In 1978, at the age of 25, John Mackey was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Borrowing $10,000 from his father and raising the first few thousand of what would eventually become hundreds of millions of dollars in equity investments, he co-founded Safer Way Natural Foods with his girlfriend Renee Lawson. Two years later, he and Renee teamed up with two other young entrepreneurs to create Whole Foods Market, a 10,000 square foot store on Lamar Boulevard in Austin. This store — one of the very first supermarket-style natural foods stores in the country — thrived. With his fierce sense of competition, staunch support for a decentralized and team-based structure, keen understanding of consumer trends and an endless supply of innovative ideas, John built Whole Foods Market into a retail powerhouse. As of 2010 the natural foods industry has grown to more than $36 billion in size, a development John believes is benefiting for all concerned, especially the planet.
Today, Whole Foods Market has more than 330 stores and employs over 74,000 team members in the US, Canada and the UK. Whole Foods Market is the ninth largest food and drug retailer in America and the world’s largest natural foods retail chain. It has been named one of “Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For” every year since 1998 and with $11.7 billion in sales in fiscal year 2012, is a Fortune 500 company. In 2005, John created Whole Planet Foundation in order to create economic partnerships with the poor in those developing-world communities that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products. Through innovative assistance for entrepreneurship – primarily direct microcredit loans – the Foundation seeks to unleash the energy and creativity of every human being in order to create wealth and prosperity in emerging economies. John is a strong believer in Libertarian and free market principles, and empowerment management. His creation of Whole Planet Foundation embodies that belief, impacting the lives of thousands of women around the globe by providing them with access to financial capital.
He and his wife, Deborah, both practice meditation and yoga and spend as much time as they can on their 720-acre ranch just west of Austin. John is a voracious reader, participates in two monthly book clubs, and is always up for a lively debate about politics, economics, history or sports.