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Founders, PACT Underwear
When Jason Kibbey (left) and Jeff Denby (right), both MBA 08, first arrived at business school, they had no idea just how much Haas was going to teach them to think outside the boxer.
The pair met early on at Days at Haas, the school’s new-admits weekend. Kibbey was the “eco guy” who worked a sustainability summer internship with Patagonia and a long-time job at the Resource Renewal Institute. Denby had an unusual background in design and was interested in sustainable fashion.
“Some schools just looked at me like I had two heads. At Berkeley it was a completely positive reaction,” says Denby. “I came, maybe with total naiveté, and said I want to start a sustainable underwear company.”
Idea to actualization involved two classes: Workshop for Startups, which Kibbey describes as “group therapy for people who want to start a business,” and Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman’s New Product Development class, which focused on creating product prototypes. Partnering with three California College of the Arts students, they fabricated their first organic and sustainable underwear in Oakland, missing their Christmas Gala because they were printing panties until 4 a.m. As part of the course, they attended a tradeshow to present their product, not realizing that industrial designer Yves Behar was a judge.
Behar was so blown away by the socially responsible skivvies that he approached Kibbey and Denby about a design partnership.
Upon graduation, the deal with Behar was sewn up and PACT became an active business. “Having that class and meeting Yves made us realize that we really could design the world’s best undies,” says Denby.
Since then PACT has grabbed media attention from more than 20 media outlets, from Fast Company magazine to the Wall Street Journal’s gift guide to The Today Show.
PACT gives 10 percent of its sales to various social causes, which inspire the company’s designs. For instance, spindly lines represent branches and ForestEthics, a nonprofit that protects forests.
Denby and Kibbey say they couldn’t have taken their business off the ground without the authentic, innovation-minded community that Haas creates. “Small classes mean that everyone knows you by name — both professors and students — and they know what you want to achieve,” Denby explains. “This community experience gave me a shared sense of success which I think is unique in business schools. People stepped up and collaborated with me.”
“Professors connected us. Everyone on our advisory board we met through school, and half of our investors we met there,” Denby adds. “Hands down, we could not be doing this business if we hadn’t gone to Haas.”
“Ultimately, change starts at home,” says Kibbey, “and I think we can agree: The most personal change starts with your underwear.”
Jason Kibbey, MBA 08
Jeff Denby, MBA 08