Entrepreneur Of The Year US National Award winner
Joe Kudla | Vuori
If Joe Kudla had listened to the adage “You can’t turn a hobby into a business,” perhaps the string of descriptors for the former student, turned model, turned accountant wouldn’t include “turned CEO of a thriving company.” But he didn’t, and it does.
Kudla’s hobby of buying fabric on his lunch break and creating clothes to sell to independent specialty stores fueled a passion for watching a concept turn into a product. He had identified an opportunity for innovation in the activewear retail market, where traditional brands felt outdated. He knew he could design fresh, modern activewear that is built to move in yet easily transitions to life outside fitness facilities.
Kudla launched Vuori in 2015, with the coastal California lifestyle as inspiration. Vuori means “mountain” in Finnish and is said to refer to the clarity and awe one experiences at a summit. Vuori is now among the fastest-growing premium athleisure retail brands, with a customer mix that is approximately 50% male and 50% female, unique in the space.
Sustainability is a key goal for the brand. An early innovation of Kudla’s was a proprietary fabrication of recycled materials that feel soft. Currently, half of Vuori's products are made with sustainable, recycled materials, and the brand is on track to use 80% sustainable materials by the end of 2022.
In 2021, Kudla led Vuori in eliminating most of its plastic garment shipping bags. By using a new method, the brand had saved more than 1.2 million plastic bags by the end of the year.
The company, which currently has 450 employees, designs its products at its corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, California, and manufactures them in factories in the US and around the world. Kudla continues to grow his brand’s presence, expanding in the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada.