Note from editor Emily Leaman: Earlier this month, we ran a piece by Diana Vitarelli, owner of Philly’s Dhyana Yoga studios, explaining why she opted out of the Lululemon Ambassador program. The piece made the rounds, far and wide, online, and I heard from lots of readers, yogis and other studio owners about why they agreed or disagreed with Diana’s position. One such person in the latter camp is Jesse Frank, co-owner of Center City’s Unite Fitness studio, who has been a happy Lulu ambassador since 2012. Below, his take on the ambassador drama, reprinted from his blog post “Lululemon Ambassadors, Unite!” with permission from Unite Fitness. The views and opinions are the author’s own.
I pride myself on generally staying out of other peoples business, gossip, and private conversations.
But last week, when my co-worker forwarded a recent blog-post from “one-disgruntled-former-ambassador”, I knew it was time to sit down and write a letter in response to show my support and appreciation to the Lululemon Ambassador program.
My relationship with Lululemon started 7 years ago, when my business partner introduced me to the brand (I was still rocking the one-size-fits-all generic athletic apparel). While he looked like a rockstar, I just looked like a bohemian high school gym teacher. As one of Philadelphia’s first Lululemon Ambassadors, he united our studio and their brand.
Fast forward to 2012, I was invited into the program. Had I not been such a fan of the brand, the clothes, and the people, I would have politely declined. But I am, so I graciously accepted!
Introduction into the program begins with a meeting focused on goal setting. As a business owner, I know the importance of goal setting, as they usually take years of planning and goal setting (studios don’t just “appear”). I think setting goals is such a wonderful thing to share with the world, and as their program has already been strategically designed, almost anyone of any age could learn to share that information. In fact, our studio has hosted meetings where Lululemon Educators assisted our coaches in creating their own goals and life plans. From this we got so much closer and gave our full support towards each other goals, even when they steered coaches away from our own business.
The contributions don’t stop at the Ambassador level either. I had heard of the outstanding contributions Lululemon has made to non-profits. But it wasn’t until I was invested in the program that I saw first hand the tremendous financial and service contributions the company actually makes on a local level.
And of course, there’s the clothes. Gotta love that perk! But what I really love is the network and support. From supporting Ambassador goals, assisting non-profits, to showing support to race-training teams, competitors, and races, Lululemon has and continues to be one of the greatest cheerleaders to anyone in this industry. And that’s whether they are an Ambassador, instructor or just in it for the fun.
Since the company pays for its employees to workout, there’s always someone who has gone to “this” studio or “that” trainer (nice perk!). So when I want to try something new, I know where I can get a good reference. In fact, it’s pretty easy to find some of the best studios, trainers, and workouts just by asking any Lululemon staff. They all seem to know who’s who in the area. It’s no wonder why some of the best local trainers, instructors, and coaches are invited to become Ambassadors. I feel privileged to have been recognized as one within this group … well, most of them anyway.
It is unfortunate that a company who has had such a positive impact on the community should be subject to the poor and tasteless banter of a former ambassador.
It’s one thing to not be aligned with the company’s views and express them. It’s a whole other situation when you don’t really like a brand and product, accept an ambassadorship and receive the benefits for years, just to turn around and shit on it. Guess Lululemon will have to improve their screening process in the future.
Hooray! A company that is willing to get out of the one-size-fits-all athletic apparel and try to make clothes that fit perfectly. I can’t squeeze into everything on the rack, but when I do find something, it fits perfectly. And the clothes last forever in my experience. I was wearing their clothes well before I was an ambassador, anyway, and would even had I not become one.
I’m glad that I still have another year in the program and look forward to sharing the experience with all the other ambassadors who are truly deserving, positive and grateful.
Jesse Frank is a coach and co-owner of Unite Fitness Center City. Learn more about Unite Fitness here.