One year ago, a big group of people took a leap of faith.
It started with the Shift Up Now founder, Lynn Kehoe. Lynn was the first person to decide it was time to make a change. In doing so, she allowed Shea Holbrook and I to take the organization she had built and put our stamp on it, to take it to the next level. This meant relinquishing control of something she had dedicated several years of her life to and allowing us to take things in our own direction.
Next up were Shea and myself. We’re both somewhat (ahem) busy running our own businesses in the motorsport world already, and neither of us has enough disposable income to be the kind of benevolent benefactor that Shift Up Now had previously enjoyed. But we hoped that the old adage, “If you build it they will come,” would hold true. So we set about rebuilding the website and launching the Shift Up Now Membership program.
Then there were the Shift Up Now Athletes. This was a different direction for the company: We were trying to build something bigger. Would they take the leap of faith to come with us on this journey? Would they trust us by continuing to attach their brands to ours, and would they spend their own money to also become Shift Up Now Members? Because to be a Shift Up Now Athlete, you must first become a Shift Up Now Member, doing your part to show your support and invest a small amount of skin in the game.
Next, there were all of you. The Shift Up Now Athletes reached out to our communities and asked you to spend $100 a year to join us, to trust us we would spend your money wisely by providing everything from worthwhile, online webinars to merchandise. We asked you to be there with us as we learned how to run this community, to endure some of the growing pains because you believe in what we’re trying to achieve.
At this time last year, there was a lot of tension, nervousness, wondering whether we could really make it work and whether you would really step up to help us make it happen.
Twelve months later, I’m reflecting on the first year of the new Shift Up Now with incredible pride. While we still have a long way to go, here is a small list of what we have achieved so far:
In partnership with Round 3 Racing and Hagerty, three of our racers had the opportunity to compete in the 2021 World Racing League. MotorTrend TV created a six-part mini-series, The Drive Within presented by Hagerty. We’re very proud that our racers are associated with such a high-profile show, and the Round 3 Racing program.
Hagerty not only partnered with us on the Round 3 Racing program, but also helped three other Shift Up Now athletes to compete: Hannah Grisham made her MX5 Cup debut, Emily Linscott raced in the F4 United States Championship, and Michele Abbate competed in the Trans Am TA2 West Coast Championship, where she finished P5 overall.
Cooper Tires also returned as a supporter of the Round 3 Racing program and offered Shift Up Now Members a discount on their first set of Cooper tires, a pretty cool membership perk, in my opinion.
We created a small travel and photography fund for our racers to utilize when they’ve found the budget to race but have to choose between another set of new tires or professional photography to help showcase their sponsors. This year alone, the fund helped eight Shift Up Now Athletes in more than 15 events across five different Championships.
We employed Monica Hilton, an experienced motorsport public relations professional, to help us maintain the website, write news stories and create newsletters to keep you up to date. As we continue to improve our website and social media, we’ve made a commitment to hire Monica at a more appropriate level in 2022. This will help us elevate our brand and profile, which in turn helps our Athletes. We aim to send the message that being associated with Shift Up Now is an integral part of a racers career.
Over the past year, Shift Up Now Athletes have hosted two fan forums and a multitude of online webinars, including Social media 101, fitness in motorsport and a three-part series focused on How to Get into Racing / Next Steps. In addition, we hired Jess Shanahan from Racing Mentor to host an online sponsorship webinar for our Members.
We couldn’t have done any of this without your help. First and foremost, our Membership Community allows us to exist. We set a goal of 250 members in the first year and I’m proud to say we knocked it out of the park. My goal is to continue providing you with a valuable product and making a difference in the lives of our Athletes so that you stick with us and support the vision! Here’s what’s coming next:
We recently launched a new, improved Member Dashboard with a Member Noticeboard, where you’ll be able to engage with other members directly. I’ve started three discussions already so I encourage you to log in and check it out.
We’re already working on the 2022 webinars and plan to hire a guest speaker for our next social media webinar. We received feedback requesting a data webinar so that’s also in the works, and of course we’ll bring back the popular online Fan Forum events.
We’re excited to introduce you to some new Shift Up Now Athletes in 2022! We’re thrilled that some of the most talented women in motorsport are starting to seek us out and work with us. Naturally, this means we need to keep working hard to help them find funding, but that’s what we’re here to do. While the task can sometimes be daunting, we’re undeterred in our determination to make a difference.
Speaking of funding, we’re starting to seek Corporate Members who want to join Shift Up Now, and support our overall mission to raise up female talent in an arena where women are still under-represented and under-funded. These funds will primarily be used to create a more robust travel, training and photography fund. The goal is to do more, for more racers, allowing them to focus more on the job of going fast while having less auxiliary financial concerns.
Every time I ran the Indy 500, it took me months to dig myself out of the financial hole that comes with competing while not being able to work during competition. Since I’ve been there personally, I know how important this peace of mind can be to a racer.
We’ve also just landed our first online social media partnership that is going to benefit some of our racers in the coming months. We’ll share the details very soon and if you want to help us out, hit the like button and leave a comment on these racers’ posts. Your engagement helps us prove our worth to the companies willing to spend money with our Athletes. This is an important way to help our racers start to earn a living income in our sport.
Our biggest goals for 2022 are to continue sustainable growth, find more brands who want to align with us, and serve you, our community better than ever before.
We’ve come a long way since the relaunch of Shift Up Now in December 2020 and we still have a long way to go. Our ultimate goal remains, of becoming both a talent pool and resource for racers and brands, and we’re aware it’s a long journey to get there. The year ahead marks the next steps on this pathway and we hope you will be walking with us.
Because together, we can make a difference.