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Business student builds business around giving back

By Terri Hughes-Lazzell

Some say entrepreneurs are born. That appears to be the case for supply chain management student Josh York. Once he arrived at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, he found a like-minded community that would help him to elevate his entrepreneurial spirit.

Josh York wearing one of his company's hats.  Photo by Alan Piñon
Josh York wearing one of his company’s hats.
Photo by Alan Piñon

York transferred to Michigan State fall semester 2014. By that November he earned third place in the Broad Business Plan Competition for his company, The York Project. His clothing company business model donates a piece of clothing to a person who is homeless for each item sold. He also donates clothing his company produces through his own clothing drives.

His plan: employ the homeless to create his clothing. He’s working toward that end.

“When I was a drummer in a band in high school, it cost us so much for shirts, so I bought a silk screening machine and made them myself,” York explained. From there, he thought of more ideas for knitted caps and beanies and other clothing.

The idea to make the clothing company something more developed in the basement of his parents’ Livonia, Mich., home. With a heart for helping others, York found a way to put what he was doing to a greater good—following the model of other companies, such as TOMS Shoes, he decided to help the less fortunate at the same time he grew his brand.

“My goal is to help the homeless,” he said. With more than 5,000 items sold in 29 states and seven countries, that has translated into about 7,000 items given to those in need—the difference in numbers comes from clothing drives and other initiatives in which the project has been involved.

Now, York is focused on suppliers—something that he’s moved forward on after attending business courses at the Broad College. During his time here, he’s also learned that a passion is something that can be a business focus.

“I love doing this work and thought it was more a sideline, but what I’ve learned here is that it actually could be a business,” York said.

While much of his business knowledge is coming from the classroom at the Broad College, he’s also learning from the entrepreneurial enterprises on campus, including the Broad College’s Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (IEI) and the Hatch—a student business incubator backed by MSU, Spartan Innovations, East Lansing, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.

York learned about the Hatch in a marketing class. While presenting during his class, another student directed him to the Hatch. Since that time, he has earned third place in the Broad Business Plan Competition—and with it $1,000 for his fledgling company.

He continues moving his initiative forward, even getting assistance from other students who want to help. He’s not sure where the future will take him, but he is grateful for the knowledge he’s obtained at the Hatch and working with faculty at the Broad College and in entrepreneurship initiatives at MSU.

“This has been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve built relationships and learned about pitching business ideas. And I’ve made so many friends.”

York said that the third place in the Broad Business Plan Competition and the $1,000 prize was great, but the connections he’s made are even more rewarding.

“I want to set up manufacturing plants, employ homeless people, pay them, and also provide them with a place to stay,” he says. “I want to build my first one in Detroit and go from there.”

He believes that with the knowledge he’s gained at Michigan State, he can accomplish these goals.


Eli Broad College of Business

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