Alumni in Review: Will Clavelle ’16

Will Clavelle is a member of the Class of 2016. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Will Clavelle

Where are you currently working, and what is your role?

I am currently working as an economic development specialist for Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). In this role, I manage economic development projects, administer a revolving loan fund, help people develop businesses, and support existing businesses. In this role, I seek to create and retain jobs that contribute to Burlington’s diverse and durable economy, prioritizing New American and women-owned businesses.

Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program? What were you doing before?

I chose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program because I wanted to learn more about triple bottom line companies, and how they were using the power of business to address world challenges, especially in developing countries.

What was your favorite part about the MBA program experience?

My favorite parts about the experience were the hands-on practicum projects, and getting to know, and learning from, the other members of the 2016 cohort.

How are you applying the tools/skills you learned in the program, post-MBA?

I am using the business fundamentals to help others develop and grow sustainable businesses in Burlington. As I am working with entrepreneurs and existing businesses, I often think back on the lessons learned from case studies, guest speakers, and team projects during the program.

What would you tell someone who is considering The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

The Sustainable Innovation MBA lays the groundwork to develop sustainable business models, and to contribute to businesses that are transforming the way business is done. These sustainable businesses will be crucial in solving today’s most pressing challenges, and improving the world for future generations. If you are looking to switch careers, or advance your current career, SIMBA will provide the tools and connections needed to take the next step. The courses are thought-provoking and the connections are lasting.

Alumni in Review: Kaitlin Sampson ’18

Kaitlin Sampson is a member of the Class of 2018. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Where are you currently working, and what is your role?

I’m a Communications & Programs Associate at the Sustainable Food Lab.

Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program? What were you doing before?

I worked in the hospitality industry and was looking for a career pivot that focused on sustainability and allowed me to use my skills for a good cause.

What was your favorite part about the MBA program experience?

The curriculum and the vast network that The Sustainable Innovation MBA provides.

How are you applying the tools/skills you learned in the program, post-MBA?

The Food Lab was created by systems thinkers so I feel very fortunate to work with others to think about agricultural production in a system everyday. One of my recent projects has been collaborating with cocoa farmers to increase incomes through women-led diversification. Having base-of-the-pyramid experience from The Sustainable Innovation MBA has been very helpful.

What would you tell someone who is considering The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

That the program has a lot of diversity and a wide network which will allow you to explore different interests. Within just a year you’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll come away with concrete skills.

Value for All!

This post was written by Elissa Eggers ’19

A few weeks ago, during our Driving Sustainable Change course, my classmates and I were fortunate enough to chat with Andy Ruben, co-founder and CEO of Yerdle. Yerdle is a “circular economy powerhouse” driving change in the recommerce market by partnering with brands in a way that benefits consumers, companies, and the planet. For someone who came into this program looking to gain new skill sets and tools that would support me in my quest to change the fashion and retail industry for the better, it was exciting to have the opportunity to hear first-hand how Yerdle is disrupting the retail landscape.

Currently, the fashion industry produces upwards of 100 billion pieces of clothing per year despite there being just under 8 million people on the planet. On average, we consume 400x more clothing than we did 20 years ago. Clearly, we have a consumption problem. However, we also have a lack of use problem. As Andy highlighted in our conversation, a large portion of perfectly wearable clothing in the world today sits unused in people’s drawers and closets. That doesn’t even take into account the 10.5 million tons of clothes tossed into landfills each year in the United States alone when people decide it is finally time to purge. So how do we address the growing mountains of clothing taking over the planet? Extending the life of our clothing by keeping pieces in circulation longer is definitely a key piece to this puzzle.

Now, keeping clothing in use by passing it along is by no means a novel idea. Passing along hand-me-downs and buying from and selling to thrift stores are examples of ways people have long been extending the life of their clothing.  However, if we are truly to stop the current systems of production, consumption, and disposal that currently define the retail landscape and result in wasted resources, then we need to innovate and expand on our current re-sale systems.

Yerdle is doing just that. By partnering with brands to help them take control of their resale market and extract value from it in the form of profits and customer acquisition, Yerdle ensures that all stakeholders (including the brands) benefit. A key theme woven throughout our coursework in this program is the importance of expanding the pie. In other words, for a solution to be truly sustainable and innovative, it cannot simply redistribute the value created to different groupings of stakeholders. Rather, it needs to expand the pie to increase the value captured by all.

