Joe Kudla’s original vision for his men’s athletic company, Vuori, primarily focused on men’s yoga wear. But the brand went in a different direction.
Founded in 2013, the company nearly went out of business early on, which Kudla blamed on a lack of capital and an undefined vision. It wasn’t until the brand got picked up by a few big retailers, including REI and Equinox, that it found its footing. In 2018, Vuori settled into its current niche of catering to both male and female customers and selling products focused on comfort. Today, Vuori serves as an example of how an online DTC brand can evolve and scale while maintaining its startup credibility.
After years of slow and steady growth, 2021 marked a turning point for the company: It tripled its revenue in the last 12 months, and in October, it received a $400 million investment from Japanese holding company SoftBank.
“We didn’t start with any fundraising,“ Kudla said. “The early days were certainly difficult, but we found that opening [our focus would] help us grow.”
Some DTC brands have taken a more reckless route of gobbling up VC money and growing as fast as possible, with mere hopes of someday becoming self-sufficient.
But Kudla’s leadership for Vuori has focused on profitability, which it achieved within the first two years of business and has maintained ever since.
In the next year, Kudla aims to double Vuori’s workforce, increase its number of stores from 11 and start selling internationally. He said he’ll prioritize maintaining the brand’s sustainable model even as the business expands.