The Seawheeze Start Line
This past weekend, I was in Vancouver for lululemon‘s inaugural half-marathon. While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing women (and men) who work behind the scenes at the Vancouver-based, active-wear giant. I also learned a lot about the brand: where ideas come from, how they decide what to design for each season, and why things disappear off the shelves so quickly.
Lesson #1: They call their customers “guests“
You would think there isn’t a big difference between calling the people who buy your products “customers” and calling them “guests”, but there is. I was surprised by how much the lululemon team respects the people who buy their products. (When a company is as popular as they are, you might think they’d forget about the people who got them there, but they haven’t.) They respect their guests’ time, energy and their love for the brand. That’s why you’ll always find each store stocked with the lululemon basics. If they’re ever out of stock of a Groove Pant or a white Cool Racerback, they see that as a failure. They want to make sure that we (as guests) can always get the essentials.
Lesson #2: Their CEO is super cool and laid-back
I was very fortunate to be able to spend a chunk of time with Christine Day, lululemon’s CEO. You would never guess this woman is the CEO of a billion-dollar company. Not only did she train for the half-marathon, but she volunteered her time to run as a pace beaver for one of the corrals. She spent the entire weekend cheering on her team and stood at the starting line cheering on every group of runners.
Lesson #3: They love their Canadian (and Vancouver) roots
Every opportunity that lululemon had to showcase other local companies (or Vancouver itself!), they did. From including Native shoes as part of the race packs to choosing Vega to be on the race course, they made sure to share the love. Their gain was Vancouver’s gain. They’ve even committed to keeping the race in Vancouver (even though it sold out incredibly fast, and will probably sell out even faster next year). They want to keep bringing tourists to Vancouver and showing off their incredible city, and our incredible country. Sorry, USA.
Lesson #4: They like to take risks
Deciding to put together a half-marathon was a risk for lululemon. Would people sign up? Would people travel to Vancouver to run a race? But they did it anyways. They created special-edition gear (in their spare time!) so that people who came would have something to take home. They made a decision and owned it. Each department did what they could to make it successful and luckily, it worked out.
Lesson #5: A lot of their designs start in the lab
I also had the opportunity to visit the lululemon lab. The store is open to the public and carries limited-edition products that are designed and manufactured in-house. It’s a way for their team to test out new styles or colours. If a product sells really well in the lab, you might find it on regular store shelves months later — or you might find certain elements incorporated into other styles.
Next year’s SeaWheeze has already been scheduled for August 10, 2013. Registration opens in January.