Chip Wilson – Founder & Former CEO Lululemon

Episode 257

Tune in and listen as Chip Wilson, Founder of Lululemon and serial entrepreneur, shares so many nuggets including how to build a brand that sticks, create a legacy and live for today. Plus we will hear more about his terrific book! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin. And this is the Kara Goldin show and I am so thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Chip Wilson, who is really an iconic entrepreneur but probably is best known for being the founder of Lululemon but so much more which he’s going to talk to us a lot more about that and everything that he’s been doing a since Lululemon. But even before that, as well, founding West beach snowboarding in 1997, sold it before founding and running Lululemon in 2019. Chip partnered with Anta sports to Buy America sports, which includes brands such as atomic arcteryx, Solomon and Wilson Sporting Goods. On his website, Chip says that he thinks an entrepreneur is someone who is too incompetent to work for anyone else. I loved that and is driven to bring unpopular ideas to fruition. And I’m so excited to talk a little bit more about that. So the story of Lululemon, which is available for free on his website, and credible, you can also order it on Audible and, and lots of other places as well. But he is definitely somebody that I hugely admire, and probably admire even more after being connected with him and talking a little bit more about his journey. So thank you, Chip, so much for coming on.

Chip Wilson 2:18
Thanks for having me, Kara.

Kara Goldin 2:19
So let’s start at the beginning, I’d love to get a picture of young Chip Wilson and who are you as a kid? I mean, where did you always know that you would, you know, hang a shingle and and go and do something that was gonna actually change a category?

Chip Wilson 2:38
Hi, I have to say that I would be very entrepreneurial right from the beginning. I know, right? It’s competitive swimmer, and, and, and quite good at it. But I in those days, you had to go door to door, you had to sell things, you had to raise money for the swim team to travel and our family didn’t have, you know, it was we were constrained on money, like everybody else. But I’d say that that I found I was very good at sales. I found I was a very good athlete, I was very competitive. I love to win. I was a quite a good student. And, you know, didn’t work very hard at that. That’s anything in school, but I really discovered through swimming, that the harder I work, the better the results I got.

Kara Goldin 3:28
I love that I talk a lot about athletics, childhood athletics, and I feel like you know, you learn a lot about yourself, you also learn a lot about the value of bringing people who at least I did, people were better than me on to the team so that you can learn people who are different from you, as well. Like what are you going to learn from them to which I think is just is super, super, super valuable. So who were your primary influences when you were a youngster?

Chip Wilson 4:00
Well, 100% It was my mum and dad. My My dad was a phys ed teacher and and also one of the first hippies spent anyway, he ended up retiring and becoming an assistant gardener at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur California which is what I wanted the original 70s Connors type of thing and you know experimenting with drugs and sex and that forms of thought and the S program and that type of thing. Very much a free spirit but a bit hard driven athlete at the same time, Calgary’s Athlete of the Year in 1952. And then my mum was you know, also the first female lifeguard in San Diego at the plunge and and she gymnasts you know, very, very smart and my parents ended up meeting at BYU in in in Utah and you And I was a functor, the only two non Mormons at BYU and that’s where I came from. So that’s my, they’re my heroes, they really set a credible foundation for me with the right type of other, my dad was his thinking and my mom with her abilities, and I think I had a very, I was a very big boy, for my age, I was six, three, like playing football at 250. And that was a big size at that time, and I couldn’t find clothing to fit. So then I kind of relied on all my mother’s ability to sew and patterns and that type of thing in my dad’s, you know, athletic driven, you know, driven way to kind of put those two things together.

Kara Goldin 5:43
And so did you think that you were going to be an athlete, pro athlete? I mean, was there ever sort of a thinking there that this is what I want to do forever?

Chip Wilson 5:52
No, because I think I was a competitive swimmer most of my life and there was no money in that I was pretty clear about that. I definitely wanted to become a phys ed teacher, like my dad, and my mom pulled me to the side one day and said, Son, there’s no money in being a phys ed return. And you don’t and because you love it so much. You probably don’t want to do that every day as a job you probably wanted as a hobby. So figure out something else to do.

