Arron Mansika receiving an award from the Boulder County Business Report in 2009 as they identified Boulder's Best Organics as Boulder's Second Fastest Growing Company (with sales below $2M).
By Lisa Birman, MFA
Arron Mansika (MA, 2004) wasn't looking for any life changes when a friend gave him a Naropa catalog in 1997. He put the mailer in the recycle bin, only to find that his friend fished it out again and placed it on his bed. Sometimes our friends know us better than we know ourselves! Arron looked through the flyer, and two weeks later attended an Ecopsychology weekend course. He loved the course, and moved to Boulder within two months.
"I was drawn to the university, in part, by its emphasis on the internal growth of each student. While other schools I considered for environmental studies focused exclusively on policy or science, Naropa's unique perspective folded together a study of policy and science with an exploration of the spiritual dimension of environmental awareness."
Before enrolling in Naropa's Environmental Leadership degree, Arron earned his BS from Eckerd College, where he helped create the school's Environmental Studies program. Two years into a degree in Biology, he saw an opportunity to build a bridge between his scientific education and the environmental movement, by adding curriculum in economics, literature, and policy. He became the school's first graduate in Environmental Studies in 1995. The degree has continued to evolve over time, and is now the school's most populated major.
Shortly after moving to Boulder, Arron started working as the administrator at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. As the nonprofit's first employee, he coordinated the various collectives working on mission-specific issues. Recalling his time at RMPJC, Arron says, "I came to understand the complex interrelatedness of the many issues we addressed: from campaign finance reform to local environmental issues to international wars."
Arron founded Boulder's Best Organics in 2006, creating and selling gift boxes of organic foods and body-care products grown or produced in Colorado. Within two years, Boulder's Best Organics was Boulder Valley's second-fastest growing company with sales under $2 million. He sold the company in 2009, and is now the first director for Naturally Boulder. Through his work at both Boulder's Best Organics and Naturally Boulder, Arron is living proof of the new paradigm of socially conscious business. "Sustainability is an ingredient of a successful business. ...The profit-by-any-means-necessary model is antiquated. This has long been observable at the local level; it's now apparent at the national level; and it's gaining momentum at the international level."
Naturally Boulder's mission is to "solidify Boulder as the epicenter of the natural products industry and to support nascent businesses to launch and stay in Boulder, Colorado." The organization assists entrepreneurs with business decisions, including product formulation and design, distribution, and connecting with service providers from lawyers to social media experts. Hundreds of companies have already benefited from their services, and their monthly Networking Nights have become a must-do event in Boulder. Naturally Boulder also offers other monthly and bi-monthly events, as well as two popular annual events. Check out a full list of events.
Arron credits Naropa with teaching him essential lessons about life and business. "By teaching and modeling how to work with one's own mind, Naropa offers its students what may be the most valuable business skill!" He also sees a wealth of opportunities for Naropa students. "Naropa is like a bubble within a bubble, and the "Boulder bubble" is a sort of think-tank, filled with innovators and activists, entrepreneurs and artists. ...Identifying oneself as part of the Naropa community can help open the right doors. The school has earned a deserved reputation for generating a unique and in-demand kind of thinker and doer."
Naropa hasn't only opened doors in Arron's professional life. Naropa's Director of Alumni Relations, Melissa Holland, interviewed Arron in 2009. He subsequently agreed to deliver Naropa's commencement address—"partly to ensure I'd see Melissa again!" His tactics worked, and Arron and Melissa were married last year!
Check out a video about Naturally Boulder!