Tanya Carrier arrives at the Emergency Arts building on East Fremont drinking water from a hose attached to her backpack. She sheepishly tucks mismatched socks inside her neon blue Asics running shoes. Woven through her fluorescent pink shoelaces are two heart-shaped pins, one of which holds the ubiquitous face of Hello Kitty.
Carrier, a 34-year-old Clark County teacher, is all smiles when she talks about her new business venture outside of the classroom, Downtown Runners. But behind her effervescent energy and sugary voice is a determined businesswoman who’s gotten the support of big-name sponsors that see her start-up running team as another step toward revitalizing downtown Las Vegas.
Before heading to work every day, Carrier would wake at 4 a.m. to run. Her less-than-active coworkers would poke fun of her running schedule until one day Carrier found out a few ran a 5K color run together.
This was different, they said. This was for fun.
Carrier was intrigued. She thought, why couldn’t she make a business out of it?
She created Downtown Runners, a company that celebrates fun fitness by hosting themed running events. Its first 5K, the Sprinkler Sprint on Aug. 10, takes runners of all ages and skills through 5,000 meters of water zones and obstacles in the streets of downtown Las Vegas.
With a staff of one — herself — Carrier used her infectious positivity to garner resources.
Lauralie Ezra, founder of PR start-up Crowd Siren, offered Carrier her marketing services for free, receiving her first paycheck from Carrier after six months.
“I see the potential in what she’s going to do. So for me it made sense to help her out,” Ezra said. “It was an investment in our time that we know we’re going to get a return.”
The event’s volunteer coordinator, Heidi Dove, signed up to help after hearing Carrier gush about the Sprinkler Sprint in a parking lot.
“It’s easy to sell something that’s so exciting and so much fun,” said Dove, who is expecting 150 to 200 high school volunteers the day of the event.
But the support of a heavyweight name in the downtown scene really put Carrier’s run on the map.
Zappos, which begins in the fall its move into the former city hall building, is sponsoring two of the race’s stations.
That includes a super squirt soak zone where volunteers spray runners with water and an ice pop shop that passes out Otter pops to runners.
The company is also providing reusable water bottles.
Stacey Sam, a Zappos brand experience events manager, described Carrier as a “ball of energy” whose vision aligned with the company’s culture.
“Zappos has 10 core values, one being to create fun and a little weirdness,” Sam said. “We really love that it’s taking place in our future neighborhood It’s a really great intro into the downtown environment.”
After rejecting her initial branding of “Run 4 Your Soul,” Carrier settled on the name “Downtown Runners” because of its universal application.
“If I ever were to scale and go somewhere else to help build a community, I could go to any downtown in America,” she said.
Already looking ahead, Carrier’s next idea is a Strip Poker event.
Runners would take off layers of clothing at different stations in exchange for playing cards.
They’d try to make poker hands at the end of the race to win prizes while the clothes would be donated to charity.
But Carrier stops herself before she gets carried away.
First is the Sprinkler Sprint. And with just a couple weeks until the event, Carrier is still hitting the streets, sticking fliers on cars and stopping by businesses to spread the word.
She doesn’t expect to make a profit on the Sprinkler Sprint, but she knows the hard work will eventually pay off.
“New businesses usually lose before they make profit,” she said. “I’m not into making money on this first event. I just really want to give people an experience they’re gonna never forget. Once I do that, they’ll come back. And then the money will come.”
Tickets are on sale until the day of the event at www.downtownrun.com.
Contact Melissah Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0491. Follow her @MelissahYang.