I knew, are what separate a great team from a not-so-great one. In basketball, you’re only as good as the team you put on the floor, and with this in mind, Michelle and were determined to assemble a team of strong, capable partners and teammates to help us achieve our goals.
We formed partnerships with industry leaders like Li & Fung and United Feather & Down to help us scale the business and meet our aggressive growth projections. And, critically, we assembled an Advisory Board of bright, experienced business veterans who have provided us with invaluable guidance and insights.
Meet the SHEEX Advisory Board:
- Bob Damon
Bob is the President of Korn/Ferry International for North America. Bob has more than 25 years of experience in executive searches for CEO, COO, president, board director and general management positions, as well as management searches in the functional areas of marketing and sales, finance, manufacturing, operations, and strategic planning. His expertise extends to specialty practice areas including retail and consumer products, restaurants, hospitality, sports, and entertainment.
- Raphael Peck
Raphael is currently the Vice President – Global Apparel/Footwear/Accessories at Oakley. Prior to joining Oakley, he was Senior Vice President, Footwear and Licensing and the Senior Vice President of Product Creation/Merchandising at Under Armour for eight years. Before that, Raphael was the Global Product Line Manager at Adidas Group. Raphael is an industry expert in sexy-edgy-cool brands and has a background in brand building.
- Phoebe Wood
Phoebe is the recently retired Vice Chairman and CFO of Brown-Forman Corp., where she was responsible for the financial operations of the company, including corporate development, controller, treasury, investor relations, tax, information, technology, and internal audit departments. She was a member of the executive, corporate strategy, and compensation and benefits committees. Until their divestiture, she was active in the management of Lenox, Inc. and Hartmann Luggage. Before joining Brown-Forman, Phoebe served as Vice President and CFO of Motorola’s telecom subsidiary, Propel, Inc. Before joining Motorola, she enjoyed a career of more than 20 years with the Atlantic Richfield Co. (now BP), taking on significant responsibilities as Vice President and Executive Committee Member of large subsidiaries in Alaska and England. Phoebe is currently a Director for Leggett & Platt Corp., where she serves on the audit and compensation committees. She is also a trustee of Smith College and the Gheens Foundation and was recently appointed to the Coca-Cola Board.
- Cindy DiPietrantonio
Cindy is the Chief Operations Officer at Jones Apparel Group. Cindy has provided the company with over 27 years of dedicated and excellent service in many capacities, including COO, Executive Vice President, Customer Relations and Corporate Credit. In her role as COO, Cindy is the Senior Corporate Executive responsible for Bristol, Pennsylvania-based operations, including Customer Service, Allocations, Distribution and Management Information Systems. Cindy serves on the Executive Committee of VICS (the Voluntary Inter-Industry Commerce Solutions Association), the leading collaborative group for retailers and suppliers.
There is another aspect of our mentalities as players and coaches that has carried over to our approach to business – we set ambitious goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Where we are today with SHEEX is tremendously exciting, but we are far from satisfied. With help from our team of talented and experienced partners and Advisory Board members, we know that we can achieve our goals and build a winning future for SHEEX.
I hope you’ll come back and visit the blog periodically, as Michelle and I will continue to share stories about our experiences and the excitement of growing SHEEX. As always, we thank you for your interest in SHEEX!
OK, we’re doing it – jumping into the blogosphere! We’ve heard so much from our SHEEX fans, customers and partners and want to stay in touch and keep you informed as much as we can. We are moving at lightning-fast pace and are very excited about it!
We had a few goals in starting the blog:
- Share background on SHEEX and update you on the latest news about our products and brand. Based on your feedback (thank you!), we are working on some new products that we’re very excited to launch. We also want to communicate our partnerships, events and media appearances.
- The Science of Sleep is important. Many people suffer from inadequate sleep, and it affects their health. Be it an athlete trying to get her edge on the court, a mother trying to multi-task, or an executive living “the daily grind,” we all need good sleep to function at our best and lead healthy lives. We have learned so much about sleep and sleep habits through our extensive research and testing as well as through our partnership with the National Sleep Foundation. While many people love SHEEX simply because they are luxurious and incredibly comfortable, we also place significant emphasis on why SHEEX help you sleep better, and will share this with you alongside many tips to help you improve your sleep.
- Lastly, we like to have fun and lead very busy lives. Many of you ask about Michelle’s basketball career (e.g. “What was it like to be coached by Pat Summitt?”) or how we took our experience as players and coaches and applied it to being entrepreneurs. This blog will be a place for us to share those kind of stories along with some behind-the-scenes glimpses into our lives as coaches-turned-businesswomen. With SHEEX, as it was in basketball, we are always learning and trying to improve our game. We want to share our fun experiences of being entrepreneurs, and hopefully you will get a sense of the passion that drives us daily.
To get things started, we hope you’ll enjoy this behind-the-scenes video of how we produced our first-ever SHEEX commercial, for Bed Bath & Beyond:
Most important, we are writing this blog for you! We want to educate and hopefully entertain you so please let us know your comments and/or if there’s something specific you want us to write about. We will sprinkle in some fun promos and giveaways along the way.
Here’s to a fun blog journey and, of course, good sleep.
All the best,
Susan and Michelle