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?
[Alchemist] 1, baby!
[303Cycling] baggies or spandex?
[Alchemist] My legs. Not so pretty. Often shaggy. Baggies, unless I'm racing.
[303Cycling] How has being a clothing manufacture changed you? [leading the witness here] I find it interesting how you examine everyone's clothing items especially if they are new to you.
[Alchemist] I used to look at other riders' bikes. Okay, I still do. But now I look at their kits too. There are so many stellar designs and innovation is everywhere. The talent is immense here. Boulder is at the epicenter of it all, and it's really fun to be in the mix. Plus, my right brain gets some exercise. That can't be bad.
[303Cycling] Why not just live out your life as a doctor and not mess with the headache of running a business on the side? [Jeff is a ER doctor at the Louisville Hospital]
[Alchemist] There are days that I ask myself the same thing. My wife is a great advocate, even when she's wondering why I'm up at midnight tweaking jersey graphics for a client, or when I'm counting inventory after another sleepless night shift. Strange as it may sound, working the ER, though crazy and chaotic, is in my comfort zone. It's what I've spent the better part of my adulthood practicing. Fashion, apparel, business. That's new. It's exciting and interesting in vastly different ways. I've learned so much, and the best part is meeting so many great folks that I would not have otherwise have known.
[303Cycling] When people ask you "What do you do for a job" What is your response? And do you think that response will change in the next 5 years?
[Alchemist] I'm half dad, half artist, half ER doc, half biker, no parts mathematician. That won't change in 5 years--I'll still suck at math.
Alchemist creates lifestyle and technical apparel for cyclists. From a quiver of refined technical gear to our renowned line of sustainable casual wear, we outfit riders the world over. Offerings include original designs as well as custom apparel for teams, shops and clubs. All 303Cycling is currently crafted by Alchemist.