lacey from the lab
Life is full of critical moments. You might not recognize them while they’re happening, but they change you all the same. One of those critical moments for me came in business school. I was in a first-year finance class, and the teacher asked us why we were there. Almost everyone else in the room said money. I remember thinking, I’m going to work with these people after I graduate? Money is important, sure, but it’s not my driving factor. But then I realized that if everyone who thought like me didn’t go into business, business would always be run by people who only cared about money. So I chose to stay with the program.
In school I knew I was interested in apparel design and retail, and eventually I wanted to run my own business, but I didn’t know what my first step after graduation should be. A friend who worked for lululemon told me the owner needed an assistant. I had a pair of their pants, but that was the extent of my knowledge about the company. I’d never even heard of Chip Wilson. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I took the job.
“I had no idea what I’d signed up for… I learned more in those crazy first two years than I did in business school.”
I had no idea what I’d signed up for. When I started, we had about a dozen stores, outside investment was coming in, and we were doing the work to go public. There were fewer than 50 people in the office at that point, and I was the only executive assistant. I attended investor meetings and ran board meetings. If Chip was involved in something, I was there. I learned more in those crazy first two years than I did in business school.
Working with Chip made me want to know more about our business. The stores are such a big piece of lululemon, so I went to San Francisco to help open a new store there. I was impressed by how much managing a store is really about building relationships. If sales are off, a manager asks herself is my team happy? Are we connected to our community? Are we supporting our ambassadors? I really loved the people focus, so from there I moved into a regional trainer role. Every day I got to help store managers be amazing at their jobs and in their lives.
The only piece missing for me was design, so when the Lab in Vancouver needed a leader, I jumped at the chance. The Lab is a sort of incubator where we design and make everything in house. But our main focus is still people and community. Every day we are connecting with our core guests, sharing what we’re up to and getting their feedback. That’s the lululemon way. Most companies are driven by profits, but lululemon is driven by people—and it’s a highly successful business. If more companies operated like lululemon, just imagine the kind of world we could create.
“Working here, I’ve seen first-hand how business can be a force for positive change in the world.”
I took that job as Chip’s assistant eight years ago, and looking back it seems like fate. Working here, I’ve seen first-hand how business can be a force for positive change in the world. I’d still like to start my own business one day. When I do, I’ll take what I’ve learned at lululemon and create another company with a greater purpose than its bottom line.