UI grad Samuelson launched Bright Green Strategy
University of Iowa grad launched Bright Green Strategy and it's still going strong
by Tara Bannow, Iowa City Press-Citizen
After a couple of years of providing sustainability consulting as an employee, Sheila Samuelson knew she was doing what she loved. The one thing missing: she wanted to be her own boss.
But starting a business isn’t that simple. She lived in Chicago at the time but didn’t have the network to do it there. She considered San Francisco, where she’d gotten her master’s degree, but sustainability consultants were “a dime a dozen” there, she said.
So the 31-year-old Oelwein native returned to the city of her alma mater, Iowa City, to launch her business, Bright Green Strategy. Two years later, she’s still going strong, securing such high-profile local clients as ACT and Kirkwood Community College.
Samuelson said she’s happy to call Iowa City — an area she says is packed with creative people and possibilities — home.
“If you have a vision for doing something, you can make it happen here,” she said. “It’s not that hard to go out into the community and network and meet the right people if you try, whereas in Chicago, it would take a long time to get access to the same people doing the same amount of networking. There’s just so much opportunity and access here.”
With Bright Green Strategy, Samuelson works with companies to help them reduce their environmental and social impacts by first evaluating their needs, outlining a set of goals and devising a plan to reach them. She’s currently doing a full greenhouse gas inventory of ACT’s Iowa City campus, helped Kirkwood Community College establish its unsorted recycling program and is working with the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce to promote sustainable practices among its members.
Veronica Tessler, who owns Yotopia, an independent frozen yogurt shop in Iowa City, hired Samuelson to do a sustainability assessment of her business.
Now, Tessler touts her evaluation to customers.
“We want our customers to know the measures that we’re taking to be more sustainable,” she said. “I think our customers appreciate that. In a town like Iowa City that’s environmentally conscious, I think that’s important — from a business perspective and an ethical perspective.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, Samuelson moved to San Francisco to work toward her MBA.
She has since garnered a wealth of experience in the sustainability sector, including helping the small town of Greensburg, Kan., rebuild sustainably after a devastating tornado took out most of the city. She was involved in a number of initiatives in the San Francisco area, including working for the Green Purchasing Institute, where she helped cities make environmentally friendly purchases.
She also served as the city of Dubuque’s sustainability coordinator for eight months.
Samuelson’s impact on Iowa City extends beyond her business. Before the end of March, she plans to open Busy Coworking, the city’s first coworking facility, above Chait Galleries on Washington Street with the help of partner Jordan Running. Coworking is a concept where creative professionals work in a shared space both collaboratively and independently.
Having worked in a coworking space in San Francisco, Samuelson said she missed that experience in Iowa City.
“It occurred to me that Iowa City could probably support that and we should have one,” she said.
• Age: 31.
• Education: Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Iowa and MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.
• Occupation: Sustainable business strategist and founder of Bright Green Strategy.
• Hometown: Oelwein.
• Family: Not married.
• Fun facts: Samuelson regularly climbs the University of Iowa’s rock wall, and she does not own a TV.