Recognized as a Global Thought Leader.
Chip Wilson is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, loving husband and a father to 5 boys. As the founder of Westbeach Snowboard and lululemon athletica, Chip is a globally recognized innovator in the field of technical apparel. He is widely credited with creating the “athleisure” retail category, now a $400-billion-a year global business.
Chip is known for his people-before-product leadership approach. At lululemon, he created a unique culture by surrounding himself with like-minded individuals; creative, driven, athletic locals enjoying a work-life balance inspired by the West Coast. In 2007, lululemon athletica went public. Today they have a market cap of roughly $30 billion.See Full Bio on LinkedIn
Current One-Year Goal: By December 31, 2022 fund a medical consortium with grants and prizes to build human muscle from stem cells and transplant successfully into a muscular dystrophy patient.
To elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness for 20 – 40 yr olds via transformational development in technical athletic apparel.
story of lululemon
I had no way of knowing just how huge yoga would be – and how lululemon would explode like nothing else. That little company that I founded in Kitsilano, Vancouver would go on to redefine how a generation of people dressed and lived. The financial rewards for me and my family would be enormous, but at the time I was rolling the dice. I could’ve just as easily lost everything multiple times.Read My Book
These FAQ’s are but a small part of what I am consistently asked. However, I believe these details may still be of interest either to an entrepreneur running her or his own business, or to the reader who simply wants to know more about the history of lululemon athletica.
What are you doing now?
I define retirement as being able to get up in the morning and do whatever I want, which often includes work. In this sense, my work, at least for the foreseeable future, will be in real estate. I’ve been enjoying applying the same things I did with clothing – taking functional buildings or run-down areas of Vancouver and Seattle and making them beautiful. I want to make areas into communities that a new generation of thirty-two-year-old single professionals (not just Super Girls but the young men who want to be near them) want to live and work.
My present life allows me not just to be creative, but also to devote a lot of time to my family. I do parking patrol at the school that my three youngest sons attend. I do all the presentations and talks the school asks me to do – usually on business or entrepreneurship or Dragon’s Den-style projects.
The most fun I have is coaching my twelve-year-old twins’ flag football league.
As I have muscular dystrophy (FSHD), I have invested in and am a director of a company called Facio Therapies that is researching and developing treatments for this disorder.
I am in my third “life learning session” during which I will read or listen to one hundred new business, development or experimental fiction novels in 2018/9. I am out to recreate who I am.
I am committed to doubling the value of lululemon and working cooperatively with a diversified board of directors.
My family has more wealth than is possible to fathom. We want to leave the world with a lasting legacy. Our two priorities are:
1. To eliminate poverty in Ethiopia by 2030 though leadership development.
2. To leave a remarkable, active, artistic outdoor space to the tourists and the people of British Columbia to enjoy with their families.
Could lululemon have started anywhere other than Vancouver?
To be blunt, no. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book called Guns, Germs and Steel discusses how modern civilization came to be. As I remember it, the premise is that man started somewhere in Africa and moved north with grains that could be easily grown using beasts of burden. Civilization exploded east through Asia and west to France. Then after a long period, Europeans conquered central and South America with germs (smallpox, etc.) and a few steel guns. The upper East Coast of North America was populated, but because of a lack of hearty grains and no beasts of burden, man’s movement west was very slow. Vancouver, on the North West Coast, may be the youngest major city in the world.
Vancouver was a lumber, mineral, and fishing mecca and these industries dominated an industrialized waterfront. When the world fair came to Vancouver in 1986, Vancouver had a massive, underdeveloped waterfront. City planning, as a concept, had just emerged, and Vancouver was a blank canvas surrounded by snow-capped mountains and an ocean with hundreds of islands. The government developed the waterfront into biking and running paths to meet the demands of a population that commuted differently due to a temperate climate that rarely dips below zero.
Vancouver became Canada’s hippy city, emulating all that had happened in San Francisco in the 1970s. This included everything that came with the drug culture and the surf, skateboard lifestyle. Vancouver created its version of the self-development culture. They discarded retroactive medicine in lieu of a proactive approach. They wanted to find out why people got sick in the first place.
