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When his alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., Soj Jibowu immediately grabs his phone. But this triathlete isn’t up this early to bang out his daily workout; he needs to get a head start on communicating with International manufacturers who may have been in touch overnight. Jibowu’s new triathlon apparel brand, VARLO, launched in September last year and it’s been nonstop ever since.
“In the start-up phase of launching a company, it is pedal to the metal,” he said. “Sleeping hours just do not exist.”
After checking emails, reviewing product list charts, and communicating with his business partner, work abruptly comes to a halt around 7 a.m. As important as his to-do list is, there is something that matters more: family.
Jibowu embraces his mid-morning break, where he has breakfast with his wife, Diane, and quality time with his 2-year-old daughter, Amelia—time he values away from the grind of running a business.
“I am a super-engaged Dad…a geek Dad,” he said with a chuckle.
A former collegiate track and field star at Central Michigan University. Jibowu found triathlon six years ago. In 2015, he competed in the spring event at Tri Philly, where it took him nearly an hour to finish the swim portion of the race.
He kept at it though, and has since raced everything from the DelMo Sports series in Pennsylvania to Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City to the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s end-of-year fundraising event. (His favorite distance is Olympic.)
As Jibowu grew as a triathlete over the years, so did his curiosity about the sport.
“At triathlon events, I was always asking questions about participation, the longevity of the sport, and the branding of the sport as a whole,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘What can I do here to help? How can I bring awareness to the sport?’” Jibowu believes the sport is misunderstood, and people are uneducated about the range of distances and options. “I think people are scared of triathlon,” Jibowu said. “People think that if you are doing a triathlon, you are in Kona with lava behind you and that it requires a radical lifestyle.”
At VARLO, Jibowu has created initiatives, such as “Your Journey, Your Story,” to debunk this myth by interviewing ambassadors from all over the world about what hurdles they have overcome and what they have discovered along the way. By sharing stories of different types of triathletes, Jibowu believes more people will be attracted to the sport.
Of course, he has his own athletic goals for 2021 and beyond too, including crossing the finish line in Kona some day.
Currently, he carves out time each day from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. to get in some form of swim, bike, or run, but he admits he has adjusted his expectations to focus on VARLO and his professional goals.
“I like being a participant, but I feel like I can add more,” Jibowu said. “I want to have purpose here. In five or 10 years, if VARLO is known as a brand that helps athletes ‘make it,’ then I can say ‘I’ve done it, I’ve freakin’ done it.’”
Fun Facts About Soj
Last Book Read
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Soj ran a 21.1 200m in college and still holds the indoor record at Central Michigan University
When he started swimming, he would bring a stack of pennies to the pool, put them at the edge of his lane and move one every time he came back to keep track of his laps.
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