Kara Goldin 6:16
I love it. So one of the things that I heard actually on one another one of my favorite podcast, Tim Ferriss podcast, he talked about Alaska, with you and your your journey up to Alaska. So where were you before you ended up? Getting up to Alaska? And how did that happen?

Chip Wilson 6:34
Well, my dad was originally from Calgary. So we after he, my parents graduated from university down in Fullerton in LA they, we moved to Calgary, and I went, you know, grew up there. And I was going to university at the end of my second year, and I was in an airport ran across a mother of a friend of mine. And she said, Oh, yeah, we’re moving to Alaska. And my husband’s running one of the five sections on the largest free and price project in the world, which is the pipeline at the time. And she said, Too bad. You’re not American, I could get you a job on the pipeline. I said, Well, it just so happens, I am American. So I ended up two weeks later, leaving way sicker University and, and working on what was probably the highest paying job for 18 year old in the world. And in today’s dollars, I ended up making about $750,000 in a year and a half as imagine that as a 19 year old. So it was an instant rounding amount of money. And fortunately, I didn’t blow it you know, but i i But somebody some people could see I blew it because I spent all my money educating myself on how to be the best in the world at apparel, technical apparel clothing before I even knew that that’s really what I wanted to do.

Kara Goldin 7:58
I love that. So how long were you up in Alaska?

Chip Wilson 8:01
18 months, most people would work six weeks on and two weeks off, I worked 18 straight months and took two weeks off in the middle.

Kara Goldin 8:10
Wow, that’s that is absolutely incredible. So after leaving Alaska, you decide to start your first company, you want to talk a little bit about that?

Chip Wilson 8:23
Well, I came back and then I finished graduating from university I call it the seven year bachelor program and kind of moved around a lot. But I figured I better move into business. And I actually got kicked out of business because I couldn’t pass accounting. So I went into the arts of business, which is called economics. And found out I was pretty good at it, I think because there was no real solid answer in economics and you could kind of bullshit your way around. So I got out of that worked for an oil company in Calgary between the ages of 25 and 30. But at the same time at 25. I started up a surf, you know as in California law, because my My relatives were there, I brought back the surf business into Canada. And because I had no competition, I could get economies of scale production. And then I took the surf business to Europe and Japan before Quicksilver and Billabong did. So it kind of gave me credit quite a basis for that. And then my one of my goals coming out of Alaska was to be in my own business by the age of 30. solidly so at the on my 30th birthday, I quit my old company and went solidly into the apparel business.

Kara Goldin 9:34
So this was West beach and what did what do you think was the key thing that you learned when you think back? Somebody’s gonna go start a company? It’s a version of yourself at that age. What would you say? Like you didn’t know at in starting it that you you know now.

Chip Wilson 9:54
I made a product nobody wanted or everyone told me they didn’t want so I made these the very first pair of long baggy shorts, which no one to give context back to 1980. I mean people wore, if you watch movies from the 1970s, men were very tight, very tight, short shorts. Sure. And so I made very long baggy shorts. And, and I had more to it than that my mum was a quilter. So I quilted them on one side and made them black on another. They were an incredible and incredible item. So I opened up a couple of stores. But then everyone told me I mean, why did I open two stores? Because I, I took the product and I went to wholesale them like everybody else in the world, but no one would buy them. So I have my first inventory problem. So then the only way to get out of the inventory was to basically open up my own store. So I opened up my own store. And sure enough, you know, it was it was very successful. And I was doing something no one else had done is that not only was a mitt manufacturer, designing and manufacturing, but I also didn’t wholesale, so I had to margins there that nobody else in the apparel business had. So I had two retail stores and I but I didn’t know what I had. I was too young, I had no experience. And everyone told me that wholesaling was the way to go. And, and so I started wholesaling in order to increase the volume that I was manufacturing. But at the end of 17 years, I ended up with two retail stores that were making a million dollars each and this international wholesale business that was losing a million dollars. So that was my big learning.

