I recently met up with Rochelle Gilmore, owner and manager of the Wiggle High5 women’s professional team and fellow Australian. Rochelle, who is based in Europe for most of the year met with me over a plate of upmarket fish and chips. All the while looking over the picturesque Cronulla beach, Rochelle’s Sydney home. She managed to squeeze me in between a morning ride with a friend, and a flight to Melbourne to be with her team for the Cadel Evans Melbourne race.
It was the second time I’d sat down for a chat with Rochelle, and she was as candid and impressive as ever. Her entrepreneurial spirit shows through in all her activities as she described her various business ventures. She explained that her stepfather who entered her life when she was 12, has influenced her view of business, with his many successful ventures. Not only is Rochelle the owner and founder of one of the most successful women’s teams, she also owns a company that distributes the range of High5 products in Australia, and another that sells second-hand professional team road bikes in Australia.
Rochelle started her British-based team on the wave of popularity for women’s pro cycling resulting from the London Olympic Games in 2012. It seems she was planning to run her own team for a number of years and saw the right moment. Years earlier as a professional cyclist, she saw how so many teams did a poor job, and thought she could do better.
Wiggle High5 has lifted women’s cycling teams to a new level of professionalism. Rochelle runs her team as a business and focuses on key areas like return on investment for her sponsors, recruiting the right riders and support staff, and teaching her staff to take responsibility and delegate.
When she started the team she approached 50 companies before signing up with key sponsors Wiggle, Honda, High5 and Colnago. Many of these companies had been her sponsors as a rider, so they were a good fit, and she plans well in advance with most of her contracts going through until the end of 2018.
Another area of focus is public relations and promotion. She sees the importance of social media and employs experts to keep Wiggle High5 at the forefront. She also encourages the riders to regularly tweet, post, blog and more.
On a personal note Rochelle laments that her professional riding career ended before she would have liked, but the opportunity to start the team prevailed. She still loves riding and gets out on the bike whenever she can, however she’s missing the physical goal that professional cycling provides.
And in case you’re thinking she’s a ruthless business person, she’s also passionate about contributing to increasing the overall profile of women’s cycling. She regularly commentates on women’s pro cycling, and serves on the UCI Women’s Commission. She enjoys working with the UCI providing them with candid feedback about women’s cycling teams, and has rarely missed a meeting.
Frankly I don’t know how she fits it all in to her day. I think she must be a good delegator. On that subject she’s recently appointed Donna Rae Szalinski as a key Director Sportif based in Europe. Donna Rae was previously based in Victoria and led Rochelle’s domestic High5 Dream Team squad. Donna Rae joined Wiggle High5 in mid-2016 and was thrown literally in the deep end. Now she’s settled in, she’s going really well, and like Rochelle is enjoying a bit of time in Australia over summer.
Donna Rae took a lead role at the recent staff training camp the team held to welcome new staff on board. The key priority that came from that meeting was “Quality of Life”. The theory goes that if all staff and riders have a great ‘quality of life’, then everything else will flow.
Rochelle was also happy to admit that she sometimes gets it wrong. She admitted to being very disappointed with herself for dropping the ball for this summer’s racing in Adelaide and Geelong. She was too focused on the issues going on behind the scenes, and didn’t provide enough support for her riders. Like all competitive people she always wants to win which extends to her team.
I for one am a fan, of both Rochelle and her team and look forward to following their fortunes. Next week’s post will feature Australian Wiggle High5 riders Nettie Edmondson and Amy Cure.
Did you enjoy this interview with Rochelle Gilmore? Tell me about other inspirational women in the world of cycling. I’d love to interview them too. She via comments or the Women Who Cycle Facebook page.