Jeff Wu and Claire Lochridge
In Boulder cycling has become the new golf as that is where networking takes place and deals go down. Every Friday is my "golf day" cause that is when I put training aside and ride with those in the cycling community for various reasons. Most commonly this summer and fall I've been riding with a group of various doctors and amongst the group of doctors is Jeff Wu, Founder and Art guy of Alchemist. Huh, doctor, endurance cyclist, custom clothing company owner, speaks Mandarin Chinese and has a Texan drawl. This requires an interview!
[303Cycling] Why did you get started, is it a void in the industry you are trying to fill or something else?
[Alchemist] Ha! Like a hole in my soul? No. My bucket is full, but I've always been interested in dozens of things, not just medicine. Funny how so much education and training sets you up for a very specific set of life skills, none of them related to designing cycling apparel.
A couple years ago, I had some fun ideas for cycling-themed T-shirt designs. I didn't know graphic design or the apparel business, so I've had to learn both along the way. It wasn't easy. In the beginning, I just about cried trying to teach myself graphic design. I went out and bought a copy of Adobe Illustrator for Dummies, and it made me want to cry only slightly less.
[303Cycling] What makes Alchemist standout from the rest?
[Alchemist] I wanted to create something that I would be proud of. Alchemist is built on a foundation of sustainability and altruism. Our casual line is all organic or recycled materials; and I'm a sucker for worthy causes, so we end up doing quite a bit of work and donations for non-profits and charitable organizations. Our business model follows the same principles as our Team of riders: the golden rule to be on the Team is you have to be nice. Folks like Claire (VP) are what shape our identity. It's not so much customer service as forming partnerships and building friendships. If you feel like it's a business, we aren't doing it right.
With regard to our apparel, we have a number of clothes epicureans on the Team, and we wear what we make, so there is a great deal of self-interest in creating exceptional gear. The Team is also where a lot of product ideas are born. Items like VeloWool and the BLACKBOXX kit were developed as a result of Team input and feedback. Ultimately, if I'm not happy with what we do, and how we do it, I'd just as soon do something else.
[303Cycling] 1 gear or 30, which do you choose?