How to build a committed community with Kate Russell from Lululemon

How to build a committed community with Kate Russell from Lululemon
How to build a committed community with Kate Russell from Lululemon
How to build a committed community with Kate Russell from Lululemon
How to build a committed community with Kate Russell from Lululemon

We love chatting with like-minded business folk who are smashing it in their field and always find it super inspiring and intriguing to listen to what they have to say about where they started, what floats their boat and what their average day looks like. After chasing her passion for fitness, well-being and stretchy black pants, Kate Russell landed her dream role at Lululemon. Read on as we chat about the humble beginnings of Lululemon, Kate’s golden rules to ensure ongoing community growth and a collection of activations that will make you weak at the knees.

Describe your career path and the key role you play within the Lululemon business?

After 6 years in the world of tech and business PR, I chased my passion for fitness, well being and black stretchy pants, landing my dream role at Lululemon. For the past 5 years, I drove grassroots marketing and community. Working cross functionally with store teams, marketing, brand and product and external partners on a daily basis, I created and executed collaborations with local and national businesses, built partnerships across many industries and created experiences that had an impact to remember. I identified new markets to build brand awareness in and created the community strategy for over five new store openings. This year, I took on a new role managing and driving the wholesale (strategic sales) business for Lululemon in Australia and NZ.

What does the day-to-day of your role look like?

I thrive off diversity and a fast paced environment and this role really lets me dive into that. From strategy development, team management to setting up the business for scale and growth, by exploring new processes, revisiting foundations and improving systems. I focus heavily on growing the business through product in alternative channels expanding into new areas and industries. It’s safe to say, no day is the same! I also work closely with our product teams on the buying process, creating processes to manage inventory and forecasting and planning for future growth. I travel between the head office (based in Melbourne) and my home in Sydney, spending time in the different states with our various partners.

We love the origin story of Lululemon; from a nightly yoga studio to a standalone store in Vancouver to a now globally renowned brand. How do you think the origin of the brand has shaped what it has become today?

Lululemon is a company based on culture, developing leaders and community and the fact we sell black stretchy pants is just an added bonus! 20 years on from its humble beginnings in Vancouver, we are still very much grounded in grassroots community. We have had to evolve as the landscape changes. Some stores globally may offer weekly yoga while some may offer yoga and a run group because that is what the community wants. We listen to our guests (hint: not just using the word customers) and our community and adapt. What underpins all of this is the law of attraction –we use it for how we hire, the choice of ambassadors and influencers as well as deciding on what brands we work with.

Why do you think it is that people are drawn towards the Lululemon brand?

We strive to elevate the level of health and wellness in every community we touch. We do this by creating authentic relationships with our guests and understanding what they are passionate about, how they like to sweat and helping them celebrate their goals.

We build meaningful one-on-one connections that are the foundation for personal growth and strong communities and loyal guests. People want to feel heard and feel like they have a personalised experience.

What are your golden rules to ensure the ongoing growth of the Lululemon community?

For me, community is about is building authentic and genuine relationships.

Some tips:

  • Being in the real conversation – be vulnerable, have straight talk
  • Listen to what your guests, ambass, stores, etc. want or what is important to them
  • Define your purpose – what is your brand about? What do you stand for? And how do you live into that purpose daily?
  • Get clear on what values you stand for – and what is your 5-10 year vision?
  • Law of attraction.

What are some highlights in terms of marketing strategies, activations, partnerships or collaborations you have undertaken with Lululemon?

From closing down Pitt Street Mall last year to host a 500 person yoga class to launch our second store in the city, to hosting our ambassador summit in Thailand, to creating a festival of yoga on an island – I have been fortunate to have created a lot of incredible experiences.

But all time highlight, was creating and hosting an athlete house on the Gold Coast for The Commonwealth Games in 2018. For two weeks, we created a house where athletes could come and hang each day, do yoga, eat good food and just have a comfortable spot to hang outside of the village. We had over 500 athletes internally come through the house and the relationships we created, are the ones that will last a lifetime.

We are big believers in creating experiences over things and it looks like you are too. Each week your stores turn into an instant yoga space – tell us a little more about this initiative.

We strive to foster entrepreneurship in our stores. They have the ability to create their own experiences and events in a way that will resonate with their own communities. Because at the end of the day, they are the ones who know their communities the best!

Our stores globally offer complimentary yoga each week where they partner with a yoga studio to bring in a yoga teacher – some stores participate even more than once a week. Overtime as we have listened to our communities, weekly run groups have started, weekly HIIT training, boxing and pilates. The stores adapt their weekly offerings to what the community needs and wants.

What’s your creative process like? Where does your team look for inspiration?

I’m a big believer that collaboration is key for creativity. However working remotely (with the head office being located in Melbourne) can be challenging. I have key people inside and outside the organisation that I know are incredible at brainstorming and fleshing out ideas, so I always reach out to them. I try my best to keep my finger on the pulse with what is happening in the world – news, trends, politics, environment. I think it’s important to do this because ideas can spark from anything and the more you read and watch, the more it broadens your horizons and therefore creativity.

Are there any other brands that you admire for their community engagement and why?

There are so many amazing local and global gyms and studios that really foster community. They focus on what their customers want and listen for what is NOT being said because sometimes people don’t know what they want!

Wework is a great example of a corporate focusing on community. I hot desk at a Wework located in Sydney and they have a great focus on creating connections within the building activities and adding value to their customers.

What would your advice be for brands starting out on building business through community?

  • Get into relationships with your guests, your local community and area.
  • Be real and authentic in the relationships that you make.
  • Invest in relationships – listen to what your guests want and also what they don’t know they may want.

What’s next for the Lululemon brand?

Earlier this year, our CEO announced the five year plan which includes some key things such as  launching our self-care range (which you can currently find at Sephora overseas), growing our hold on mens marketshare and also expanding our footwear. Watch this space!

 

Photography credit: @lululemonausnz and @lululemon

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