Staying true to your vision pays off
In 1971 Ivon Chouinard was just starting to become successful. His newly found company “Chouinard equipment” (later:”Patagonia”) grew to become the biggest supplier for mountain climbing gear in the US. Especially their robust pitons that, unlike others, could be used multiple times were very popular in the small climbing community. This is the story of a man who went from climbing mountains to conquering the business world. But no matter how high he climbed, he never lost sight of his vision. A vision that originated from his lifestyle and shaped the way he did business. This is the story about a man who chose ‘sticks & stones’ over money.
While scaling the southwest base of EL Capitan, Ivon Chouinard noticed that the whole wall was essentially a swiss cheese punctured by holes that stem from steel pitons. (The ones that he sold.) Steel pitons were the thing to have during this time, and they hadn’t been available for long. It was Chouinard’s company Patagonia who was the first to produce them. Chouinard was a trained blacksmith, and he was the first to provide pitons that could be reused. The business was booming, and the demand for his steel pitons had been growing gradually over the past years. While the pitons made up 70% of his companies sales, he was still worried. He witnessed how his pitons were damaging the rocky walls he loved so much.
Chouinard found himself stuck in a dilemma. Should he keep selling these pitons and live with the fact that they will damage all climbing locations across America. It was right there that his entrepreneurial vision was put to the test.
Chouinard, a passionate climber himself, had vowed that he would live his life in the most environmental-friendly way possible. This oath did not only count for his personal life though it also defined the way he would do business. Consequently, Chouinard decided to do the unthinkable — He chucked out the steel pitons, despite the profit.
Tom Frost, his business partner at the time, called him crazy. Nonetheless, Chouinard did not back down and believed in the authenticity of his lifestyle. He did not plan on giving up his business and searched for solutions. Finally, he found one; Instead of producing iron pitons that had to be hammered into the rock…