Ritch Viola is the founder of Every Man Jack, a company that produces a complete line of grooming products for men. An accomplished age group triathlete, Ritch formed his own team in 2011 to help promote his business, but discovered so much more about how he could contribute to the triathlon community. Team Every Man Jack has grown into one of the most recognizable outfits in the sport and currently boasts a roster of around 70 athletes. We chatted with Ritch to learn more about his team, his training routine, and his thoughts on the perfect triathlon event.
Tell us about yourself and how you started the Every Man Jack brand.
I went to business school at UCLA, and when I came out, the dotcom push was crazy. I worked at Clorox and then at Method, a company that makes home cleaning products, so I was working closely with people at Target for new product launches. Every Man Jack evolved over conversations and presentations and centered on strategy. As a brand, it was approached very differently than what I think we’d be able to do today. So in 2007, I was able to utilize my experience and relationships and we were able to become an exclusive brand for Target stores for two years. Now we’ve expanded to different outlets including Walgreens and Whole Foods, as well as various regional grocery stores. Most of our items are hair, body, skin and shave products, but last year we launched razors and razor blades, which was a big push for us. And last year we also launched a new category called Sport, which is made up of sunscreen and cleaning products for athletes. Best of all, a percentage of proceeds from the Sport line go to pro triathlete Chris Lieto’s More Than Sport charitable organization.
What motivated you to start Team Every Man Jack?
I got into triathlon around the same time I started Every Man Jack, and I competed for a few years. In 2011 when I went to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, I made a custom kit for myself with Every Man Jack logos on it. A lot of people told me, “Hey, I really like that kit! What team is it?” That was the impetus for starting a team, and shortly after that we had signed a bunch of guys. We did the local thing in the San Francisco Bay Area for two years, but then we received so much interest from athletes in other parts of the country that I realized we had a great opportunity to expand.
For the 2014 season, we conducted a national search. And it’s such a small community in triathlon that I was a bit worried about finding the right people who would fit best, you know, by essentially placing ads on the Internet. But I feel that we’ve had a very high success rate and now the Bay Area is what we consider the hub of the team with around 20 athletes, and there are about 50 in other areas of the country.
Starting the team and providing sponsorship for it through Every Man Jack is something that I wanted to do, but not just because I wanted to say, “Hey, look at me, I started my own team!” From a business standpoint, we looked very closely at the triathlon market, as well as the active male customer base that we wanted to reach. And the commonalities between the two groups included the types of individuals who not only thrive when taking care of their bodies in terms of food, but who also think the same way about what they apply to their skin.
Team Every Man Jack athlete, James Capparell attacks the course aboard his Felt IA.
Team Every Man Jack is comprised exclusively of male athletes. Do you have any plans of launching a women’s team?
No, not at the moment. There are so many incredible female-specific teams out there, and they can offer a lot to female athletes. For now, I kind of like the vibe we have with our current roster. And in truth, I would say that most of the female friends and significant others of our athletes feel like they’re part of the team as well. It’s very much a close-knit type of organization that we try to cultivate, and that’s what we’re focusing on.
Team Every Man Jack’s Yoni Doron-Peters dials in his fit on the Felt IA.
As far as competition goes, what’s your proudest accomplishment as an athlete?
I would say that it’d have to be winning both the 70.3 and Kona World Championships in my age group during the 2014 season. Placing first in those events was never really a goal for me, which I know sounds like an odd thing to say. But I don’t think it’s necessarily good for some athletes to have place goals, but rather time goals. Whereas pros, of course, want to go out and win, they know their competitors intimately. But as an amateur, you don’t know who might show up on any given day; there might be some athlete from far away who will completely dominate. So my proudest accomplishment as a triathlete wasn’t necessarily winning, but fighting hard. I’d love to have a race someday where I’ll crush that final leg of the marathon.
What’s your favorite event in which to compete?
I love Escape From Alcatraz. But I don’t like where that event is headed in terms of their dramatic price increases. I think that sends a bad message to the triathlon community and potential new triathletes, that a true “bucket list” event for many people has become less accessible.
What I really love about the event is the unique experience of the San Francisco-based course. All of the athletes are huddled together on a boat and sent out to Alcatraz Island, and then jump into the water and have to swim to shore. And the bike course is hilly and technical, so you always have to be focused. It’s not like some events where the bike course is straight and flat and predictable. The run course is quite similar, too, in that regard. Tri-California, who organizes several events including Wildflower, puts on a similar event called the San Francisco Triathlon At Alcatraz with a similar racecourse.
Team Every Man Jack athlete Mike Vulanich.
What key features do you look for in a triathlon bike?
Let’s clarify this right away: I’m not exactly a bike person. In fact, a lot of friends and teammates make fun of me for not being able to change a flat tire—even though I can! But the things I value are speed and looks. Speed is, of course, very important for performance. So I’ll look at things like aerodynamic efficiency and how much wind tunnel development a bike’s had, things like that. But a bike should look good, too, and get you excited to ride it. For me, I picked the Felt IA 3 over the IA 2. And that’s simply because I preferred the graphics on the IA 3, even though they’re both great-looking bikes!
Our team wanted great bikes, and we looked at Felt’s recent success at winning championships at Kona in recent years. But our decision to choose Felt really came down to our interaction with Jim Felt and the rest of the company’s representatives. Speaking with Jim and others at Felt made me feel that our team would be very well cared for. We had been speaking with some other brands prior to picking Felt, but I really liked the leadership of Jim Felt and what the company can offer beyond simply making an incredible bike.
Team Every Man Jack athlete Brian O’Neil riding the Felt B2.
Do you ride anything in addition to your IA 3, like a road bike or a mountain bike?
I don’t right now, but I’ll be getting a Felt AR3 next week, and I’m super excited about that.
Tell us about your training regimen.
I have two kids, so I can’t train in the evening. That’s our designated family time for dinner, homework and relaxing together. I started working with Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness a few years ago and, under him, I was able to gain a lot more specificity to my workouts. I get up every morning at 5:00am to train because I know I can’t train during the day when I’m working, and I can’t train in the evenings when I’m spending time with my family.
Team Every Man Jack athlete Jackson Dovey riding the Felt DA.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in triathlon?
When it comes to the bike, get the Felt IA 16. I just heard about it, and it’s a killer deal! In terms of equipment, that’s the one thing I waited on for quite a while. I began racing on a road bike initially, and I’d get past on the bike course by lots of people with aero bars yelling, “Nice swim!” But eventually I got a Felt B2, so that was my first triathlon-specific bike.
Beyond the equipment, my advice would be to try and recruit others, or join a team. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are engaging in the sport to have fun. It’s a healthy lifestyle and it should be fun. You’ll enjoy it more and hold yourself more accountable when there are other people around to motivate you. And as you get more serious about the sport and improve, stay surrounded by people—but make sure a lot of them are faster than you. You don’t want to show up to a group workout and not be challenged. The output you’ll get when you challenge yourself is far greater than it would be otherwise.
Check out more information on Ritch Viola and Team Every Man Jack in the latest issue of Triathlete Magazine!