Alumni Insights: Lessons from Ocean Bottle’s William Pearson’s Experience at London Business School

Alumni Insights: Lessons from Ocean Bottle’s William Pearson’s Experience at London Business School 

Ocean Bottle founder and co-CEO William Pearson recalls his journey from the classroom to the purpose-driven business, illustrating how educational institutions can be instrumental in shaping one’s entrepreneurial path.

Many graduates finish their education with excitement about starting their careers, but also a bit of self-doubt as to what their work’s purpose might be and the means to achieve that purpose. Yet, universities and schools can help those who learn how to activate their resources properly. 

Take William Pearson, founder and co-CEO of Ocean Bottle – a company that developed reusable bottles with a twist and that, in less than five years, grew an extensive clientele of global giants such as Google, Facebook, Hulu, Patagonia, Mercedes-Benz, and Virgin. London Business School (LBS) is where everything he needed to do in the future, and how to do it, became crystal clear.

An entrepreneur with a calling

Pearson had embarked on a life-changing, one-year adventure working at sea as a deckhand on a private yacht when he was abruptly faced with a disturbing reality – ocean pollution. “I encountered Thilafushi, also known as ‘Rubbish Island,’ the dump site where plastic from resorts is burned and left free to drift into the oceans. I couldn’t erase the image from my mind,” he says, adding that, back on land and pursuing a Masters in Management at LBS in 2017, he “basically became obsessed with people and the planet and all the challenges that we need to solve within our lifetimes.” 

Then, Pearson saw someone drinking from a reusable bottle in the LBS cafeteria for the first time. He remembers this instant vividly. “That was the light bulb moment. I thought, they’re doing that but they could do so much more,” he recalls. 

Around the same time, Pearson met his future co-founder, Nick Doman, through serendipitous seating in their very first lecture. The pair shared a strong interest in environmental impact and entrepreneurship, which would become the foundation of their collaboration. “Our worlds collided, which was great,” says Pearson. Soon, they decided to launch Ocean Bottle, which was incorporated in 2018. 

The concept is as simple as it is ambitious: the bottles are made from stainless steel and upcycled, ocean-bound plastic, and each bottle sold funds the collection of 1,000 plastic bottles. The company aims to collect no less than seven billion plastic bottles by 2025, equivalent to the weight of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and provides its clients with an impact traceability platform allowing them to monitor the collection and impact of plastic bottles, thus enhancing transparency and enabling the creation of compelling narratives about its sustainability efforts. 

Collaboration and networking: The power of like-minded partners and mentors

The Ocean Bottle idea didn’t materialise overnight. It only started to become a reality once Pearson and Doman enrolled in LBS’s Launchpad, a student-led programme with a vibrant and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem of mentors and peers. 

Launchpad became a hub for creative brainstorming, strategic guidance, and hands-on support, while offering Pearson the opportunity to refine his business plan and to pitch his innovative ideas to potential investors – a crucial step in securing the necessary resources to bring his vision to life. 

Meanwhile, LBS’s incubator also played a central role in Ocean Bottle’s early stages as a start-up and in Pearson’s journey as an entrepreneur. Serving as a catalyst for innovation, it helped Pearson make significant strides toward turning his concept into a tangible product, offering practical support, mentorship, and access to priceless networks. For example, super mentor Jane Khedair, who acted like the captain of the LBS incubator ship, was Pearson’s go-to problem-solver, helping him navigate all kinds of tricky business puzzles and introducing him to great resources, he says. 

Sharing critical insights

Now in a position to share his learnings, Pearson outlines six steps for entrepreneurs to leverage their business school experience and turn it into business success:

  •  Embrace personal experiences: Pay attention to life experiences that inspire ideas for addressing global challenges.

  • Combine passion with education: Education can equip you with the knowledge and skills to turn your ideas into action, particularly when it aligns with your passions.

  • Leverage school resources: Universities and schools, through their incubators, accelerators, and mentorship programmes, provide invaluable support to start-ups.

  • Embrace collaboration: Collaborate with like-minded individuals who share your vision and goals. 

  • Network and seek mentorship: Engage with alumni networks and mentors who can provide guidance, support, and connections throughout your entrepreneurial journey.

  • Integrate purpose into business: Create a business model that aligns with your passion and has a positive impact on society and the environment.

Thanks to its affiliation with London Business School and active participation in initiatives like Launchpad, Ocean Bottle has garnered global recognition and received substantial support from the extensive LBS network and alumni base. Most importantly, its purpose-driven business model aligns perfectly with Pearson’s passion for solving ocean plastic pollution. “Everything we do is geared around social and environmental impact, and that’s really why we exist as a company,” he concludes.

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