Lloyd Lewis’ advocacy inspires employees and customers alike
2020 CEO of the Year Finalist: Lewis runs the company like a traditional retailer, but with an eye on the mission
Lloyd Lewis, President and CEO
arc Thrift Stores, Lakewood
When his son, Kennedy, was born with Down syndrome in 2003, Lewis “got very involved” with research and advocacy. He soon left his career in technology and financial services behind to serve as CFO for arc Thrift and was named CEO in 2005.
As of 2019, arc’s 31 stores have an estimated $2.3 billion economic impact on the state, as sales have more than tripled to $100 million in Lewis’ tenure. “My approach has been to run a nonprofit like a business,” he says. “The more earnings we create, the more funding we can provide for programs that support people like my son. I run the company like a traditional retailer, but with an eye on the mission.”
It follows that arc’s profits support 15 affiliated advocacy programs. More recently, a COVID-19 initiative donated 60 tons of food to families in need, and “thousands of pounds” of masks.
One of his first moves as CEO was to start hiring people with disabilities. arc is now one of the largest integrated employees in Colorado: 350 of 1,400 employees have intellectual disabilities. The move contributed to a big growth spurt. “People began to realize they were working for more than just a paycheck,” says Lewis, 65. “It’s practically impossible to work next to someone with intellectual disabilities and complain or gossip or take things for granted. They’re very inspiring people.”
He adds, “Think big and shoot big. Point to center field.”
This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s winner Kurt Culbertson and the other finalists: