For up-and-coming MBA students with a passion for natural and organic products, Leeds offers an unrivaled opportunity to immerse oneself in the industry landscape, literally and theoretically. Located in the heart of Boulder, the place to be for natural and organics—with the highest concentration of natural products companies in the nation—Leeds is well-connected to the $150 billion industry’s ecosystem.
On September 28, Leeds’ Graduate Programs and the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility co-hosted the inaugural Natural and Organic Bootcamp for Full-Time and Evening MBA students. Leeds recently launched a natural and organic career pathway for MBAs, in partnership with CESR, including co-curricular programming and activities like the bootcamp and an upcoming new Natural and Organic Case Competition, to help give graduate students an edge in this industry.
The bootcamp event featured key natural products leaders, who shared valuable insight and advice with the MBA candidates in attendance. Leeds Marketing Instructor Heather Kennedy, former Marketing Director at Whole Foods Market, facilitated the event, which kicked off the day with a broad overview of the industry’s history, current state of business, the natural and organic customer, and trends and metrics.
Serial entrepreneur Mark Retzloff presented lessons he’s learned from his broad experiences, ranging from cofounding Eden Organics, Horizon Organics and Alfalfa’s grocery to starting Aurora Organic Dairy—which not only owns its entire supply chain (“from cow to carton”) but also supplies organic milk to several nationwide grocery chains (e.g., Target, Kroger, Costco, Walmart, Albertson’s).
Among the other presenters were Jane Miller, CEO of Lily’s Organics; Doug Radi, CEO of Good Karma Foods; and Erik Petrek, ecommerce and digital marketing lead for RE Botanicals, the first national hemp CBD brand to be USDA certified organic for U.S.-grown hemp. Each shared unique perspective on their sectors of the industry and provided valuable lessons from their careers.
One insight from Miller was pertinent for those interested in working in a startup: She suggested gaining skills from working for a big company first, and then applying that wide toolkit of knowledge at a small company that needs someone with a breadth of expertise to help get them off the ground.
As one MBA student put it, “The entire program was extremely useful. Hearing the professional journeys of the industry leaders and the state of the industry was very enlightening. Having direct access to such high caliber influencers who are interested in investing in student growth was a tremendous opportunity.”
“It was a great learning experience and truly inspiring to hear each guest speak on their values and how they live those values through the natural and organic industry. As a whole, this event may well have changed the focus of my career!” said another MBA participant.
Rounding out the bootcamp: a recent MBA alumni career panel and an opportunity to network with panelists. It was a full, informative day, one in which the graduate students were fully engaged, asking questions about sustainability, social responsibility and impact.
With more high-level events like this, Leeds MBA candidates will be primed to launch successful careers in this burgeoning industry.