If Caleb Iorg ’10, MBA ’11, shows up wearing sunglasses at a meeting, it’s not because he’s hiding a black eye or ignoring the rules of etiquette.
He’s simply promoting his business, Society43, which sells sunglasses featuring colors and logos from NCAA and NBA sports teams. At twenty-four years old, the Lundquist College of Business graduate is combining two of his greatest loves—sports and business—into his position as chief financial officer.
“I focused on sports marketing as an undergraduate because I love sports,” he said. “As I discovered my skills were in finance and operations, being able to pivot to that subject area for my MBA helped me land my dream job. That’s exactly why I came to the Lundquist College of Business—to find this kind of opportunity.”
Iorg met his future business partner, Jason Bolt, playing pick-up basketball during his undergraduate days. Bolt, like Iorg, saw himself as a budding entrepreneur and started sharing business ideas with his friend.
One in particular struck a chord. Duck fans are known for being as well dressed as their football team. But while you can get everything from UO-branded socks to hats, no one was selling Oregon sunglasses. Recognizing a market niche, Bolt started peddling green and yellow shades on campus. They went like hotdogs on a cold day at Autzen Stadium. During the first year, Bolt estimates he sold sunglasses to twenty-five percent of the student population.
When Iorg started the Oregon MBA, he asked Bolt if he could take his fledgling idea and develop a business plan for it.
“It was an opportunity to work on a real business for a friend rather than some conceptual idea that was never going to see the light of day,” Iorg recalled.
Bolt agreed. Iorg spent the next several months working on the plan, and the rest of the year helping Bolt refine it. Bolt launched the enterprise in 2010, and Iorg officially joined the company after graduating with his MBA in 2011. Since that time, Society43 has gone from offering officially licensed sunglasses for two college teams to eighty college teams and employing sixteen people.
Would Iorg have achieved such success so quickly without the Oregon MBA? Probably not. The interest and attention he received from faculty and staff had a huge impact on Society43’s success.
“They opened doors and make connections to industry professionals, which helped us get the expertise we needed. And that support didn’t stop just because we graduated,” he explained.
In 2012, for example, Warsaw Center for Sports Marketing Managing Director Paul Swangard connected Iorg with a former NBA executive.
“We met with him and got some great feedback and advice on marketing to the NBA,” said Iorg. “That connection was very helpful in developing our NBA product line and marketing strategy.”
The end result? Society43 today produces officially licensed sunglasses for all thirty NBA franchises and has seen an average annual growth rate of 300 percent.
No wonder Iorg isn’t afraid to show up to a meeting wearing shades—a bright future, indeed.