Kara Goldin 11:46
That’s incredible. So you sold West beach after a few years. You were there for a while, actually from right 79 to 97. What was it like? Selling that first company? Were you? Were you happy? Were you ready? I mean, and how do you like what was what was kind of the feeling at that point?

Chip Wilson 12:09
Oh, I was incredibly happy to sell. I call that you know, my 18 year MBA, because I really didn’t make any money. But what I learned was that, you know, every business goes through a cycle, it starts off with you in the search business, three companies goes to 500 companies, then down to three companies in seven years. Same thing happened in skateboarding. Same thing happened in, in snowboarding. And it takes so much money to build up and to beat the competition before there’s more competition there. But then when there’s a lot of competition, and there’s dumping of product mergers and acquisitions, etc. Within the margins get so depressed, there’s no money to be made on the other side. So and because I’d got myself so heavily into the wholesale business, which took so much money so far in advance to make zippers and jackets and fabrics and everything else. I never could make any money. And plus I had all these wholesalers that would never pay me on time and they’d go bankrupt and wreck the brand and they’d go on sale of my product. And it was very frustrating. And I just it was a great learning experience. But I felt when I sold like oh man now it’s time to just go get a job at Starbucks as a barista. Did you do that? Well, no, I was going to and probably would have done that. But then I’m walking down the street and I, I see one of those telephone posts with the rip off thing of a yoga class and I sit down at a at a coffee shop and I’m listening to two women next to me talk about yoga. And in those days, I opened up the newspaper and there was a article about yoga there and I went oh my god, like this is the same thing as surfskate snowboarding this is going to be massive and I kind of decided right then and there I was gonna bet the farm everything I’d I ended up with a million dollars out of selling West beach and so I decided I was gonna go full on into yoga.

Kara Goldin 14:13
That’s where I’m at which ultimately became Lululemon. So what did you so what was sort of the beginning of that, that I mean, obviously taking that piece of paper off the post and, and really becoming passionate. You’re obviously a visionary entrepreneur who sees the trends did other people see what you saw? I mean, did they think it was crazy that you were heading into this direction and what was kind of the

Chip Wilson 14:44
was the same in Surf Skate snowboarding? No, because it was basically a 14 to 18 year old boy and nobody in financing or money would really understood that markets they probably still don’t really understand today. So am I I remember when I when I registered or corporated Lululemon that my lawyer told me later, of course, he went, Oh, yeah, like a yoga company is going to work. So, I mean, that’s that was just been standard abiding anybody with business or you know, and you these are things that have to be proven out before people who are so called Smart Money will come into it.

Kara Goldin 15:23
Yeah, no, absolutely. They probably thought it was, you know, niche, and not going to be big enough. And but I think that that whole idea, I mean, I remember when you were starting, just, you know, that the idea of going to a class like yoga was, I mean, your sweats, right? I mean, it or short, I mean, you just, and everybody kind of wore the same thing. It was sloppy, it was, I don’t know, it just you really changed it and things, you know, including the fabrics and the material and all those things that Lululemon obviously became so famous for and disruptive for was really your vision. So I, I definitely admire that about you. And can also recognize how hard it probably was where you did have people like the, the, I call them the money guys, right? Where they, they didn’t get it, but you still figured out a way to push through. So how do you do that? Like, how do you set your mind in that direction? When you have a lot of eye column doubters around you that you’re not going to be able to move forward? How do you do that?

