A Thank You Letter from our CEO - Sender One Climbing

Dear Sender One Members & Community,

When Los Angeles and Orange County gave the green light for Sender One to reopen, I found myself conflicted...again.  In March, when we first shut the gyms down, I found myself torn between trying to save Sender One and doing what was best to fight the pandemic.  I am happy and relieved that we are able to reopen the gyms, but I ask myself the same questions as when we closed the gyms in reverse.  “Is it responsible to reopen?  Should we require masks while climbing?  Will members want to climb despite all that we will ask of them so that they can?“

Added to these questions about balancing Sender One and everyone’s physical health, there are now overlaid a whole other group of questions that, as a Chinese woman running an indoor climbing gym business, I’ve also started to ask myself.  “Could Sender One have done more to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion?  How do we do more right now, when it feels like it takes everything we have just to save Sender One to be a place that can even ask these questions and take more action?”

I feel the weight of these questions every day--both professionally, but also personally.  My husband and I come to the gyms almost every day, knowing that to be able to do that and save Sender One, we ask my mother to watch one or both of our daughters every day.  Is the risk worth it?  Every day the gyms are closed, the company is in the red; opening the doors only means we are less in the red.  Under these circumstances, can and should we risk Sender One’s future right now by giving some of the resources that we do have to those who need it more?

I don’t know the “right” answer to any of these questions, much less all of them at the same time.  How do I perfectly and simultaneously save Sender One as a business; keep people safe while they come to climb; and forge more diversity and inclusion for people of color in a space that I know from personal experience could use it more.  It will be a delicate balancing act to answer these questions and then act consistent with those answers.  But I am certain we will do everything we can--choosing with our hearts and guided by our core values--to do our best.  I am also certain that we will do everything we can to learn and do better after the inevitable missteps and mistakes we will make.  I know this because this is how we try to run Sender One in all of its aspects every minute of every day--with empathy and humility, but also conviction.

How do I know this?  Because I see around me a community of members that also reflect our core values.

I could hardly contain my emotions through my mask when I saw the first familiar faces come into our Santa Ana gym last week as I gave them their health screenings.  I definitely would have broken into tears if I could have hugged them.  I have talked to as many members as I could the past few days and I have been blown away by everyone’s kindness and willingness to do everything we’ve asked them to do to climb.  I’m also overwhelmed by how much everyone has appreciated our efforts; we honestly didn’t know how this was going to go after everything that has happened in the world.

Everyone is making their own decisions about if they want to return to climbing.  Many of you are not ready, and we thank you for remaining part of our community of members even though you aren’t climbing right now and may not for sometime.  You could easily have cut your ties and I wouldn’t blame you.  It is a difficult dilemma we know very well--the physical, economic, and ethical quandaries that come from even just deciding to just go to the grocery store, much less go to a climbing gym.  Everyone’s answer to the question of when they will climb again is going to be different.  We will be here for you if you decide you are ready to return.  

For the members that have returned, thank you.  We recognize that when you come to the gym, pay your dues, you are entrusting us with your hard earned wages; your health and the health of those close to you; and the stewardship of the community that calls Sender One home. Thank you for following our new rules. Thank you for climbing with masks on.  Thank you for reaching out to us and giving us constant feedback so we can continue to do better  And most of all, thank you for re-discovering and re-connecting with us through climbing.

Over the next few weeks, if it makes sense to, we will slowly and carefully allow other stakeholders into the facility--customer groups including youth teams, punch pass holders, and day users.  Please know that at each step, we are constantly evaluating whether it is the right call, and we aren’t afraid to modify that call if the situation changes.   

Many of you have asked about Playa Vista, Westwood, and the Santa Ana training center.  All of those projects have been delayed, but are still happening.

I’m also happy to let you all know that we are actually hiring.

I want to leave you with this.

My seven-year old daughter asked me recently, “Mommy, did your school get cancelled because of the Coronavirus when you were in 1st grade?  When are things going to be normal again?  When can we stop wearing masks?  When can I hug my friends?”  And I said, “I don’t know.  This has never happened to me.  Actually, this has never happened to anyone who is alive right now.  All we can do is the best we can each day, and then get up and try to do it again tomorrow.”  If there is anything positive that has come out of the pandemic, it has revealed to me what is truly important--in ways that are impossible to ignore.

With love and gratitude,

Alice Kao
Co-Founder, CEO

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