It’s easy to look at a brand like Lululemon and think “wow, I hope I find at least a fraction of that company’s success.” Here’s my question: why would you settle for a fraction? Why not do the work to make your own company or brand just as successful or even more successful?

They say (and they say it a lot) that emulation is the key to success. Find someone who has reached the level of success you aspire to reach and then do the same things they did…but with your own projects. In keeping with that tenet of entrepreneurship, here are the five things you can learn from Chip Wilson and his Lululemon success:

1. Inspiration Can Strike Anywhere!

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon might never have happened if Chip Wilson hadn’t taken a yoga class on a whim one day. He found that first class so inspirational that he threw himself into the movement and it was during those classes that he noticed the clothes people were wearing (primarily loose cotton) weren’t helping them at all and bang! The idea for comfortable fitted yoga clothing was born.

The Wall Street Journal characterizes this as “look at what’s bugging you” and lists it as one of the ways to entrepreneurs can find inspiration for their next big projects. Look around your own world: is there something that could be better? Do you have a solution to a common problem? Why not start building your business there?

2. Failures Help You Learn

Believe it or not, Chip Wilson didn’t get his entrepreneurial start with Lululemon. He had another business that catered to the surfing and water sports community that never got off the ground. In his interview with Winnipeg Free Press Chip Wilson talks about using his failures with that company (which wasn’t technically a failure, it just didn’t reach the level of success he wanted) to bolster his success with his new company. If you’ve tried entrepreneurship before and it hasn’t worked out that doesn’t mean you should give up. What can you learn from those experiences? Use them to inform the decisions you make with your new project.

3. Giving Back is Important

Don’t hoard your profits. It’s easy to get caught up in the notion of “more more more.” Just look at the telecommunications companies and the people who run them. It is better to take your success and use it to help your community. Being charitable and philanthropic feels really good and it can help build goodwill for your brand and products/services. It won’t be easy—even Bill Gates had trouble with it at first. Now, though, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation does incredible work and seriously—don’t you like Bill Gates more when you think about all of the good his foundation has done for the world? Chip and his wife Shannon have been involved with a number of charitable projects and have even started an organization that is dedicated to helping students in Ethiopia get at least a high school level education.

4. Listen to Your People

One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is assuming that he or she is the only expert in the room. If Chip Wilson had done that with his clothing designs, there might not be a Lululemon today. Instead he asked the yoga instructors he knew to wear and test out the prototypes of his (and his wife’s) designs and then took the feedback those instructors gave him seriously. He knew that, though he was passionate about yoga and healthy lifestyle choices, there were people who knew more than he did and he learned from them.

5. Your Customers Are Your Most Important Advisors

No matter how big you get, the best people to help you shape the future of your company are your customers. Lululemon might never have expanded into every day women’s and girl’s clothing if the company’s customers hadn’t clamored for pieces that weren’t just for yoga. In that interview we linked earlier, Wilson says that there has also been a demand for men’s clothing and that’s where he thinks the company will expand next.

There are more things to learn from tracking the Lululemon success story; this is just the beginning. What can you learn from some of your favorite entrepreneurs and brand leaders?

**This article was written by Sara Stringer*

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