Pioneering Women: Beth Cross

Pioneering Women: An Interview with Beth Cross

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with our CEO and founder, Beth Cross, to learn more about the early days of Ariat and the importance of paving your own path.

By any definition, Beth Cross, co-founder and CEO of Ariat, is an entrepreneur, pioneer, and trailblazer. When Ariat started nearly 30 years ago, it required courage and optimism to enter an industry that was slow to change, dominated by very traditional brands, and whose basic products hadn’t changed in over 100 years.

The foundation of Ariat’s mission 30 years ago was to build the most innovative footwear for the world’s top Western and English riders. The Ariat team understood that riders are athletes and were determined to create products that would help them perform at their best.

The company’s name was inspired by Secretariat – a legendary thoroughbred racehorse who won the Kentucky Derby and went on to win the Triple Crown in 1973, setting records that have never been broken. Secretariat’s big heart and competitive spirit were the perfect inspiration for the Ariat dream.

Thirty years later, Ariat's commitment to innovation and craftsmanship remains unwavering. Ariat was the first company to integrate athletic footwear technology into boots for equestrian athletes and is now a global innovation leader in both footwear and apparel for all types of riding, outdoor activities, and work environments. Our loyal following around the globe is a testament to Beth's tenacity and visionary leadership.

And as we approach this significant milestone, we wanted to celebrate Beth and her pioneering spirit. We sat down with Beth to discuss her remarkable journey and her commitment to continuing to innovate, grow, and inspire for the next 30 years – and beyond.

What motivates you to break through a challenging obstacle?

The Ariat family is one of my greatest sources of motivation and joy. Our community is made up of incredibly hard-working and talented people from around the world, and we inspire and support each other as we tackle the many daily challenges of work, family, and life in general. There are no challenges that are purely business – much of what we think about every day is how to do the best job possible while supporting the needs of our team, our customers, and our partners around the world. Ariat’s uniquely gifted team and culture are key to our success.

Is there a woman (family member/business leader/peer/athlete/etc.) you look up to or who inspires you? Who is she and what about her inspires you?

My mom has been an inspiration for me throughout my life. I was one of 8 kids, and my mom also ran our family farm, raising horses, sheep, pigs, and chickens while supporting our dad’s business. She was an incredibly hard worker, and also loved to have fun – important qualities that have stayed with me.

What was the best piece of leadership advice you have ever received?

So much about leadership is understanding and embracing failure. Some advice that is horse related is well known - “when you fall off the horse, you get up and you get back on”. For a long time, I thought that phrase meant that you had to be willing to face your fears, but now I see it more as a lesson in patience and perseverance.

If you are trying to do anything, especially if you’re new to it – you will try and fail while you are learning. And then when you tackle more challenging things, you might have bigger failures while you are learning. It’s not “if,” it’s “when.” I met a young man last year with cerebral palsy who competes in Iron Man competitions – he said “I’m either winning or learning” and that has really stuck with me. There are always going to be new challenges to overcome, but what it comes down to is resilience and hard work. The only way to keep progressing and growing is to accept that failure will be a regular occurrence and to pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.

When do you feel your most confident?

Every time I put on a pair of Ariat boots or clothing, or see someone wearing one of our products, I’m reminded of the incredible privilege it has been to be a part of building this great company over the last three decades. We started off with two styles of boots, and now, we are a global company that offers products for nearly every activity, job, or lifestyle. When I see people wearing our boots, it makes me happy and proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

As a mother to a daughter, what leadership qualities of yours do you hope your daughter emulates?

My hope is that my daughter understands and appreciates the value of having a learning mindset. In any situation, there is always something to learn, and good advice can come from anyone – your boss, a mentor, a colleague, a neighbor, or a good book. For me, I’m at my best when I’m learning – asking questions, being curious, assuming I’m wrong, and looking for a new way of approaching a problem. That quality will serve as a strong foundation for any young person in their career.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since starting the company nearly 30 years ago?

There are so many things I’ve learned personally, and we’ve learned together over the past 30 years. The most important is to always look for the best in the people you work with and to first seek to understand their unique talents and point of view. In that same vein, I’ve learned to slow down and really listen – and then ask questions. It’s back to curiosity and a learning mindset that has been the greatest source of insight for me when learning how to be a supportive, collaborative, and creative member of a team.

How have women been instrumental to the growth of Ariat over the years?

On International Women’s Day, I want to recognize and appreciate all the women in our lives at Ariat that have powered our success. The women of Ariat are smart, powerful, funny, and creative, and will always be there when you need a helping hand. Thinking more broadly, we often think about how we owe so much to the women in our lives - our mothers, sisters, extended family, and everyone else in our lives who support us so we can go to work every day and make the amazing products that our customers love.

What are your goals for the company over the next 30 years?

My goal for Ariat for the next 30 years is to continue to design and manufacture the world’s most innovative products. Along the way, we will recruit the next generation of leaders to our wonderful Ariat team, work hard to introduce our brand to new customers around the world, and always stay true to our core values.

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