Lori Dreiling and her husband, Tim, own Fleet Feet Sports Tulsa, which has two locations in Tulsa and just opened a third location in Broken Arrow. Both are graduates of the University of Tulsa and Memorial High School and have been involved in Tulsa’s running community since moving back to Tulsa in 1992. Lori ran her first marathon, the San Diego Rock-n-Roll marathon, in 2000, and has run Chicago, Marine Corp, NYC and Boston, among others. The couple opened their first Fleet Feet Sports in Tulsa in 2003.
SGB sat down with Dreiling to get the details of operating specialty run…
First job? Dreiling: Scooping ice cream at Braums Ice Cream Store – a great introduction into dealing with customers.
When did you start running? I started running for very different reasons. I was 13 years old when I lost my younger brother to leukemia (he was 9 years old) and experienced severe depression a few years after he passed away. I was in high school struggling with depression and all those adolescent feelings when I discovered running. I vividly remember those first few runs in my neighborhood. I would run to the stop sign and stop and walk and then run to the next light pole and stop and walk. Running offered freedom and a release from all those feelings of sorrow and loss. Running was truly life changing for me and I just kept running from that point forward.
How did you get into specialty running? My husband and I owned Oklahoma Runner Magazine, and I noticed that there was only one running store in Tulsa at the time. We had lived in and visited other communities around the country that had running stores that were much more engaged in the community and we felt we could bring our own unique approach to Tulsa’s running community. We also had a passion to help make our community healthier since Oklahoma is always on the bottom of the “healthiest places to live”.
What’s been the key to Fleet Feet Tulsa’s success? Making every person who walks into our stores feel special and a part of our family. We strongly believe in growing our business one customer at a time. The other part of our success stems from our focus on a quality experience and approach with our races, special events, and our training programs. There weren’t any training programs when we opened our first Fleet Feet Store 12 years ago and now we are proud and humbled by the fact we have trained literally thousands of Tulsans to either run or walk 5ks, 10ks, half marathons and marathons. We are also invested in the success of our community. We work with numerous local charities to provide free shoes, free race entries, and monetary donations to help these organizations who support those in need. Giving back to our local community is a huge part of who we are.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Helping someone reach their personal goals. There is nothing more satisfying than watching someone who has never run before, complete their first 5k. They will never forget that moment and for many that moment is life changing. Providing a path for our customers’ success is what keeps us going. I also enjoy watching our staff grow as individuals and professionals. Our industry provides something not many other industries can – we have the ability to grow future business owners. We are currently watching one of our previous staff members manage two running stores in a different market with the plan for him to one day own both those stores in the very near future. For him to become a successful business owner would make us very proud.
Favorite motto? “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge
If money was no concern, what would you be doing? I would donate my time working at an orphanage in another country. I love working with kids and our son is adopted from South Korea so to be able to give back to kids who don’t have a home yet would be a personal life goal.
What would be your advice to someone looking to get a job in the run industry? Demonstrate a great work ethic; be humble in your approach; be honest in all of your dealings; and be patient. If your end goal is to own your own running specialty store someday, you can’t become a successful business owner overnight. Don’t be afraid to take risks (sometimes you have to try something to see if it will work), learn from your mistakes (because you will make a bunch of them as an owner) and the more experience you have (no matter the industry), the more value you will bring to your company and to your people.