For Alumnus Dan Miller, Running His Own Business is the Right Fit
Can you advance the common good and make money at the same time? For one Humphrey School alumnus, the answer is ‘yes.’ Dan Miller (MPP ’05) is a successful entrepreneur who has merged his desire to run his own company with the public leadership values that he learned during his time at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Miller is the founder and CEO of Mulberrys Garment Care, an eco-friendly dry cleaning business he started in 2009 when he opened his first store in the Twin Cities. He’s since expanded to more than a dozen locations in Minnesota and the San Francisco area, with Dallas and New York on the horizon.
While he’s running his cleaning business, Miller says his Humphrey School background is top of mind. One of his main goals is to see the industry phase out the use of toxic cleaning agents like perchloroethylene or PERC, which is the most commonly used solvent in dry cleaning. It’s highly effective at cleaning clothes, but is also classified as a “likely human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Everything we use to clean clothes is toxin free,” says Miller. “Mulberrys is very focused on sustainability. We only use packaging that is recyclable, and we use solar and wind energy to power all our facilities. This is a good company that cares about the communities it serves, and that’s very important to me.”
Miller says he’s always been deeply interested in public policy and how it affects people’s lives. He studied economics and education policy in college because “those two things have huge impacts on public policy.”
After earning his master’s degree, Miller first worked at a private consulting firm where he had the opportunity to work on a project for the Gates Foundation, evaluating the public school system in Cincinnati “from top to bottom.” He says the experience was invaluable.
“The defining aspect of the people who attend the Humphrey School is that they’re civic minded. Part of their calling is to do things within a social service or public policy framework,” Miller says. “I went to work at a private consulting firm that has a huge government practice, and I felt like I could contribute in a different way.”
About one in four Humphrey School graduates go on to work in the private sector, and Miller says it’s important for them to realize that there’s as much ‘good’ to be done as exists in public and nonprofit sectors.
That message is also emphasized by the School’s Office of Career and Professional Development. Director Jennifer Guyer-Wood says students can learn about private-sector opportunities through internships, career exploration trips, and mentoring programs offered by the School.
“We prepare our students with the tools and skills they need to be leaders in a wide variety of organizations, including private businesses. And that’s part of our mission, too,” she says. “It’s important to have people working in the private sector who are committed to advancing the common good, and our graduates are entering the private sector in growing numbers.”
As for Miller, he is excited about the idea of continuing that conversation with Humphrey School students as they consider their next career steps.
“The biggest thing I learned at the Humphrey School is that every issue that someone faces is everyone’s issue. Everything is interconnected, and everyone—government, the nonprofit sector, and the private sector—all have roles to play in addressing those issues. The environment of each one is so different, and students just need to find the right fit.”