Stingray Botanicals: Growing a business

After spending most of their professional career in the closet, Lukas Robuck chose The Portland MBA because of PSU’s progressive reputation and the graduate program’s focus on stakeholders, not just shareholders.

“PSU’s student body, and MBA cohorts, are more diverse than most MBA programs,” Lukas said. “Not only does PSU have thousands of LGBTQ+ identifying students, but the MBA cohort is a balanced mix of students of varying identities and backgrounds.”

With an MBA and the tools to start their own business, Lukas knew they would have the opportunity to live and work more authentically, and empower others to do the same. During the first year of the program, Lukas was already seeing the value of their education. “I started to notice a change in myself. I was more confident and getting involved beyond just going to class. I truly felt I had found my calling.”

Lukas and their partner just launched their retail plant nursery, Stingray Botanicals, out of Eugene, Oregon. As a certified and registered Benefit Company, Stingray Botanicals has a strong commitment to equity and sustainability, including providing competitive career opportunities for queer, trans and nonbinary communities.

The seed for the business was planted in 2015 when Lukas started to collect houseplants to support their mental health. “On the cold, rainy winter days in Portland I would go to the local nurseries to surround myself with lush foliage and enjoy the warm humid air. Buying plants and caring for them in my home helped to improve my mental state and give me something to be responsible for other than myself.”

At the same time Lukas was beginning to think about sharing plant therapy with others, the opportunities for better work environments also became clear. “I was working retail and became disillusioned with the poor management that was openly hostile to those whom management deemed ‘different.’ I decided I would become a better leader for workers while simultaneously helping customers enjoy the mental health benefits of plants. That led me to apply to MBA programs, and ultimately to The Portland MBA.”

“My time at PSU prepared me to open the nursery,” Lukas said. “The skills I gained pushed me to learn more about myself and how I show up and interact with those around me. It has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams.”

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