For a world-renowned champion whose medals came from going fast, it’s the slower paced lifestyle that now gives Kristin Armstrong the most satisfaction.
“When I think of Boise, Idaho, I think of how easy and accessible it is.”
Two-time Olympic Time Trial gold medalist Armstrong and her husband, entrepreneur Joe Savola, call Boise home; home for their family, and home for their thriving business K-EDGE Cycling Solutions.
Boise’s power couple truly believes they have it all in Idaho’s capital city.
Joe Savola explains, “We really do have it all; I think we live in the most wonderful environment for what we like to do. The outdoors: we love to mountain bike, we love to trail run, we love to road bike, we have the river systems really close by here, and the new waterpark. We do have it all from the accessibility – AND it’s not as crowded as other places.”
For a couple used to traveling the world chasing records and medals, making Boise their home was all about balance. Kristin noted. “Throughout my athletic career, I chose Boise to train in. I chose Boise because of the community and people that live here. I felt that there’s a huge support network behind what I was doing. Also, it gave me balance. The question has always been, what makes you different than everyone else? What’s that extra 1% that makes you above the rest of the competition? And I always go back to the word balance.”
Going from the high-pressure world of elite cycling to running a startup company began in one serendipitous moment. Joe explained, “Long story short, Kristin dropped her chain at the world championships in Salzburg…”
That was in July 2006.
Joe continued, “Fast forward to 2008 Beijing, I was looking everywhere on the internet to find something available that would solve the problem, and nothing existed. We came up with an idea – hey, we can attach a device to her bike like this? That’s where we came up with what we now coin as K-EDGE, Kristin’s Edge – we came up with the idea of a chain catcher. “
At the start of their journey as entrepreneurs, Kristin and Joe underestimated the interest their products would have. “We made the K-EDGE chain catchers. We made 12 of them and we stopped right there,” remembered Joe. “We thought, no one would ever want to buy them, they’re just a one-off fun project to help Kristin win a gold medal and we’re done. Kristin & I got a phone call from a professional mechanic for one of the biggest pro teams in the world and he ordered 45 of them. So that’s when we said, OK – we need to start a business here.”
K-EDGE Cycling Solutions was born. And with it, the dedication to not just USA-Made, but Boise-made.
“The manufacturing firm we partner with, AceCo, has roots in Boise; they have been here since the 50’s. It feels good to be employing machinists and engineers from the Valley,” said Joe. “Keeping the money in the Valley and creating wealth here. More than that, for us, it’s that pride in having not only USA made components, but Boise, Idaho made components.”
They’ve expanded their product offerings to include additional cycling components as well as computer and camera mounts. While the focus has been on providing intelligent solutions for the elite level of sport, the same solutions that the pros ride are available to athletes of all abilities.
“The neat thing about the K-EDGE and about how we got our start was that we had the leverage of Kristin in her name and accomplishments that people recognized worldwide.”
Kristin adds, “I was out there sharing with my competitors my little back pocket secrets from Boise, Idaho. That developed a relationship off the bat – so they trusted our products. Now, not only do they trust the products, they like that they’re from the USA and the design – they are beautiful pieces.”
Joe explains, “From a business standpoint, having it all is this wonderful environment in the Valley where we can pull resources from. We have companies here that are thriving, the economic situation in Boise is really good, the housing market is great, and there are a lot of opportunities to advance in this Valley.”
Their dedication to quality – and Boise manufacturing – is paying off.
“Where it’s gone over the last 4 years has been tremendous,” said Joe. “Our first year was modest sales, the next year we doubled that, the year after that we again doubled.In 2012, we ended the calendar year at four times the sales of what we did the year before. It’s generating this wealth that's staying here in this Valley.”
It’s that loyalty to, and love of, the Valley that Kristin and Joe both come back to.
“Boise is a family town. It’s still a safe town, it’s a great place to raise your kids, and there are lots of family activities,” said Kristin. “I like to say to people: remember back in the old days when we used to go out and play in your neighborhood and you can trust your neighbors? That’s Boise, Idaho.”
Joe shares, “Boise has a big-town feel from a cultural aspect. From a business standpoint, we have Boise State and College of Western Idaho right here locally. We have all the resources and people, but it also has that small town atmosphere. That’s the beauty of this valley and what it has to offer. One of our employees has coined it really well - it’s all about the lunch ride. That’s what Boise is. You can literally be in Downtown Boise and 5 minutes later be in the foothills running or on a mountain bike."
While they may jokingly admit that sharing the secrets of Boise means more people on the trails, they both are effusive in their love of a town that’s supported their athletic endeavors, entrepreneurship, dreams and family.
As Kristin explains, “In the end I always believe that if you set goals and you are driven, you can get to and accomplish whatever it is that you want. That goes along with a startup company or even your goals as an athlete. I’ve never been in a community, such as Boise, that has given me the support that I need to succeed."
“I have experience being on the road 180 days a year being a professional cyclist for 10 years, so when I come back to Boise and still love it – that says something.”
About Kristin Armstrong Kristin Armstrong has two Olympic Gold Medals in the Time Trial (2008, 2012), two World Titles, five National Championships and countless other victories. The 2012 Olympic Games were the final races for Kristin, although her name will long live on in the record books as the most decorated female cyclist in US history. Between her athletic career highlights spanning two decades and several sports, she also managed to succeed as a college graduate and a project manager at an ad agency. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in sports physiology from the University of Idaho. Armstrong currently makes her home in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Joe Savola and their son Lucas. For more information, visit http://www.kristinarmstrongusa.com/