From Levi’s to PrettyDamnedFast to Sun and Air: Anna Maria Wolf - 2016 UBI Scholarship Winner
Interview by B Vivit
For a while after being hired at UBI, I kept thinking, Anna Maria.. Anna Maria.. Why do I know that name? Anna Maria Wolf (previously Diaz-Balart) is the driving impetus behind Pretty Damned Fast, pretty much the only cycling blog I actually keep up with. She is also a QBP Women’s Mechanic Scholarship winner from January 2016.
Although she has put aside many of her duties at the blog, Wolf has gained innumerable new responsibilities by opening her own bike shopand continuing to be a driving force in her community at large. As an all-around hustler, she continues to focus on her new shop Sun and Air.
BV: Which class were you? How many years did you apply before winning the scholarship?
AMW: 2016; Only applied once.
BV: What work were you doing before the scholarship?
AMW: I was working full time as a fashion stylist, part time at the shop that my husband owns and operates (although back then we weren’t married), and publishing a women’s cycling website called Pretty Damned Fast. I also worked part time in strategy and community management for Levis Commuter.
BV: What was the most helpful skill or trick that you learned during the scholarship?
AMW: Women in the bike industry can be isolated. Honestly the Facebook group and my roommates have been my mentors, my support network, my best advisers and biggest advocates. Its ALL ABOUT ALUMNI!
BV: What impacted you the most about your experience?
AMW: Coming from the fashion industry it was hard for me to see the viability of the local bike shop in an industry that was so small in comparison. After bike school, I had a better understanding of where shops can make a profit and where the industry has growth potential.
BV: What piece of advice can you give to the hopeful women applying this year?
AMW: If you’re applying to this scholarship you absolutely belong in this industry. Regardless of whether you get the scholarship or not. You don't need it to validate your presence. Don't get discouraged and hang in there ‘till you find where you belong and your skills are valued.
If you’re applying to this scholarship you absolutely belong in this industry. Regardless of whether you get the scholarship or not.
BV: How did the scholarship help you achieve your goals?
AMW: It changed them. I thought I was going to devote myself full time to cycling media/press. Pretty Damned Fast had grown considerably by the time I started school and I thought with better technical skills I could write with more authority and conviction about bikes. I think there’s a tendency in cycling press to talk tech[nology] over narrative and experience. Still I saw my future in the media/marketing/strategy realm. But I ended up leaving bike school feeling that the local bike shop was a viable small business, especially in the internet shopping era. It was great to study alongside other women owners, and hear about what was working for them, in their communities.
BV: Did you restructure your goals after leaving the scholarship?
AMW: On August 1st, 2016, I signed a lease for my own bike shop: Sun And Air. I resigned from Levis Commuter when they discontinued their women’s collection. I’ve kept styling as close to full-time as possible and I am also in the new shop full-time. I’ve scaled back my responsibilities at Pretty Damned Fast, and some other amazing women have stepped up as senior editors providing a lot of content and editing. I have had 6 days off since signing the lease and that included my wedding day.
On August 1st, 2016, I signed a lease for my own bike shop: Sun And Air.
BV: Where are you right now?
AMW: At my shop working on a presentation to get a bike corral through the Department of Transportation. I go to A LOT of Community Board meetings now!
BV: Any last thoughts?
AMW: As a Latina and native Spanish speaker my non-English technical vocabulary was in poor shape. I used my time at UBI and worked closely with the other Spanish speaker in my class to practice service department Spanish. Non-native speakers constitute a large and underserved community within the cycling industry, yet make up a disproportionately large segment of the cycling population for economic reasons, so even if you use English mostly in your day to day life, consider dialing in your non-english bike vocabulary, it can have a huge impact!
Be sure to check out Wolf’s new shop, Sun and Air. You can also check in on the latest and greatest at Pretty Damned Fast for tips about what and how to eat on the bike, bikepacking at its finest, and fun stories from first-time racers and pro-riders alike. But you want to know the best part about it? It’s all about women on the bike.