- Patagonia’s founder, Yvonne Chouinard, has had a frugal lifestyle since his early days as a climber and surfer.
- This includes eating cat food and taking soda bottles out of litter cans to get them back for money.
- So far, Chouinard still wears old clothes and drives a rundown Subaru, the New York Times reports.
Patagonia’s founder, Yvonne Chouinard, saves money wherever he is.
Despite founding a company that prides itself on prioritizing employee welfare and sustainability over profits, Chouinard grew up rambling and saving during his career as a professional rock climber.
Patagonia, which he founded in 1973, is now worth $3 billion. Earlier this month, Chouinard announced plans to divest the outerwear retailer into a nonprofit trust.
Chouinard lived an unusual lifestyle in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, partly because the nature of living out in the wild as a climber and in beach huts as a surfer deprived him of modern conveniences, and in part because of a desire to save money. , especially during the early days of Patagonia.
Here are some of his most ridiculous budgeting tactics during the early years of his life, as stated in his 2005 autobiography Let My People Browse: The Education of a Reluctant Entrepreneur.
As a young adult, Chouinard had to adapt his life to the great outdoors so that he would have the best opportunities for climbing and surfing. For example, in 1957, Chouinard and his friends lived in a beach hut in San Blas, Mexico for a month, eating fish and tropical fruits, and using candles from the local church to polish their surfboards, he wrote.
He also made gas money “by diving into trash cans and replacing soda bottles” in the late 1950s.
“One time I found a whole frozen load of partially frozen meat,” he added.
Before founding Patagonia, Chouinard made his living selling climbing gear from the back of his car.
“The profits were meager,” he wrote. “For weeks at a time I lived on fifty cents on one dollar a day.”
One year, he and a friend bought a few cans of spoiled cat food in San Francisco and took them to the Rockies for the summer, where their diet consisted of oatmeal, potatoes, ground squirrel, blue grouse, and porcupines they killed. He said with an ice axe.
It wasn’t just food that he saved money on. When he was traveling with friends in the late 1950s, “we always got sick from poor water and couldn’t afford medicine,” he said.
He said they would take charcoal from a campfire, mix it with half a cup of salt in a glass of water, and drink the mixture until they vomited. He claimed that over time he gradually acquired a natural “immunity” to poor quality water
Even as his business grew, Chouinard continued to reduce personal and business costs.
In 1966, Chouinard established a base for his equipment business, Chouinard Equipment, in a rented tin boiler room at an abandoned packing company’s slaughterhouse in California. He wrote the company’s first retail store was in an “ugly tin shed” decorated with old wood.
Chouinard had some unconventional living arrangements, too.
“I slept two hundred days a year or more in my old army sleeping bag,” he wrote. “I did not buy a tent until I was about forty, preferring to sleep under the rocks and low branches of the Alpine spruce.”
In the early 1970s, he and his wife lived in a beach shack for half a year and spent the summer months in the back of an old truck until his wife converted the basement beneath the retail store into a temporary apartment.
So far, Chouinard still wears vintage clothes, drives a rundown Subaru, and has two modest homes in California and Wyoming, the New York Times reports. According to the publication, he does not even own a computer or a cell phone.