“Are you ready?”
That was the question when David Heath ’05 sat down for a meeting with the founders of Cleancult, a venture selling green cleaning products. As a fellow Babson entrepreneur, Heath wanted to help the founders and invest in their business. Just as important, he was willing to introduce them to other much-needed investors.
But before all that could happen, Heath asked that one final question: Are you ready? The answer in return was a resounding, hard-earned, you-better-believe-it yes.
And that yes set in motion an important turning point for Cleancult and its founders, CEO Ryan Lupberger ’18 and chief technology officer Zachary Bedrosian ’18. As co-founder and CEO of Bombas, a highly successful sock and apparel brand, Heath was plugged into a robust network of investors. He would go on to make critical connections for Lupberger and Bedrosian and establish a long-term bond between Cleancult and Bombas. The two companies now have some 30-plus investors in common.
“Dave was our first substantial investor. He was critical,” says Lupberger. “We met Dave and everything changed.” In the process, that relationship between Cleancult and Bombas demonstrated the power of Babson alumni when they look out for each other.
“Without Dave, we wouldn’t be here today,” says Lupberger. “Without Babson, we wouldn’t have met Dave.”
Pay It Forward
Heath has long liked to reach out to other entrepreneurs to gain insight and share ideas. “The startup community is pretty close knit,” he says. “When I was first starting Bombas, I relied on the advice and experience of more seasoned founders, and their friendship and guidance really helped us along the way.”
Now that Bombas has grown, he tries to serve in that mentorship role with others. “I try to pay it forward with people like Ryan,” says Heath, who founded Bombas with his brother, Andrew MBA’12, the company’s COO.
Lupberger and Bedrosian, who met in Babson’s E-Tower, first talked with Heath at a New York City restaurant in 2018. By that point, the pair had spent several long years perfecting their products and overcoming challenges. As Lupberger puts it, “We were pushing the boulder up the hill.” Their difficulties had largely been figured out, however, save for one. “We were trying to fundraise, and it was very challenging,” says Lupberger.
“Without Dave, we wouldn’t be here today. Without Babson, we wouldn’t have met Dave.”
Ryan Lupberger ’18
The pair were impressed by Heath. “He was quick and accurate and kind,” says Lupberger. “Dave knows the consumer. He saw the opportunity.” They soon arranged a second meeting, and after the Cleancult founders professed that they were indeed ready, a flurry of activity followed. In the weeks ahead, there were more than 50 meetings with investors and dozens upon dozens of emails. “It wasn’t until an investor like Dave said, ‘These guys can do what they say they can do,’ that others paid attention,” says Lupberger.
Through Heath’s help, Cleancult went on to raise more than $15 million during its pre-seed, seed, and series A rounds of funding.
An Enduring Bond
The story of Bombas and Cleancult helps to illustrate the larger story of the Babson community. “Babson fosters a network of so many interesting and passionate alumni who have a shared interest in entrepreneurship,” says Heath. “It’s been awesome to both be a recipient of that support, and to give it back.”
Giving back, of course, is baked into the very business model of Bombas, which donates one item of clothing to community organizations nationwide for every item it sells. In the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality, Bombas is donating a total of $250,000 to five organizations fighting racial inequality, alongside additional matching donations from the company’s four founders. Heath also offered to mentor and coach Babson’s Black student and alumni entrepreneurs. “I know I would not be where I am today without Babson and its alumni,” says Heath.
Meanwhile, the strong bond between Bombas and Cleancult endures. When Cleancult wanted to donate soap to those less fortunate in this time of pandemic, it naturally turned to Bombas for help. Bombas works with a number of charitable organizations, so it was able to connect Cleancult with New York City Relief, which provides support to the homeless.
Cleancult donated about 30,000 bars of soap to the organization.
Posted in Entrepreneurship of All Kinds