Every civilization creates its own functional form of apparel to match climate and culture. The unspoken psychology of Vancouver is one of work to play. A Vancouverite is always ready to take off work when the snow is deep, or the wind is blowing.
Living here, we’re always able to access Vancouver’s wondrous environment, so dressing in a suit and tie seemed arduous, archaic, and took too long. The business culture of Vancouver is overwhelmingly made up of small entrepreneurial ventures with few major head offices. The only people in suits were those that worked for East Coast conglomerates. West Coast business owners prioritized identifying with their sport when choosing how to dress.
In 1970, Whistler Mountain, the world’s number one ski resort, opened ninety-minutes north of Vancouver and its summer glacier became the world centre for snowboarding. Squamish, thirty minutes north of Vancouver was tagged as the outdoor capital of Canada. Westbeach, lululemon, Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Arc’teryx, whose clothing transitions from sport to the street, began a technical sports apparel boom.
There’s a joke that in any bar in Vancouver, Canada, you can sit down next to someone who claims to have founded Greenpeace. In 1986, Vancouver hosted the World’s Fair and the world came to see “Hollywood North,” a tech hub, Canada’s gateway to Asia, an international mecca, and the world’s most livable city.
In 1990, the North Shore of Vancouver was marked as the genesis of mountain biking. The history and legacy of trail building on the North Shore are remarkable. Arguably “The Shore” has inspired and evolved more aspects of mountain biking than any other area in the world.
Like Vancouver, the standard dress of Silicon Valley companies was t-shirts and hoodies. Tech companies emulate garage start-ups and the entrepreneurs who aligned with the core values in surf, skate, and snowboarding.
1998, lululemon was able to emerge as a personal development company largely due to the fact that it is the intersection of everything West Coast. It epitomizes Vancouver. Lululemon’s branding is based on a “social experiment” to fight social health injustices. Lululemon’s stance against the food marketing machines endears it to its Guests. We produced technical athletic apparel while pursuing the idea of “What makes a person great?” as the way to superior profits.
Vancouver has continued its own self-development. In 2000, Vancouver set a goal to become the greenest city in the world. In 2010, the City hosted the winter Olympics and since 2011 has been the home of the TED Conference.
Why was integrity so important to lululemon?
I have been so concerned with integrity because I am so inconsistent with it. I am like a born-again smoker; I must keep talking about it to keep myself in integrity. I learned to define integrity as “as doing what we say we will do when we say we will do it.” and we adopted this definition at lululemon.
What I observed in most companies is that each individual believes they have integrity, but each person also has a different definition of it. Therefore, there is no integrity. With one definition of integrity for lululemon, we all knew what we meant.
Why was personal development so important to lululemon?
A runner’s high, which occurs after thirty-five-minutes of aerobic activity, creates a naturally occurring dopamine drug. The reason drugs are fun is that they dim our past from our thoughts. Future thought is only possible from past experiences, and if we have no past, then we have no future. The only thing left is the present. In the present, we are free to create our lives unconstrained by the past. We have a blank slate, as though we woke up in the hospital from a car crash with amnesia.
Living in the moment allowed lululemon to constantly recreate itself because it never got stuck continuing a process or design just because it worked. As we could recreate designs, business processes, and ourselves daily, we lived our future, now.
A decade ago, Oprah hosted Eckhart Tolle to talk about his book The Power of Now. I laughed while reading The Power of Now because Eckhart is from Vancouver and I think he attended the Landmark Forum then wrote a book about it. So, millions of people have read The Power of Now and, therefore, understand the context of the Landmark Forum. That context being “giving without expectation” and “choosing the present from a created future.” The ideas are not necessarily Eckhart’s or Landmark’s, but rather, an amalgamation of hundreds of books, philosophies, and scientific research. The full effects of the Landmark course were felt taking the course with one hundred people. Participating and understanding other people is to understand that every challenge we have as a human being is universal. No single person is special.
What were the contents of the lululemon library that created the common culture?
