Lands' End CEO climbs Kilimanjaro for breast cancer awareness

Lands' End CEO Jerome Griffith joins Yahoo Finance to discuss his daughter's fight against breast cancer, his journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro for breast cancer awareness, and the importance of researching and raising funds to fight cancer.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and today, we highlight one executive's effort to help find a cure. Lands' End CEO Jerome Griffith and his wife recently took a seven-day trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. The expedition was a mission to raise awareness and funds for fighting breast cancer.

It was also a personal one. Last December, Griffith's 32-year-old daughter Samantha was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Lands' End CEO Jerome Griffith joins us now. Jerome, always nice to see you here. So, take us through this trip. What was it like? And how did you decide on doing this?

JEROME GRIFFITH: Thanks, Brian. I appreciate it. Right away, after Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer, a few things happened. One was we got in contact with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, found out a lot about what work it is that they do. And they were extremely helpful in finding the right doctor and the right treatment for the type of breast cancer that my daughter had. So we were very appreciative of that.

And Samantha already got involved with them and said, you know, I'll tell my story. I'll be in your ad campaigns, whatever it is that you need in order to increase awareness. At the same time, I had a couple of employees who I worked very closely with. Both were diagnosed with breast cancer as well, same type as my daughter.

And my wife was-- had always had this dream to climb Kilimanjaro. And she said, why don't we do it? And why don't we do it to raise awareness for breast cancer and make it a fundraiser? So we said, OK, let's go do it.

Now everyone tells you it's the hardest thing that you'll ever do in your life. And you're thinking, well, what do you have to do? And they're like, well, put one foot in front of the other. It was that, but it was a lot harder than even that. I was told that you'll be freezing cold, and you won't feel your feet and you won't feel your hands. And you just won't care because you've got other concerns, and they were correct.

But we did make it. My daughter did say, don't come back, dad, without making it to the top of the mountain, so we did. And it was a great time. I think our employees really enjoyed it as well. We've had several activities going on, on campus or near campus because we have 42 people in the company right now that either have had or have breast cancer. And it just raises awareness and raises the ability to continue to raise funds for the good work that BCRF does.

JULIE HYMAN: Jerome, it's Julie here. As someone who is also-- who has lost a loved one to cancer-- not breast cancer, but still, I know how frustrating it can be and how frustrating it is that there is still not a cure for most types of cancer. And so, as you are going through this journey and both a literal journey to the top of the mountain and a figurative journey as well, what would you tell other families? What would you-- what is the message you want to convey to researchers as well, as they are on this quest to try to make progress?

JEROME GRIFFITH: You know, the researchers are extremely important. The money that goes through BCRF 100% goes to research and the researchers themselves. So I think that that's important in itself that you know where your money is going. Secondly, without the research, you're not going to find a cure, or you're not going to find good treatments. They're even coming up with better treatments over the course of time to help people live a much longer, more productive life.

So it's become-- some of these things aren't important to you until it touches you in one way or another. And between work and at home, it really hit home this year. And we wanted to do something about it. I think it's important that people stay focused on getting the research done because if you don't do that, you're not ever going cure this. And I have to tell you, what you go through personally, you don't want any other family to have to go through that.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jerome, how has this changed-- this experience changed how you think about leading your company? You mentioned that 42 people inside of Lands' End have been battling breast cancer. I would say that a lot of other executives wouldn't know that stat right now.

JEROME GRIFFITH: We work in a business which caters to women. And we work-- our executive staff, our board, our workforce is very predominantly women. And I think you have to deal with what the issues are to them. And this is a big issue to our employees, and it's a big issue with our executives.

I've gotten a lot of comments that I never thought I would get from the group about what it is that we did. And we're very proud of it. We have the Lands' End Comfort Fund, which supports a couple of different charities, this being one. And we try and make it things that are relevant to our employee base and relevant to our customer base as well.

JULIE HYMAN: And Jerome, if you would allow me to switch gears, I do want to talk a little bit about the business here. The last time we got a business update from you guys, still seeing strong demand. You know, the dynamics throughout the apparel industry at this point, obviously, is, we're mostly seeing strong demand and supply bottlenecks. How is that dynamic looking for you guys right now?

JEROME GRIFFITH: Similar to what you just said. We just went through three days of non-deal roadshows and investor conferences. And supply chain was the first thing that we got asked consistently. Now, on the positive side, you sort of knew it was coming. You knew there was going to be a bottleneck because you understand-- this is the first time we've done this, so you understand that there's bottlenecks coming. It's really how you end up mitigating what those issues are. And I think everyone has different issues based upon where your manufacturing base might be or where you are in the product lifecycle.

So, you know, it's a real issue. It's out there. I think it affects everyone. And I think probably your people that knew it earlier on and were trying to take as many mitigating actions as what you possibly could will end up being winners over the holiday season. But the holiday season is long. And there is high demand out there, and customers still love to shop. And this is my 43rd Christmas coming up and-- 43rd since I've been working. And, you know, every one's tougher than the one before, so this will be an interesting one.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, of course, we're wishing your daughter, Samantha, a speedy recovery. Lands' End CEO, Jerome Griffith, always good to see you. Have a good rest of the weekend.

JEROME GRIFFITH: Good to see you guys. Thanks a lot.

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