Meet our co-founder: Carina Hamel
Bivo is proud to be woman-led, so during this Women’s History Month we wanted to take a minute to interview our co-founder, Carina Hamel. Carina has been a life-long athlete, achieving national success as an NCAA nordic skier at the University of Vermont and as a member of the US World Junior Ski Team. As a business professional, prior to co-founding Bivo, Carina founded a footwear development company that specialized in helping brands from creative direction to manufacturing. At Bivo, Carina is responsible for strategic planning, community outreach and any odd job that needs to be done!
How has your history as a Nordic skier helped you grow as a leader and entrepreneur? What skills have you found transferable?
Carina: From the time I can remember, I loved chasing people faster or older than myself and pushing myself to keep up. That created the foundation to train hard and dedicate myself completely to my sport. I was really concerned when I decided to retire from ski racing that I wouldn’t have anything I loved to work towards. I fortunately found a place at the parent company of Keen Footwear and learned that I loved international business and establishing new relationships overseas. I quickly was able to transfer my drive to train to a drive to build my career. I often found myself as the sole woman in the room, and people asked if this intimidated me. When I was part of ski teams, the men and women had many workouts that were done together and I always looked at myself as part of the team, not just the women’s team. This mindset certainly helped as a woman in business and I am grateful for that!
We know that as a mother of two your time is in high demand! What advice do you have for other mothers in business? What has worked well for you?
Carina: When I had our first baby, I fully expected I’d want to return to work immediately. I have worked hard my whole life, and I didn’t anticipate wanting to take time away to focus on a baby. I completely shocked myself when I found that I wanted to spend more time with her than I could have ever imagined. I have done a lot of research about women returning to work after having a baby, and there are pretty clear statistics that show if a woman is given the option to come back after four months instead of three, the likelihood of retention is significantly higher. Being a new mom is really hard and I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility to take the time I needed. Paid family leave is so important and our country doesn’t do enough to support new families. As Bivo grows, I will make sure that our employees have the time they need when they bring children into the world.
For other parents in business, I think the biggest thing before having kids is that you and your partner understand what each will contribute. Will one work more than the other, will one plan dinners and clean while the other gets the kids to bed? I think you really have to look at your life holistically and not just at work or just at home life. It truly requires juggling and balancing and having open conversations about how it’s going to all work together.
What are some of the ways women in leadership positions can inspire the future generations and advocate for equity in the workplace?
Carina: I’m a big believer in leading by example. Lead the life you want and show other women it’s possible. Hire other women and listen to their perspective. Pay them what they should be paid and recognize that they have a life outside of work. Have a voice for what you believe in. That will of course be different for everyone and that’s the beauty of having more representation.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner?
Carina: I started my first business when I was 28. I had no kids, I rented an apartment, had recently started dating my husband and really didn’t feel like I had any responsibilities other than making sure I could feed myself. Running a business with that mentality was shockingly easy. As it grew, things got more complex; I got married, had kids and was a little less naive. Now, knowing that my decisions directly impact my family makes it harder to take risks. I am the risk taker in our family - I jump without thinking too much and rely on my husband and team to make sure it can be executed.
Now, my biggest challenge is pushing myself to continue to jump. I know this is my most valuable skill but it’s harder knowing I have more on the line.
Let’s take a step away from business—riding and skiing are still a big part of your life. How do you find joy in those activities today?
Carina: To this day, I still find nothing more peaceful than a classic ski in the woods with extra blue or multigrade violet kick wax. It’s quiet, there is cold, fresh air to breathe and there is a rhythm to classic skiing that lets me completely relax.
Riding is something I have come to love post ski racing. When I started just after retiring from skiing, people tried to convince me to race but I wanted to keep cycling as a sport that I didn’t have to worry about being competitive in. The gravel roads around our home in Richmond are amazing - great views, quiet roads and clean air.