Chip Wilson 16:38
Well, I was very fortunate in that, again, with my million dollars that I got out of selling West beach, I didn’t actually need the money people. So they wouldn’t have come anyway. Yeah. And well, I mean, I, of course, I can’t say that directly. Because I, I did run into maybe probably four times in the first probably three years of building Lululemon where I could have gone under, you know, like, in moments, I just ran out of ran out of time that couldn’t get the market going quickly enough, it was cost a lot of money to get as any business does to get it up and going and, and to get enough people wanting to buy the product. So you know, nothing was nothing was easy, but you know, I think I’m just like, I would have done it for no money. It’s just what I absolutely love to do was to make technical apparel. And I and I think that one of the successes with it was I use what what I call West Coast function, like people on the West Coast, specially up in Vancouver where the weather is like spectacularly different every day. And using that kind of thinking about absolute function with what I call the Italian styling. So putting these two things that had never been put together before.

Kara Goldin 18:03
Absolutely. And what that was kind of my next question, so Lululemon, what do you think made it so unique? And you know, obviously getting people, those first few hires that you hired in? But also obviously, the product was so incredible, but what would you say? Somebody hadn’t heard of Lululemon? They knew they ran into, like, what would you say made it really so unique back in in the beginning, and then carried on frankly, for still to this day?

Chip Wilson 18:38
Well, I always said that Lululemon was actually a People Development Company, kind of behind a charade of technical apparel. So it was, it was the way that we develop people now. That really was a function of the time. What uh, what I recognized was a brand new market that was never going to exist that had never existed before. And that is what I would call a 22 to 32 year old, single professional woman. Because up until 1998, probably most women got married at 22 right out of university and had children at 23. But I think that seen their mothers that seen how hard that work, these divorced mothers, I think they were looking for a different type of life. They knew they had to have a great education case they ever got divorced. So you had a market that had never existed before, which I foresaw was coming. And that was when when these highly educated women had the pill. They were going to have they were going to wait a long time to have children and they were going to have fewer children. So I call this group the Super Girls, as opposed to their mothers, which I called the power woman. So they when they came into the workforce, other companies weren’t investing in women. And there was no point in it, because they just thought they’d leave at 23. So what’s the point? I saw it much differently. So I saw like this is going to be, this is a resource that’s never been expensed. No one has ever like looked at and gone, this is this is a way to run a business. And go, I’m going to now take these women, I’m going to put $2,000 into their training and development. Right off the bat, I’m going to assume every one of them is great. I’m not going to wait until they showed me their, their good employees, in order to put money into them, I’m going to assume they’re all great. And because we did it that way, we created a, like just a powerhouse of employees that were driven that could see a future for themselves, we were going fast enough where they could all see they their positions in life going moving from a person working in the retail store, right up to being a CEO, they can all easily see themselves in that position. I could, I could take teachers that would be making in the union, maybe 40 to $43,000 a year and I could pay them $70,000 A year working in a retail store. And it was but it was really the exponential development of people and their ability to then develop other people and they would develop other people that really made the system work.

Kara Goldin 21:22
Well, I know people who have worked at Lululemon and underneath your leadership in San Francisco, and actually in East Hampton as well. And I definitely, I remember walking into the stores and seeing the manifesto. It was just so different. And it was really the first and and really I felt like your employees spoke to that. And you inspired them. And it was a place that people felt good about. They understood the mission. All of those things, I think create the culture that you definitely did such an excellent job doing. How did you come up with the name of the lemon

