Two of the most worthwhile things I’ve read in the past year have been lengthy magazine profiles of two men who founded wildly successful companies. A few months ago, Wired magazine ran a marvelous profile of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. And today, the New Yorker ran a lengthy profile of Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey.
Neither piece is hagiographic—in fact, I think both err on the side of unfairness to their subjects. But these articles offer great insights into how two uniquely and wildly successful companies grew out of the personal idiosyncrasies of their founders. The Mackey piece is, I think, required reading for vegetarian advocates, as it does a masterful job of capturing the evolving nature of the natural foods industry. For activists who insist on dividing up the world into saints and sinners, the piece on Mackey is nuanced enough to kick a shoe into those cognitive gears.
Fifteen years ago, I read the first edition of Warren Belasco’s Appetite for Change, which beautifully chronicled the birth of the modern natural foods movement in the 1960s and 1970s. I feel like today’s New Yorker piece, by focusing on Mackey, does a masterful job of bringing us up to date on how the movement, and industry, has grown into adulthood.
At more than 9000 words, the Mackey profile is far too long to be comfortably read online. Here’s the printable version.