Understandably, finding a solution that truly expands the pie is easier said than done which is why listening to Andy was such a valuable experience. Ultimately, by making retail companies part of their solution and beneficiaries of it, Yerdle has created a solution that other brands would want to be part of because the expanded value created extends to them. This makes integrating recommence into their businesses seem like the smarter, more profitable option.

One of my biggest takeaways from the conversation is that as my cohort and I move out into the world and start trying to tackle these big issues, we need to remember the importance of crafting solutions that reduce friction and do not force people to make trade-offs. The fact is, we are all passionate about different things and not everyone is going to care about or be willing and able to sacrifice something for the sake of sustainability. Nor should they necessarily be expected to. Thus, building a solution that requires stakeholders (businesses or consumers) to make a sacrifice of something they value in order embrace the greener option, is simply not a realistic and scalable alternative. Instead, businesses, particularly those in retail, need to embrace and develop strategies that make things easier and better for all. Yerdle is one example of a company doing just that.

Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

Net Impact: Wear-it-Wise Fashion, but Make it Sustainable

This post was written by Alyssa Schuetz ’19

I may only be 23 years old, but I know exactly what I want to do with my life. I want to change the fashion industry for the better. My bachelor’s degree is in Design & Merchandising which translates loosely into the business-side of the fashion industry. After working in product development in sports apparel, I saw the shortcomings of retail and knew that I couldn’t enter the industry knowing that I would be part of the problem. I am determined to be part of the solution and create a positive impact on the industry.

When I joined The Sustainable Innovation MBA program, I knew my direction was always going to be about fashion.

I just wasn’t sure which form that would take until I came across the non-profit organization Net Impact. Turns out, they have a specific program dedicated to promoting sustainable fashion called Wear it Wise. I immediately reached out to the program because I knew I had to be involved.

As a grad student, I knew this would be a huge opportunity for me to share what I am passionate about on a larger platform. This program is sponsored by Levi’s, Colombia Sportswear Company, and Eileen Fischer. Knowing that these brands are innovators and already making a difference in the sustainability space, I knew that this platform would provide me with more skills and tools to further a cause that I was already passionate about.

After being accepted into the Wear It Wise program, I started crafting my social media campaign to give people an inside look as to how they can shop more sustainably. My goal throughout this campaign has been to empower the consumer. In my experience, the fashion industry is at a crossroads where the industry is aware of sustainability and knows that it will eventually have to become greener, but it’s still lacking that final push to implement change. I believe that we as consumers carry immense power to vote with our dollar with every purchase we make. We have the power to be this push that retailers need in order to convert to more sustainable practices.

I’m excited with the power we have to wear our values and make our impact in the retail industry. Please follow along my journey on social media as I continue to share my passion with all of you and inspire you to make your own impact!

Workin’ Nine to Five: Managing Your Schedule and Your Productivity

This post was written by Lauren Masters ’19

On Friday, November 30th it finally clicked. I need to stick to a standard 9-to-5 work schedule in order properly manage my time. Steve Gagner, the co-founder of 14th Star Brewery spoke to our Family Business class and told us there’s no such thing as not enough time in the day, just poor time management skills. Even though we have over 20 credits of classes, that’s only 20 hours a week spent in class. The rest of the 40 hours allocated for a standard work schedule can be spent studying, reading and completing assignments. Since the majority of our classes take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the time not spent in class can be used for completing classwork. That still allows me before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. to accomplish my personal daily goals. It wasn’t until Steve framed it in this way that it finally clicked.

It seems simple and cliché, which it is, but keeping a schedule and routine will make a world of difference and dramatically increase one’s productivity.

It has been almost two weeks since then and I can already see the difference of thinking in the 9-to-5 mentality. Even if we don’t have class until afternoon I open my computer or books at 9 and begin the workday. Or, if we only have morning classes I keep working until 5 in the evening. This alleviates so much stress and allows me to feel accomplished before dinner time. Before, I would feel so unproductive during the day because I would sleep in or hang out with my cat during prime work hours. When 7 pm rolled around I would be a stressed-out mess, not eat a proper dinner and cram until I was falling asleep over my computer. That routine is simply not sustainable. It seems simple and cliché, which it is, but keeping a schedule and routine will make a world of difference and dramatically increase one’s productivity.

With the semester coming to an end and reflecting back on the last few months I wish I figured this “routine thing” out earlier. Since this program is so accelerated it is hard to maintain any consistency, but keeping yourself on a schedule that works for you amongst all the chaos is critical. I am excited for some time off where I don’t need to keep a strict schedule, but now I know what I need to do when we return in January to hit the ground running.

Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

Sustainable Innovation in Review

 An occasional curation of sustainable innovation and business transformation news, postings, et cetera…

Greener companies outperforming their peers?

Companies sourcing renewable electricity outperform their rivals financially, according to a new report released Tuesday from RE100, the initiative from the Climate Group that encourages firms to commit to using 100 percent renewable power.

Virgin Atlantic flies the first ever commercial flight using sustainable jet fuel

Over at the Virgin blog, Richard Branson informs us that Virgin Atlantic has completed the first ever commercial flight using LanzaTech’s innovative new sustainable aviation fuel.

Appalachian Ohio could get a giant solar farm, if regulators approve

Appalachian Ohio, a region hurt by the decline of coal, may become home to one of the largest solar projects east of the Rockies.

How tech is turbocharging corporate sustainability

At the recent Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, 21 companies, including Bloomberg, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Lyft and Salesforce, announced the launch of the “Step Up Declaration,” a new alliance dedicated to harnessing the power of emerging technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all economic sectors.

Alumnus-Founded Sap! Beverages Takes Top Honors at Food Pitch Competition

Sap! Beverages, which makes sparkling superfood beverages out of maple and birch tree sap, took the judges’ “Highly Commendable Award” at the recent FoodBytes pitch competition in Montreal.

Read more here.

Sap! was co-founded by The Sustainable Innovation MBA alumnus Chas Smith ’15 (left, in photo) and has been on a hot-streak in 2018, appearing on the ABC pitch show “Shark Tank” and being named a product trend to watch by Whole Foods Market.

FoodBytes! is a next-generation pitch competition that aims to discover the most ground-breaking food and agriculture (F&A) startups and provide them the mentorship and connections they need to grow. Since launching in 2015, 190 startups have pitched on the FoodBytes! stage, 1,250 startups have applied from 35 countries and more than 3,000 people have attended events in North America, Europe and Australia.

Networking: A Cliché? Or, A Lesson?

This post was written by Andria Denome ’18

“Whatever lazy or narcissistic things you’ve been hearing about today’s Millennials, that’s not Andria” is what Jocelyn said in her introduction of me to Dennis DeLeo.

Dennis, affectionately known throughout Rochester, NY as Denny, is the co-founder of Trillium Group Venture Capital and Private Equity and more recently of the Venture Jobs Foundation. Trillium was the first VC firm in Rochester, born after Denny and a Kodak colleague saw an unmet need. Venture Jobs Foundation (VJF) emerged in a similar way after Denny saw that the poorest neighborhoods in Rochester were teeming with the entrepreneurial spirit to revitalize the community but they lacked capital. VJF is an impact investing organization with the mission of bringing jobs and resources to low income neighborhoods via small business.

I read about Denny in several articles and I knew that it would be amazing to learn more about his career and leadership path. Plus, conducting informational interviews is a requirement for The Sustainable Innovation MBA Career Launch curriculum and I had a looming deadline.

Although we are constantly barraged with pro-networking encouragement at the Grossman School of Business, I struggle to conceptualize its impact. Coming into the program directly out of undergraduate studies, I have never really been in the job market with that extra level of pressure. What’s even harder is asking my mom to connect me with her friend, Jocelyn, to connect me with a very accomplished VC that she went to Harvard with decades ago, with whom she may or may not keep in touch, just for the opportunity to chat, on the outside-chance he would be willing to share his hard-won experience.

I was skeptical, but that is exactly what I did. The result was a flood of support, advice and praise. Jocelyn’s warm introduction really tipped the scales in my favor, as Denny said, “I know Jocelyn very well and I know she would not send a student my way if they weren’t promising.” I have a new appreciation for networking and the utilization of my close network.

Below are some of the key points from my conversation with Denny.

  • Were did vision for VJF come from? What is the Foundation working on now?

VJF is only five years old but they are already added many programs to boost the Rochester economy, specifically in disadvantaged neighborhoods. They have created two programs to plant and nurture the seeds of entrepreneurship earlier than the micro-lending level via a pipeline program. First, they created Jobs Kitchen which is a business accelerator program that local entrepreneurs can apply to join. From there Denny and his team thought, “what else can we do to jumpstart entrepreneurship?” and the answer was Jobs Kitchen Academy. Jobs Kitchen Academy is a program to teach teens in about entrepreneurship with hands on learning, unique curriculum, and local leaders. The Academy is a supplement to their school work and won’t have homework so it will be manageable for teens already balancing school, a job, and/or sports.