Chip Wilson 22:03
oil said I’d never say this again. Because it’s the reason I wrote the book because I found out I was saying it three times a day, because everyone wants to know, but I’ll I’ll I think it is a good story. When I had West beach, I bought a snowboard brand called homeless. Homeless skateboards. And so I started selling that in Europe and Japan and but kind of at the same time skateboarding was was declining, and snowboarding was taking off. So being a good CEO, I went, Okay, I’m gonna, I’m getting out of skateboarding. I’m gonna focus in totally on snowboarding. So I told the distributors in Japan and Europe and that I wasn’t going to do the homeless anymore. Anyway, I’m showing the Japanese the snowboard clothing brand later that year. And after I show them the product, they go, Ah, Mr. Chips, and we’re homeless. And I said look at I told you guys, I’m not doing any more focusing on snowboarding. That’s all there is to it. Anyway, that is next year, same thing, Mr. Chips, and we’re homeless said I’m not doing it. About a month later, they called me up when you have to get the context that the Japanese Yen was the most powerful currency in the world. At that time, they were buying Pebble Beach and Empire State Building. And they were buying up America with all the cheap American dollars in the powerful yen. And so they said, Mr. Chips, and we want to buy name homeless from you. And I went well, I’m selling complete air here because I never registered the name because HLM is French for male. And there was a 1000s of names that started with hom. So I didn’t, there was no point in me trying to like protect a trademark on that. And it hadn’t been making it for two years. So and I was basically out of money. And so I gave them a price I thought was absolutely ridiculous. And they went, Hmm, okay. And I went, Oh my God, that’s the easiest money I ever made in my whole life. Because. And so I started thinking over the time, like, why did the Japanese love that, you know, like that name so much? And why did they want to buy the brand and I came to recognize that the Japanese big trading companies were creating North American brand names to sell in Japan because they knew that that’s what the Japanese consumer wanted. I believe that because the homeless had an L in it. And l the phonetic of L doesn’t belong in the Japanese language, that the young people knew that that was more of an authentic North American brand name. So I thought Ah, now I wonder if that’s a reason for its power. So I thought, Man, I’m just gonna start working with alliterations and I’m just going to come up with a name with three L’s in it and see if I can ever sell it back to the Japanese for three times as much. So that was so they’re really the name comes out of absolutely nothing. And it was actually quite a risk at the time because lemon was very much connected with bad quality Detroit car. Right. So anyway, in in blue lemon was just something a little alliteration that just kind of came. And it was one of the 20 names and 20 logos that I kind of had an idea of and I put it in front of 100 women and had them vote on the name and the logo. They pick the name Lululemon. And they pick the logo from a name I had called athletically hip, which was the A for athletically.

Kara Goldin 25:31
That’s wild. I’m just curious is little lemon available in Japan?

Chip Wilson 25:35
Yo, yeah, for sure. We I think it was a third country we’d set up because laughter. My distributor in Japan for snowboarding actually was the was took and started distributing and we opened our first store in Shibuya. Quite early on in Lululemon life,

Kara Goldin 25:52
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Chip Wilson 27:27
Yeah, I can’t tell you how many companies I’m invested in that want to know about how the community was built. And I think it obviously any good marketing idea, like putting the manifesto on the side of the bag, you know, the shopping bag, you know, works at a time, but won’t, you know, it has incredible power. And the way we built community was incredible at the time because nobody else was doing it. And it felt so authentic. Because it was the first time it was being done. And nowadays, it looks like oh, just to kind of a a corporate strategy in order to build community marketing, so to speak. How it started out was when I first started when I was designing snowboard product, I was 32 years old and designing it for 14 to 18 year old boys. I’ve just discovered that they they knew a lot more than I did. And I was seen as old at the age of 32, especially for snowboarding. And I understood how having those people on with West beach clothing on was really, really powerful. I knew I didn’t have the marketing the marketing muscle that Nike did, or other people like that, that would sponsor people for millions of dollars in order to have their product. So I just basically took everybody that was that was underneath that sponsorship level stage and gave them product and ask them for what I say like comments back about the technology or the color or the fit of our clothing. So then I recognize that that actually that ended up being for a return on investment, way, way more powerful than Nike going and sponsoring a great a bigger athlete, and it was more authentic because they actually got people didn’t feel like oh, like I should go buy a Michael Jordan because you know, or, or Michael Jordan is just being sponsored by Nike in order to be aware of stuff. It’s not that he actually likes it and that maybe I’m being a little bit facetious there but by having product on actually people in the community that people really loved and respected. That was way more powerful. And I could sponsor not sponsor we could we could give our product and have them test to many, many more people for the amount of money that I had available at the time. Plus I didn’t have very much money so I couldn’t really Due to sponsorships, I had to work the community model. So those they ended up being, you know, the one I was a male and I was selling female clothing. So let’s get pretty clear that I couldn’t wear it and really understand it as well. Sure, they saw I would sponsor or get ambassadors that were yoga teachers, I would give them product, they would then help me out like how’s the fit the color, as I was saying before, and then we would use that information and then we and then, you know, redesign our apparel to be absolutely perfect.

