Entrepreneurship runs in the Domoto family, so it was no surprise Drew Domoto wanted to start a company of his own. Domoto earned his Professional MBA in 2010 with emphases in Marketing, Managing for Sustainability, and Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School.
Working full-time and going to school full time was the second hardest thing Domoto has ever done, with the hardest thing being starting his own company. However, he says that they both have been his most gratifying experiences.
Since graduating seven years ago, Domoto founded his own marketing agency, Domoto Brands, combining his expertise in marketing with his passion for sustainability. A successful business today, some of his clients include Molson Coors, Voltea, and Trimble.
Domoto points to his time at CU Denver as a pivotal time in his life and instrumental in the overall success of his business.
The Net Impact conference that started it all
A hot topic in 2009, the sustainability movement was just starting to take hold in Colorado. While a student at the Business School, Domoto attended a Net Impact conference that year, which unbeknownst to him would start the momentum for his new career path. A B Lab speaker at the conference introduced Domoto to the idea of B Corps, which sparked his interest in sustainability.
Back in Denver he met another graduate student, Sarah Thompson, who was looking to start a CU Denver Net Impact graduate chapter. They eventually became co-presidents of the student organization and developed a pathway for other students to become more involved in sustainability.
Domoto now knew that he wanted to integrate sustainability more directly into his future career. Growing up and watching his father succeed as an entrepreneur, he also knew he wanted to carve his own path by founding his own company.
Creating a business plan for success
To succeed as an entrepreneur, Domoto knew he needed a strong business plan. He took advantage of THE CLIMB business plan competition hosted by the CU Denver Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship and signed up to present his plan. He made it into the top 20, and he said the process of going through the competition helped him address issues he otherwise would not have thought of.
“I was able to better understand the shortcomings of my business plan and where I was going to be exposed if I were to take this thing live,” Domoto shared.
THE CLIMB judges gave great insight, which he took in stride and adjusted his plan accordingly. Armed with a fully-formed plan, Domoto graduated, left his job, and founded Domoto Brands.
“Without refining my plan based on the opinions of others, my chances of failure would have been higher, my confidence in the plan would have been lower, and my ability to execute it as quickly as I did would have been nonexistent,” Domoto reflected.
The value of giving back
Professionals on panels and guest speakers made a big impact on Domoto while he was in school. These guest speakers gave insights that Domoto says were invaluable, because they shared stories and lessons of what it looked like to run a business in a practical sense.
Last semester, Domoto was the speaker for a Digital DIY workshop hosted by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, sharing his expertise on Facebook advertising with students, staff, and faculty.
Professionals on panels and guest speakers made such an impact on Domoto while he was in school that it inspired him to give back to CU Denver.
Domoto believes that a textbook can’t teach you everything, which is why he takes the initiative to get involved with the Business School. He hopes to share his lessons learned and add value to their courses and shape their careers.
Challenges facing sustainability today
For an organization to enter into the sustainability game, Domoto recommends taking the first step by starting a conversation. He believes that “every company should have a strategy for providing a positive impact in the world in some way.”
“Every company should have a strategy for providing a positive impact in the world in some way.”
Despite the increase in awareness and implementation of sustainability around the world, Domoto notes that two big challenges still face sustainability professionals today:
- Garnering support from top-level executives
- A shifting government agenda
It is vital for top executives to understand sustainability is more than “going green.” It is a broader umbrella that includes cost reduction, efficiency, and employee retention. Unfortunately, relaying that message to executives that already have so many other priorities calling their attention is difficult.
Domoto also argues that it is equally important for a company to take ownership of sustainability regardless of what government regulations are set. Customers reward businesses for sticking to its brand and mission, and that should be reason enough to integrate these practices into the larger plan.
Customers reward businesses for sticking to its brand and mission.
Domoto points to companies like Patagonia as leaders in sustainability because they have proven the power of setting their own much higher standards beyond what the government requires. He also notes the importance of smaller companies taking strides toward more sustainable business practices as well.
For anyone looking to integrate sustainability into their organization, a CU Denver Business School Associate Professor Kenneth Bettenhausen and Senior Instructor John Byrd recently developed a free online course, Become a Sustainable Business Change Agent, open to anyone that provides the skills and tools to create and implement an effective sustainability proposal.
Advice for businesses: know your stakeholders
Domoto encourages companies to know their stakeholders not just their target markets. The key is understanding how to best communicate with them. He argues that by speaking to stakeholders’ minds and hearts, they will naturally become your brand’s megaphone and draw in more customers.
Domoto’s passion for storytelling and brand development is done all through the lens of sustainability and has served him well as an entrepreneur. We are proud to see how he is applying his MBA degree by helping his clients make a smarter, more sustainable impact on the world.
Other alumni have also found a way to give back to CU Denver and the business community. Christie Austin, CFO and professional golfer, recently spoke about risk-taking at the Business School Alumni Network’s Back to Business speaker series. Another alumnus, Jason Battista, shared his success as the company division president for Mercy Loan Fund.