  • What advice do you have for someone looking to explore a career entrepreneurial impact investing?

Denny recommended devoting one to three years to working in startups. When you’re young there is a much lower risk because you have fewer financial obligations. Don’t be afraid to fail but be prepared to rebound quickly.

We then side-stepped into the topic of general early-career advice: Build your reputation carefully, early, and with supervisors of influence. Whenever given the chance, express yourself clearly and articulate and demonstrate your skillset. Also, it is very important take initiative and always deliver more than asked for. However, beware of the pitfall of becoming a lone wolf, nobody likes a know-it-all that keeps their team in the dark to make themselves look better. Use your team to do more and become a leader in the process.

  • What are some of practices you have that you think make you an effective leader?

Denny does well delegating and challenging his employees. He explained that it is not productive to belittle them by over-explaining, if they have questions they will ask. Denny also works everyday to be approachable, available around the office, and actively building relationships by listening and showing compassion.

Alumnus-Founded Sap! Swims With The Sharks

Sap!, a Vermont maple water beverage producer co-founded and led by entrepreneur Chas Smith ’15, will appear on Shark Tank, the popular venture capital/entrepreneur pitch program on the ABC television network. Sap! will make their pitch on Sunday, January 28 at 10 p.m. EST.

Shark Tank features several “multi-millionaire tycoons” looking to discover and invest in the best businesses and products America has to offer. The “sharks” include Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran.

Sap! was launched by Chas, his cousin Nikita (who appears with Chas on the broadcast), and his father Charlie, and took flight while Chas was working toward his MBA here at UVM. Their company is fueled by their passion for the maple and birch industry, their dedication to Vermont and the working landscape, and their excitement to build a company that embodies these values.

Sap! bills its products as non-alcoholic beverages made from 100 percent natural maple syrup and healthy alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks. Sap! products can be found in Vermont, throughout New England, New York City, and worldwide on Amazon.

A Few Of My Favorite Things…About The Sustainable Innovation MBA

This post was written by Randy Baron ’18

The Sustainable Innovation MBA program has created an environment where I can become the best version of myself. I am surrounded by a passionate and supportive group of teachers and students that challenge my viewpoints and help me move out of my comfort zone.

There is a diverse group of students in the cohort from many different walks of life. Students of the current cohort have experience in non-profit, law, engineering, science, education, agriculture etc. This diversity allows us to creatively solve problems and attack challenges from different angles. Throughout the program all of our professors have been stressing the importance of living a balanced lifestyle and focusing on mindfulness. This has been key to my personal development so far throughout the program.

Members of the Class of 2018 working together on a UVM Adventure Ropes Course challenge

One of my favorite aspects of The Sustainable Innovation MBA program is the collaborative nature. We get to work with four different groups of 3 to 4 students throughout the year. I find this valuable because it allows me to gain experience working with different types of people, network with my fellow classmates, and practice my leadership skills. Traditional MBA programs are more competitive and don’t encourage as much collaboration. In addition to collaboration with students there is also collaboration with thought leaders and change agents from all over the globe. This world-wide network is what makes The Sustainable Innovation MBA program the #1 Green MBA in America.

Another aspect of The Sustainable Innovation MBA program that I really enjoy is the focus on finding and developing passion. In our Leadership Seminar class with Joe Fusco we have learned that passion is one of the keys to great leadership. Life is filled with problems and, instead of fighting them and fearing them, we need to embrace them. Leaders love problems. A person needs to find problems that they enjoy solving every day. Another key aspect of leadership is being committed. A leader should be so passionate about their job that they wouldn’t quit even if they won the lottery. In order to find and develop this passion The Sustainable Innovation MBA program has created a career launch program where we get to listen to successful CEO’s, set SMART goals, refine our mission and vision, job shadow, attend career counseling sessions as well as attend conferences about sustainability.

I feel lucky and happy every single day to be a part of The Sustainable Innovation MBA program. I find learning about entrepreneurship, sustainability, and innovation fascinating. During one of the Sustainability Toolkit sessions we had the privilege of listening to Sherwood Smith, the Senior Executive Director for Engagement & Professional Development at UVM, talk to us about privilege/bias. This Toolkit Session inspired me to refine my personal vision. My vision is to see people of all ages and cultures come together unified and empowered by sharing the belief that they hold the power to solve the world’s greatest social and environmental problems on an individual level.