How does an international studies major who never took an accounting or finance class end up as a CEO?Ask Marybeth Thomson Luber ’96 and she’ll tell you: by pursuing her passion and taking risks.
At age 34, Luber is chief executive officer of Archetype Solutions, a San Francisco company that offers consumers customized clothing based on their body sizes and preferred styles.Luber’s role as leader of the California business comes just three years after she began working at Archetype Solutions. Said Steve Campo, who hired Luber: “You never know how someone is going to perform when they’re in the CEO seat, but Marybeth has exceeded our expectations. The sky is the limit for her.”
Most college graduates have little chance of becoming a CEO before they turn 35. Luber is an anomaly.After interning with an investment bank that specialized in helping Latin American businesses, Luber searched for a permanent job. A British citizen born in Bermuda, she sought work with a large American company that would offer her a visa.
A Colby alum in the investment industry assisted Luber in getting a job at Chase Manhattan.For the next five years, Luber worked 80-hour weeks in London, New York, and, eventually, San Francisco.
“I didn’t have a weekend off for the first year,” she remembers. “But I think it’s super important to work hard the first few years out of college.”After adding an M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, Luber looked for a company that she could help shape and grow. When she learned that Archetype Solutions had an opening for a director of finance and development, Luber aggressively pursued the job.
Even though she had the credentials, Campo, Archetype’s president in 2004, warned Luber that it was an uncertain time for the custom-clothing company. Archetype, Campo explained, was in the midst of raising venture capital.“Not knowing where we were going to raise additional money made it very risky for Marybeth,” Campo said. But things fell into place: the capital was obtained and Luber was hired. Once on board, Luber went beyond her financial duties to get involved in the company’s marketing.
No surprise, say those who know her best.Luber, says Patrice Franko, Colby’s Grossman Professor of Economics, is well suited to running a company. “She is a problem solver,” said Franko, who taught Luber in a Latin American economics class. “Marybeth is very good at building relationships. She wants to come up with innovative solutions, but she wants to do it collaboratively with others.”
Archetype’s core business provided custom clothing technology for companies like JCPenney and Lands’ End. Luber believed Archetype should do more than sell its technology; she wanted the company to create its own customized clothing brand.“I had been traveling in Asia and sort of became obsessed with how countries like Thailand offered customized clothing. I thought, ‘Why can’t the U.S. create clothing that is affordable and custom-made?’”
Not long after she took on the role of Archetype’s CEO, in 2007, she created indi, a subsidiary that offers custom-made jeans through a Web site, www.indiDenim.com, and, launched this fall, custom-made dress shirts through indiTailored.com.“For the consumer, it’s great. They can design their own jeans from scratch,” Luber said. “A lot of consumers make compromises in jeans; they’re either too big in the waist or they end up squeezing into them.”
Men can order custom dress shirts in a variety of styles and fits. Shirts start at $79.99. Jeans are $135, “which isn’t that bad when premium jeans go for $150,” Luber said.The indi business is doing well with minimal marketing, Luber says, and sales goals are within reach. “If we sold 10,000 jeans this year,” she said, “I’d be really happy.”
In between leading her company and coming to work, “where I blink my eyes and the day is over,” Luber enjoys weekends off, biking along the Golden Gate Bridge or snowboarding down the mountains of Lake Tahoe.She also muses about how an international studies student ended up in the clothing industry.
“Life,” she said, “can take you interesting places.”