Kara Goldin 30:37
So your book is incredible. They can absolutely incredible. Where’s the best place for people to get it? I mentioned on your your site?

Chip Wilson 30:47
Yeah. I mean, they can get it at chip They, if they want to read it on that form, they can also get it on Kindle on Amazon, and they can get an audio on Audible,

Kara Goldin 30:58
so many stories in there. So many lessons. There was one specific instance, that happened in 2013. I would love for you to kind of share a little bit about that story, if you wouldn’t mind.

Chip Wilson 31:13
Yeah, yeah, sure. It’s my most favorite but probably the most famous. Yeah, well, first off this that the book is called The Story of Lululemon. So if people want to research it that way, yeah, in in 2012, I, we had a CEO, I thought she was doing a terrible job. And I think she was playing the quarterly numbers game. And she was not putting money into quality, not put not reinvesting in the brand. I knew that we were entering probably the next 10 years, which would be the largest change in the way people are dressed in the history of the world. And yet, we were getting cheap we were, we weren’t fulfilling on our promise to the customer. And I was getting highly frustrated with a board that was so enamored by the quarterly numbers that the CEO was putting out that they couldn’t see the long term, poor effects of what was going to happen. I kept TELUS saying about the quality control, I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I moved to Australia. And I was still as chairman of the board. And I said, Okay, if you think that this is the right CEO, then you can have her and I’ll get out of the way. So you know that I’m not interfering with anybody. And sure enough, we had a major quality control issue. I come back, the board asked us to my wife and I to come back, we fix the company, they still wouldn’t get rid of the CEO, because I think they were embarrassed by having her and they didn’t have a replacement. But you know, really bad governance, terrible governance, not having a replacement. Anyway, so I had been proposing this meant to bring meditation into Lululemon as the next movement, kind of like I did in West Beach, right went from surfskate snowboarding. I thought meditation is the big next big movement. I think I was right. The company, the Board of Directors wanted nothing to do with it either to the CEO. And so I was being interviewed on on meditation on a, I don’t even remember, the program now sits, I think maybe it was Bloomberg, I can’t even remember. And as we get and get halfway through it, she asked me about the quality control issues on on Lululemon. Quite frankly, I should have thrown the board of directors and the CEO under the bus, but you know, it’s not what you do type of thing, you know, so, I kind of took it and I said, Well, you know, some sometimes you know, we you know, you have seat belts which will cut into the fabric you have purses, which will cut in the fabric, people sit on the you know, cement and it’ll cut into the fabric. So, you know, there was pilling issues, you know, type of thing and I went well, you know, quite frankly, some, some pants just don’t, you know, fit, you know, you know all women’s bodies or something like that. I can’t remember the exact thing I said but it was interpreted as triples and doesn’t like that woman and doesn’t think that that woman belong and Lululemon clothing, it was so stupid, I mean, the the idiocy of the woman that was interviewing the and the the profit motive of the company of Bloomberg and the it was but what was really it is it was the very first time when the cancel culture occurred where social media of the week 5% made it sound like they were the strong 95% So it so but at the time, you know the nobody knew how strong social media was and nobody really interpreted like that. So I ended up being taken off as chairman of the board and I was no longer the spokesman for Lululemon and Yeah, even though I had built probably the number one woman’s company in the world and probably had more women directors than anybody else, you know, I just had a weak board. And so, and that was kind of the downfall of my, my career.

