Davis Smith has built his team and now it’s time for him to take a break from the grind of the business world.
The founder and chief executive officer of Cotopaxi, a certified B Corp. outdoors brand, will transition to chairman of the board on July 1 to embark on a three-year missionary leadership role in Brazil for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He will be succeeded by current president Damien Huang, who joined Cotopaxi from Eddie Bauer earlier this year and has also worked for Patagonia and The North Face.
As chairman, Smith will continue to focus on the company’s mission to fight poverty around the world, encourage people to do good and seek to improve human sustainability through conscious capitalism. Over the last year, in addition to Huang, the former CEO of Eddie Bauer, the company has also added Grace Zuncic, the former chief people officer of Chobani, as its chief people and impact officer, and Brad Hiranaga, the former chief brand officer of General Mills, as its chief brand officer. The entire executive leadership team, including Stephan Jacob, chief operating officer and cofounder, will remain in their positions.
“Cotopaxi has experienced remarkable growth over the last nine years and is proof that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive,” Smith said. “There is indeed a better way of doing business which is putting people and planet first. We have a team of leaders who believe deeply in our mission to do good in the world, which gives me a lot of confidence in this transition.”
He added that he will remain the “lifelong steward of Cotopaxi’s brand, purpose and mission, while also creating the right conditions for me to pursue something of great importance in my personal life. Leading the rigorous selection process to fill the president role that Damien now holds — and working closely with him over the past eight months — have given me every confidence in his abilities as a leader. Damien possesses the experience, acumen and heart to lead the company to even greater heights, while maintaining the central social mission qualities that elevate Cotopaxi among outdoor gear brands.”
Huang added: “Like all great companies, Cotopaxi thrives not only because of a single visionary leader, but because that leader created and nurtured a culture and team that fuels the vision. We are all part of something more meaningful than our individual roles. This past year, Davis entrusted an expanded leadership team with taking the Cotopaxi brand to its next level, and I am honored to take an elevated role as part of that team.”
Cotopaxi started out as a colorful backpack brand, but has since branched out into apparel and other complementary products. Early in its life the brand attracted some other high-profile investors including Toms founder Blake Mycoskie through his Toms Social Entrepreneurship Fund, as well as Neil Blumenthal, Smith’s former classmate from the Wharton School and the cofounder of Warby Parker and Harry’s.
Since its founding the company has grown to over $100 million in revenue. It employs more than 300 people and has assisted an estimated 3.5 million individuals living in poverty through its impact work. It will continue to donate at least 1 percent of its annual revenue to fighting extreme poverty and championing sustainably sourced materials.