Alumni Spotlight

Morgan Berman M'14 Participates in Forbes’ “The $400,000 Pressure Cooker”

In October, Forbes hosted its Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, bringing together over 1000 of its ‘30 Under 30’ members with business leaders and mentors. The Summit included a panel discussion, keynote presentations, parties and “The $400,000 Pressure Cooker”. Finalists selected for “The $400,000 Pressure Cooker” had to pitch their ideas “Shark Tank” - style to some of the world’s most influential funders. The selected finalists competed for a $150,000 equity investment and $250,000 in free advertising and services from Forbes. One of those lucky finalists was Philadelphia University’s sustainable design alumna, Morgan Berman M’14, CEO, MilkCrate.

MilkCrate is a sustainable-living app which Berman began as her master’s thesis project while in the sustainable design program at PhilaU. It was at PhilaU where Berman learned how to position MilkCrate as a solution to a real problem, learning to connect with professionals to guide her journey and help improve the product’s development. “I can’t say enough about how helpful it was to begin my company while studying at PhilaU,” explained Berman.

Berman was in shock when she received the call that she was a finalist. She was certain it was a mistake. She even asked, “Did you mean to call Morgan? Berman? From MilkCrate?” After putting herself out there numerous times, she had become used to rejection. This kind of win made an impactful difference to Berman and her team in their own sense of purpose and validation, but also to the outside world.

This experience was unlike any other. Berman was one of just five start-ups nationwide selected to compete. She had five minutes to pitch her idea to AOL founder Steve Case, Forbes Media CEO Mike Perlis and Atom Factory founder Troy Carte. No crowd, pitch or presentation has ever caused as much fear as this experience. “When you are forced to face a fear like that, getting up in front of almost 2,000 people, most of whom have no idea who you are, don’t care where you’re from, where you studied, or what your values are – well it had the potential to be terrifying (it was) and lonely (it wasn’t),” explained Berman. She just got up on stage and enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to share MilkCrate. Although MilkCrate did not win, a lot has come from it. When she presents or pitches to an investor or possible partner, she reminds herself that it cannot be as scary as Forbes.

This experience has been very rewarding. Before MilkCrate, Berman was working different jobs, trying to find something that felt right. She was terrified of waking up years from now and feeling like she never took a big risk. MilkCrate has been that risk. She said, “It’s my chance to do everything I’ve always wanted to do – to create something meaningful, to design something beautiful and to make the world a better place.” Now she is at a place where she is in charge, learning from smarter and more experienced professionals and building a dedicated and dynamic team. She told a friend, “In the end, I got rid of the depression, now I’m working on the anxiety!”

Berman and her team are working on fine-tuning the directory experience so users have a reliable source for business information in any consumer category. They would also like to provide engaging lifestyle information in addition to businesses. “We want to make it easy for everyone to live more sustainably in everyday ways.”