The library was the recommended reading at lululemon, plus a couple of more recent additions that I felt were important to include. The list is divided into three ‘libraries,’ reflecting the intended order of reading:
Good to Great, by Jim Collins
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
Psychology of Achievement, by Brain Tracy
The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Why We Buy, by Paco Underhill
Execution, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The Diamond Cutter, by Geshe Michael Roach
10% Happier, by Dan Harris
Black Box Thinking, by Matthew Syed
Built to Last, by Jim Collins
How I Built This, by Guy Raz (podcast)
What were the linguistic abstractions that allowed for one common language at lululemon?
Act. A way of being that was shaped in early childhood. There is a moment perceived as “a period of survival” during which a child’s parents are unavailable to “rescue” them. The child survives through a particular way of being (funny, dominant, blaming, competitive, quiet, etc.), and failing being able to choose differently in the future, they continue to default to that way of acting as an adult .
Being Authentic about Being Inauthentic: Being open and undefended about who I am and how I protect myself, so you can coach me in moments where I revert to my Act.
Being Cause in the Matter. Choosing to take action on the court rather than complaining in the stands.
Being Present. The most powerful way of being. Fully choosing to eliminate the past as though one had amnesia. If there is no past, then there is no future, and all one has is the present. The present is where we are free from social, parental, or self-imposed conditions, and where we can choose to create our present from the future.
By-When Date. The date on which a project or task is promised to be completed.
Choice. A decision made, free from complication from past experiences, and from social, parental, or self-imposed restrictions.
Clearing the Past. When someone’s mind is fully focused on something else, it inhibits the person from listening. The “something else” must be discussed (cleared) for effective communication to occur. There is no point in talking to someone who is incapable of listening. The power in communication always lies with the listener.
Committed Listening. Listening without obligation to act while paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Committed Speaking. Communication that includes by-when dates and conditions of satisfaction.
Complaint. A way of speaking in which the speaker has an underlying, unidentified commitment to their position. If their commitment can be identified, the person can take action to move through their complaint.
Condition of Satisfaction. An action or criteria against which completion can be measured.
Creating the Present from the Future. Creating possibility in a way that is informed of our past, not constrained by it.
Giving without Expectation of Return. We believe that the highest form of being is giving to others with no strings attached. Our lives will be great because, through the law of attraction, we will attract like-minded people into our lives.
Hedgehog. An intersection of three circles is where a company finds success. Our three circles are (1) our passion, (2) what we are best in the world at, and (3) our economic engine. (from Good to Great by Jim Collins).
Law of Attraction. We attract people into our lives who are the same type of person that we are: like attracts like. We only have to look to our friends to see who we are, and how we show-up for others.
Looking Good. A protective way of being that is inconsistent with how we declare ourselves to be.
Mission. The functional application of our vision.
Rackets. A recurring way of speaking in which the speaker is unwilling to take responsibility for the situation and unwilling to take action to resolve the situation.
Talking into the Listening. Within a conversation, each person’s position is based primarily on how they were raised and their life’s experiences. For a conversation to be effective, the person speaking must consider the filter through which the listener hears.
Tipping Point. The moment in which a tribe’s brand conviction is so strong, that it emanates out to the entire population and inspires in it a desire to belong.
Tribe. A group of people who, when exposed to a brand, take it on as their own. By nature, tribe members communicate, blog, and live life on a level playing field. There is a shared excitement and deep understanding of the other person. A tribe is small at the start and is not mainstream.
Values. The framework employees use for decision making.
Vision. A declaration of who we are and what we bring to the world.
Winning Formula. A declaration of who we are that was created in a moment when we decided who we could never be (i.e. I will never be the President, but I am a fantastic VP).
Time is Precious. Our every action or communication respects another person’s imminent death.
Manifesto. A collection of thoughts that comprise the soul of the brand.
What is the law of attraction as it pertains to lululemon?
The theory was that making the absolute best-quality product in the world would attract high-quality employees who would only work for a company that produces quality. The superior quality and service would attract a quality customer who valued their time, was too smart to be sold to, and could not afford to waste time returning deficient products.
The combination of these produces best-in-the-world profits, which then attracts best-in-class private equity firms, directors, investment bankers and finally investors.