One of America's Richest Women Took Zero Outside Investors. Here's How Aviator Nation Founder Paige Mycoskie Did It.
Like so many successful founders, Paige Mycoskie started her business in her garage. Here's how the Aviator Nation founder got rich selling $160 sweatpants.
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Aviator Nation, a high-end clothing brand founded in Southern California, is known for its comfortable, colorful garb and laid-back, '70s flair. Founder Paige Mycoskie started the brand in her Venice Beach garage in 2006 and has since expanded to 17 retail locations. A-listers like Reese Witherspoon, Jay Z, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and Jennifer Aniston are among the many who've been seen sporting the brand, including its signature sweatsuits.
Unlike many founders whose businesses have exploded seemingly overnight, Mycoskie has never taken outside investment — she owns 100% of the business herself. From the beginning, she's relied upon expanding lines of credit from banks to back her business. "If I was going to take money from someone, I would have to owe someone something, and it would be not in my control. I wouldn't feel the freedom that I feel to design what I design," Mycoskie told Forbes in an interview for its 2022 "America's Richest Self Made Women" issue. Mycoskie placed at No. 80 on the list, ahead of some of the most notable women in business, including Kris Jenner and Serena Williams.
Keep reading to learn more about Aviator Nation founder Paige Mycoskie.
Who is Aviator Nation founder Paige Mycoskie?
Hailing from Arlington, Texas, Mycoskie grew up far from the world of surfer-girl fashion she's entrenched in today.
The entrepreneur got her first taste of fame in 2002, when she appeared on adventure reality show The Amazing Race, per Forbes. When the show's press tour took her to California, she said her love for the state's laidback lifestyle began.
"I'll never forget walking out to the beach and seeing people rollerblading and biking and playing frisbee and volleyball and surfing," Mycoskie told Forbes, adding, "and I was like 'Oh, my God, this is my dream.'"
Mycoskie pursued a career in journalism after her stint on the show, but she didn't feel fulfilled. So she quit her job and found herself working at a surf shop in Venice Beach.
Despite having no prior design experience, Mycoskie loved working in retail and began designing her own retro, surf-inspired clothes after hours. "I started making clothes for myself as a hobby and they naturally resembled the '70s," the business owner said in a Q&A on the Aviator Nation blog. "I am obsessed with being comfortable and (so I wanted to) figure out how to make that look fashionable."
Related: Growing Big From a Small Start
What is Paige Mycoskie's net worth?
Aviator Nation has seen steady growth since it was started in 2006, but sales have taken off in the past several years: They increased from $70 million in 2020 to $110 million in 2021, according to Forbes, and are expected to at least double by 2023.
Because Mycoskie owns 100% of the company, Forbes estimates her net worth at $350 million.
The brand's clothing is so highly coveted that a 20% off sale it held during the Covid-19 pandemic with proceeds going to AV's 300 employees brought in $1.4 million in sales, Mycoskie revealed, calling the initiative "huge."
Demand for the brand remains strong, despite criticism of its price point — sweatshirts and sweatpants range from $160 to $190. "From the perspective of those individuals who can afford it, it allows them to nicely signal wealth, but also signal these other values like 'I'm laid-back,'" Alixandra Barasch, an associate professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business, explained to Forbes.
Is Paige Mycoskie Related to Blake Mycoskie?
However, the siblings took different approaches to funding their businesses: Unlike Paige, Blake took on outside investors, and creditors eventually took over his 50% stake in Toms in 2019.
Speaking about his sister's business experience versus his own, Blake told Forbes, "She just stays true to what feels right to her and her instincts. That's something I wish I'd done better at Toms."
In addition to founding similar surf-inspired brands, the siblings also both got their start on The Amazing Race, where they competed together, and they remain close today.