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MBA alum Luke Wilson to launch sustainable apparel company honed at SF State’s College of Business

News + Events : MBA alum Luke Wilson to launch sustainable apparel company honed at SF State’s College of Business

06/04/2010

Luke Wilson (MBA '10) always knew he was heading toward an entrepreneurial career. That’s a major reason he came to San Francisco for his MBA.

Originally from Texas, Wilson resettled here for the SF State MBA after several years in accounting for commercial real estate interests in Seattle. He chose the SF State program in part for its strong connection to a premier center of business innovation—as well as its reputation of nurturing entrepreneurship and world-class offerings in sustainable business practices.

Twenty-two months later, Wilson completed his MBA and is in the enviable position of launching a well-planned business venture grown and tested through his work at SF State. It’s called (B)earth.

Luke Wilson, MBA 
2010

The idea was seeded during a project for Professor Bruce Paton’s Sustainability and Business Opportunity class that charged students with solving the trash problem in a slum. They came up with a plan to use recycled plastic bottles as a textile source, and summer found Wilson immersed in research on rPET—Recycled Poly Ethylene Terephthalate—a substitute for polyester made from discarded plastic bottles.

That fall, he designed an independent study with Professor Murray Silverman and Prof. Connie Ulasewicz, who advises on apparel and fashion merchandising, in which he researched markets, learned basic clothing production skills, and drafted his initial business plan.

Continuing this momentum, Wilson recruited members of SF State’s Net Impact chapter to further develop the idea for entry into the WalMart Better Living Business Plan Challenge. They prepared with a mock panel of SF State professors before pitching to judges that included a WalMart Vice President, PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner, and an Environmental Defense Fund director.

Wilson found his participation in the Challenge to be invaluable. “The competition—the whole process—provided me with an incredible experience about how to put together a thorough, feasible business plan, and how to pitch it,” he said. “And I believe that the more times you have the opportunity to pitch your ideas, the better you become at it.”

For the past six months, Wilson has been attending textile shows and working with vendors to develop sourcing for the fabric he has determined will best serve his venture—a blend of wool or organic cotton and rPET. With an entrepreneur’s trademark flexibility, he continues to adapt his model to realities in sourcing and markets.

This June, Wilson and two friends will launch (B) earth, an “eco-thoughtful” baby clothing company designed around a well-researched market niche. It is clearly a carefully planned and articulated venture, grounded and tested with input from expert audiences.

However, he never gets far without venturing to a larger picture of the possibilities and timing for evolving the business. He has his eye on a line of mid-market men’s business attire made from the rPET blend he expects to become more accessible soon. It is this persistence, focus and dual attention to the possible and the likely—combined with the opportunities provided by the SF State MBA program—which might well see (B)earth positively impacting business and the environment for years to come.

“The
sustainability professors are all extremely knowledgeable and
interesting. And importantly, our program focuses on the MBA first, with
sustainability following closely after that… meaning that it isn’t all
“greenwashing” at one end or environmental demagoguery on the other, but
fits right in the middle and argues a balance of making the business
case for sustainability and “doing good” equally. Basically the program
teaches extremely practical skills for the graduates to take and instill
at any level within an organization.”

Wilson is excited to share his ideas. You can follow the young company’s progress at www.bearthclothing.com.


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