Credo: Philanthropist Chip Conley

With no experience, Conley took the seedy, 1950s Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco in 1987 and launched what became the first of 33 boutique Joie de Vivre hotels. The Stanford University MBA has written a series of business books, and is recognized as a committed and creative philanthropist.


Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

My dad … and, from afar, Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines.

Is there a golden rule by which you live?

I’m a believer in “karmic capitalism”: What goes around comes around. Good things happen to good people; sometimes you just have to be a little more patient.

What book or piece of writing has had a big impact on you?

Viktor Frankl’s landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning” helped me to see that, even in a concentration camp, one can find meaning in life, and that seeking meaning is truly the most noble and worthwhile thing that humans do.

Where do you find inspiration?

Meditation, yoga, running on the beach, taking a long bath. … These are my vehicles for getting the inspiration juices flowing. My inspiration flows from great thought leaders of the past whether it be Abraham Maslow or Henry David Thoreau. I like to read about them or read their journals since, at times, I feel like I can channel their energies in the modern world.

Is there something about you that people would find surprising?

I’m a grandfather three times over.

How did you come to found Joie de Vivre boutique hotels?

I bought a pay-by-the-hour motel in the Tenderloin that was in bankruptcy and believed that there was a collection of crazy people out there (mostly bands and artists) who would want to come and stay at this 26-year-old’s crash pad in the ’Loin.

How many hotels do you run and where do they span?

We have 33 hotels all around California, which makes us the largest operator of boutique or independent hotels in the state. We’re now looking outside the state.

How do your get your inspiration for the hotels’ designs and themes?

Each hotel is usually based upon a magazine or a hybrid of two, as magazines and boutique hotels are both niche-oriented and lifestyle-oriented. So, we come up with five adjectives to define the magazine which become the aspirational words we use to describe the personality of the hotel we’re creating, whether that be the décor, the kind of art we choose, the staff, or the unique services and amenities we offer.

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