Kara Goldin 35:16
And I wouldn’t say it’s a downfall, it was a moment in time. But I found it. You had shared that story with me. And I also listened to it in your book on, on Audible. I bet there’s a lot of lessons there. Right. There’s, there’s for you, you know, when you went on, then after that, to purchase some other companies and get very involved in other things. I mean, you talk about the board? And about, like, have you thought about that, as you’ve been forming other boards and the importance of, of never losing control of that board?

Chip Wilson 35:54
Well, yeah, I mean, now I’m a private equity guy on the other side, and I’m a, you know, on a board, you know, member of, you know, a few companies and I think have I think very much of that, I think number one is that, in order to have a public board, you know, to fulfill all the committee’s you need nine people and eight of those probably have to be metric security, Guardian type of thing. People that because of the structure, you have to protect the financial numbers, and, and fraud, exact exact kind of thing. And that takes a certain mindset. There’s nobody that thinks about how much money is lost on brand and product, if there’s nobody overseeing that. In other words, what the public company ends up doing is you end up with a bunch of people that are counting the money, they do have, not the amount of money that you could have if you actually had a great product and brand. So there’s there I can see no way out of it. I think the worst thing that can happen now is going public, quite frankly, it’s it’s a recipe for disaster and less, those one or two people that are creative, or founders or that have some sort of like, some sort of power and can, but how do you vote the other eight people, it’s almost impossible. And the people are security driven and scared. And they’re not going to do things that an entrepreneur founder, you don’t want to do, that a founder, or an entrepreneur can never say 100% That their idea is going to like succeed in the future. And that scares the hell out of metric people, where 100% of time, a CFO or a metric driven CEO can go to the board and go, I can guarantee this because I can show you exactly the numbers based on the past of where we’re going to go. Well, that’s what she ended up getting. And you end up getting a 7% return rather than 100% return.

Kara Goldin 37:57
Right? It’s so interesting. So when you’re building these boards than these eight people, minimum or your you said minimum nine people so what do you think that you do differently and building those boards that other people other private equity people you don’t see them doing?

Chip Wilson 38:17
Well, I think the only reason I got on this board with because Anta which is kind of the Nike of China is owned by a chairman during their family has a 60% control over it. You know, he built that from the bottom up so he like me are entrepreneurs with and we know how to clean the toilets. We know how long it takes we know how to put the lady I mean, we’ve traveled we’ve done we’ve stayed in bad hotels, we understand the business top to bottom. So it’s not like I’m getting in with a another corporate board. I really like the fact that between Chairman ding and I, we have, you know, maybe 70% control over it. But we have those great metric people that we need. It’s just that Chairman ding has with 51% has total control. So he’s got a you got a founder entrepreneur that’s actually can call the last shots. So that’s that was the appealing part for me getting into Amar’e

Kara Goldin 39:19
What do you think is the future of athletic retail today? I mean, obviously, you’re involved in some incredible brands with him. What do you think is sort of the future at this point?

Chip Wilson 39:32
Well, I still think the model I set up at Lululemon is by far the best model that I’ve seen. And that is no wholesale. And now what Lululemon did was that it eliminated wholesale so in other words, we could we could make product and go you know, open our own retail stores and go direct to the customer. Now you have a model probably over the last 10 years where people have gone ah, I can avoid the middle the middleman of the retail store. And I can just go straight ecommerce. What seems to be very, very clear, at least in apparel is that, you know, the tactile feel of apparel and the actual fit are really important. And the number of returns that pure ecommerce sites are getting because people don’t can’t feel the fabric and they don’t have the fit the returns are killing their bottom numbers. People are ordering for things returning one, it’s too expensive. So these people now are going back the pure econ plays are going back and they’re having to open up retail stores but they don’t understand vertical retails, they don’t understand how to run a a real retail store, just like wholesalers didn’t know how to run a wholesale store, or pardon me a retail store. So you’re finding it a convergence of, I believe, a model like Lululemon meeting in the middle somewhere with a pure ecommerce play that’s now trying to go retail. Now, as I said before, in wholesale, if you made something for $50, you’d wholesale it for 100. And then it would sell in a retail store for 200. Lululemon was able to make something for $50 and sell it out of its own retail stores for $150. So it could undercut the wholesale a an E commerce pure e commerce play could make something for $50 and sell it on EECOM for $100. So somewhere now I think that if they if those pure ecommerce people are just are going to start opening up retail stores, there’s a cost to it. And the cost is more than a pure just plain eat pure e calm. So I think their pricing is going to have to come up I think model like Lululemon, their pricing is going to have to come down or, or a pure e commerce player like GymShark or you know, we’re seeing Montek out of Sweden. I mean, these companies are going to figure out how to how to take business away from what could be an old business model like Lululemon

