Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Kit and Ace Co-founder JJ Wilson, who’s design-driven apparel brand uses a technical cashmere blend called qemir to set a new standard in the retail world. Here’s why he sees the brand being a global name in less than five years…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
At Kit and Ace, it’s full on. We’re establishing the foundation of what we see being a global brand in less than five years. Day to day, I’m spearheading our brand and e-commerce teams while Shannon heads up production and design. Because Kit and Ace is growing so rapidly, every day feels new, different and really exciting.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I grew up watching my parents run Westbeach (a Vancouver-based surf, skate, and snowboard company) and then Lululemon (you know the one?). Retail and fashion have always excited me and from age 10 onwards I spent every day I could in the Lululemon stores and watched the company grow into what it is today. Before moving to New York and post graduation I spent a year working in the fashion office with Barbara Atkin at Holt Renfrew, trend forecasting for the men’s buying team. When I moved back home to Vancouver I started managing wings+horns, a Canadian contemporary menswear brand. My career path has felt natural and six months ago Shannon (Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson’s wife) and I decided to start Kit and Ace. We were both really excited about the fabric that Shannon had spent a number of months developing, a technical cashmere blend we named qemir.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I value creativity. We have set Kit and Ace up to be a design-led company. The best part of my day is knowing that creativity gets to win and that I get a say in how it shows up for Kit and Ace. Every day has its own challenges, and as I get older the concept of time seems to become increasingly more important. Time is precious.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When I don’t get to sweat. Working out is critical to my attempt at always being an awesome human being. It doesn’t always work out (no pun intended).
Last month I started Ride Cycle Club with Shannon and our partner Ashley Ander. It’s an indoor spinning concept based in Vancouver (for now) that keeps me sweating at least three times week.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Living in Europe, Asia, or Australia supporting our global Kit and Ace partners in building out of these markets.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Always being the son of the guy that created Lululemon. Chip’s taught me everything I know and I owe my education of retail to him. I’ve overcome it by recognizing that nothing could be more valuable than that.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
No. Creation makes me happy. Bringing projects to fruition. I’m successful every day I create, lead, and inspire. Some days are better than others, but success comes from growth and knowing that it’s OK to suck sometimes is also success.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
In the last six months I’ve contributed to the launch of two new brands, Kit and Ace and Ride Cycle Club. I haven’t had the chance look back on them because I’ve been so excited for what’s next.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Hire bigger than what you’re capable of. I may not know what I’m good at, but I really know what I’m not good at. I’m only interested in hiring great people and surrounding myself with the best.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I was born and raised in Kitsilano, Vancouver and ‘The Local’ makes one of the best burgers in town. It’s a watering hole for a lot of local Vancouver kids and you always end up leaving with more friends than you came with. Chambar is also a favourite of mine. I stand by the muscles and French fries and always leave happy.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I don’t have much ‘me’ time. My daily download is usually spent on the bike at Ride and if I can make it happen I spend my weekends up in Whistler or at my family’s cabin on the Sunshine Coast.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
New York. I lived there between Toronto and moving home to Vancouver. My best friends live in New York and I take every chance I get to go back and see them.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
The Ferris Bueller’s Day Off soundtrack.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Living in Bronte beach in Sydney, Australia, making babies and surfing; or getting lost every day walking from morning to night in Barcelona.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Imagine 1 Day is what we as a family have committed to. Our goal is to establish primary education in Ethiopia for all by 2030. I also support a number of local foundations in Vancouver that were started by some of my closest friends.
What to you is notable?
People and things of integrity.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone 6. Instagram is important for me and I personally think it’s better on an iPhone.