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Demand Greatness: Lululemon’s Founder, Chip Wilson’s Success Formula

Lululemon, the yoga-inspired, athletic apparel company has made a huge success out of the business of cool sweat. What does it take to be great?

Founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver in 1998, Lululemon has leaped from obscurity to now defining and dominating their category. And in the process, they have stolen significant market share away from the once untouchable brands of Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Reebok.

Chip Wilson built Lululemon into a phenomenal athletic clothing brand based on the following success principles and valuable entrepreneurial lessons:

Demand Greatness: Lululemon’s Founder, Chip Wilson’s Success Formula

Demand greatness

“Greatness is first demanding the best out of one’s self. Greatness is demanding the best of everything and doing what is required to get it. Greatness is demanding the company you work for to make the best products and be uncompromising in its promise to its customers.”

Mediocrity on the other hand can be defined in many ways. Wilson explained that mediocrity is doing an “okay job,” putting up with an okay relationship, or having a job that just “pays the bills.”

“Mediocrity is putting up with things the way they are with no firm plan to change the situation by a specific date. Mediocrity is following a predetermined and unfulfilling path. A lot of people live in a state of mediocrity. Mediocrity is as close to the bottom as it is to the top.”

Lululemon demands greatness from itself and its people and expects its chic customers to also demand greatness from the brand.

Be a Trend catcher

Wilson came up with the idea for the Lululemon brand while taking his first yoga class in the 1990s. After only a few classes, he predicted that yoga would become a wildly popular form of exercise. He also noticed that women in the class wore dance clothes that were thin and transparent. The only workout clothes on the market for women at the time were shrunken versions of men’s sweatshirts and t-shirts.

He then came up with the Lululemon technical athletic and aesthetic design idea for yoga and more. “An entrepreneur is always creating the future and tries not to get stuck in the past.”

Focus on your customer, not the competition

Ever since Chip Wilson introduced the fashionable, high-performing yoga wear, competitors have been scrambling to emulate it. Through it all, the Lululemon founder has maintained yoga-like serenity. “You are far better off worrying about how to improve your product than thinking about the competition,”

Understand the “Law of Category”

This Marketing law was Lululemon’s guiding strategy. Instead of doing what other sports clothing giants were doing, Lululemon invented a new “athleisure” category- combining the functionality of workout clothing and the premium look and feel of a streetwear.

Influence the influencer

Rather than shelling out millions of dollars to sponsor a Michael Jordan or Serena Williams, Lululemon has instead opted for a more local and cost-effective approach. What is their idea? Simply find the 20 most respected yoga teachers, personal trainers, and fitness leaders in the area and give them a couple of free shirts and bottoms. They simply show and tell.

Demand Greatness: Lululemon’s Founder, Chip Wilson’s Success Formula

Know your customers and know what they are saying

On the door of each change room in most Lululemon stores, you will see a mini whiteboard. When you try on any clothing, the assistant asks for your name, guides you into one of the rooms and once the door is closed, writes your name on the whiteboard along with the number of items you have. From then on, all of the staff refer to you by name. This personalizes the whole buying experience.

That’s not all. Lululemon associates also overhear what the customers are saying or complaining about the clothing. The feedback is ultimately relayed to the design team.

Fail, learn, repeat

“I’ve made thousands of mistakes as I went on looking for different trends. I failed in beach volleyball. I went into it but the market wasn’t big enough. And nobody really wanted to look like a beach volleyball player on the street. The same with mountain biking—it never really worked. I strive to turn my mistakes into lessons. So I fail, learn and repeat.”

Love yourself and understand the law of attraction

The Law of Attraction simply says that you attract aspects, qualities, and people in your life that reflect the type of person you are. Complainers attract complainers. Thieves attract thieves. Goal setters attract goal setters. Become the best version of yourself and it’s then easier to love yourself

“I will venture to say that most people do not reach their potential because they do not love themselves. Because they do not love themselves they are stuck in a prison of trying to look good. They pretend to be who they are not and buy material items to show they are different from what they are.”

Think big

“Without Orville’s first plane, the jet would never have been built. We must start somewhere to develop greatness. Don’t let the 10% of voices on social media sound like 90%.

“A leader creates a future that would otherwise not have occurred. Effectiveness is predicated by replacing the words ‘wish,’ ‘should’ and ‘try’ with ‘I will.'”


Chip Wilson, is no stranger to controversy. He is no longer the CEO of Lululemon, though he still has a majority stake. Wilson, his wife, and five sons now operate a holding company called Hold It All, which invests in apparel, real estate, and private equity. His net worth is over $5.4 billion.


Tim Ferrris


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