Kara Goldin 42:07
so interesting. And definitely you you mentioned a couple of Brent Montek I’ve been watching those guys that are in so so interesting. Really, super interesting. So one of the things I saw in my research on, you know, your philanthropy you’ve been, in addition to building, helping build some other companies out there that we mentioned, your philanthropy, the FSHD organization. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Chip Wilson 42:38
Yeah, I mean, I finished doing the Iron Man when I was 28. And when I was 32, I just, I couldn’t swim anymore. I thought something was wrong with my swimming and I went to a neuro you know, the doctor and you know, he took one look at my body and he said, Well, you have no your your upper body is wasting away. And and so I got tested and I got tested for faster scapular muscular dystrophy. So my scapular and triceps and chest had kind of gone away, but I had these massive legs and this kind of like, scrawny upper body. So I didn’t think much of it. And I think I’ve been pretty good for many, many years. And about four years ago, I just, you know, I, I started stumbling. So I know, that’s kind of my legs, etc. So I’m in an incredible position in life where I’ve made, you know, like lots of money, and there’s no point in dying with money. And so I went, Okay, well, you know, I can do something about this. So I put up $100 million investment, you know, I don’t need to make any money on it. I give grants, I invest in companies in order for them to be able to get over hurdles to to be able to invest and do clinical sites and muscular dystrophy. We’re doing regeneration of muscles working with the US military operations, and we’re going to figure out how to how to solve muscular dystrophy by December 31 2027.

Kara Goldin 44:04
That’s incredible. Well, I was so inspired, again, was already inspired by you, Chip Wilson, but when I heard about that, as well, I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s amazing. And I love that you’ve put a date on it, too. So that is that is a true business person versus a nonprofit, right? You’re saying we’re gonna go do this, I love it. So it’s really really great. Well, this has been such a pleasure to talk to you chip you are, you know, so great. And I really really enjoyed our conversation. There’s been so many nuggets in here. I love the conversation around the challenges of retail and and and really the perception of what you have to do in terms of wholesaling products and and you how you’ve built a business and learned, you know, the good and the bad stuff that you’ve done and shared with us. So I really, really appreciate that people can find you at chip And also definitely pick up a copy of his book. You can get it from a site, or as I mentioned many other places, too. I love listening to it on Audible as well. So it was, it was great to hear that. And thank you everybody for listening to this episode, be sure to subscribe to the Kara Goldin show where you’re going to hear incredible interviews from creators just like chip. And definitely do me a favor and give this five stars totally helps the algorithm I promise it really does. And just a reminder, you can find me all over on lots of platforms at Kara Goldin and definitely pick up a copy of my book if you haven’t already. It’s called undaunted, overcoming doubts and doubters. It’s also available on Audible, where I share my story of building the company that I founded hint and, and definitely visit us every Monday, Wednesday, and now Friday, where we do this and get to be inspired and learn so much more. And thank you so much chip for joining us today. It was such an honor. Yeah. Well,

Chip Wilson 46:18
thanks so much for having me, Kara. Oh, it was fun. Awesome.

Kara Goldin 46:21
Thank you. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin for listening