The Chancellor Brothers, Entrepreneurs & Founders of So iLL
Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but it is for those who have a driving passion that helps them through the ups and downs of growing a business. David and Daniel Chancellor are brothers and partners in So iLL, Inc., a company that designs and sells rock climbing shoes, holds, active wear and gear, along with the “Climb So iLL Gym” in St Louis. They shared their journey with The Greenwood School community in a live Q & A “World Tapestry” video conference.
We are very thankful for David and Daniel’s advice to students, encouraging them to become “experts in a field” of their interest. In Greenwood’s live video conference Daniel said, “Be authentic. Tell your story and go far down the rabbit hole and learn everything. Find your niche…it’s very powerful.”
The Chancellor brothers spoke at length about “giving back” and “cultivating lifelong relationships.” Eric Pals, Head of Greenwood’s ELA Department and writing teacher, is a fellow climbing enthusiast who met the brothers many years ago. “I knew they were special…they were going to do something big,” said Eric. Lucky for Greenwood the Chancellors were true to their word. In 2014 a group of students wanted to design and build a rock climbing wall in the school gym. Leading the project, Eric dialed up David and Daniel, who supplied Greenwood with climbing holds at cost, and donated prizes for a climbing competition. It was an overall success!
In 2019 David and Daniel returned, addressing a new generation of Greenwood students on what it takes to be an entrepreneur. One of the first student questions in our live video conference was, “How long did it take you to get to where you are today?” Answer: “16 years!”
Rock climbing has always been their passion. They built a wall in the basement of their parent’s house, with an old mattress on the ground to break their falls. In college they lived in an off-campus rental where the work continued after classes, late into the nights. They were “in college and broke,” said Daniel, yet they persevered.
After college David and Daniel moved into a house with a large barn and “bad internet,” making “holds,” and selling them to climbing gyms. “We were not cool…our friends got out of school, married, got jobs and cars.” A love for climbing and their vision kept them going.
After getting their business start developing climbing holds, the brothers moved to St Louis, Missouri and opened a gym with no experience, but loads of drive. The gym you see today is housed in an historic old power plant building that was on the National Register. David said, “It was a train wreck…water damaged…needed a new roof.” His father-in-law is an architect and helped them fast track through a successful renovation.
David ran the climbing gym and Daniel traveled the world for 3 years sourcing how and where to design and produce climbing products. Today they also have a full line of clothing and gear, and a non-profit division called1Climb. Their goal is to introduce 100,000 young people to the sport, starting at The Boys and Girls Clubs where they have built climbing walls. Sixteen years in the making, So iLL is now a global brand with established companies and people like Jason Momoa of Aquaman, coming to them to cobrand.
Asked if there was ever a time they wanted to give up, Daniel reminded students, “Don’t get too attached to the low or high moments” and “Find a mentor who is honorable and will help you stay level headed….Money will come if you do what you like doing.”