insight & inspiration in entrepreneurship

Mike Pearson

Military Is The Best Management Breeding Ground

Before Mike Pike Pearson founded Union Packaging in Yeadon in the late 1990s, Michael Pearson accumulated a diverse collection of experiences. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in public policy and studied law for two years at the University of Michigan before taking a left turn and joining the military.

The West Philadelphia native led a platoon in Kuwait and Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, then moved to New York and marketed pharmaceuticals for Pfizer.” It was one of my passions to have both a business background and a background that would allow me to be a public servant," Pearson said. An old friend with whom he'd played football at Penn recruited Pearson to work at the packaging company Westvaco, which is now known as Mead Westvaco. He directed that company's pharmaceutical and personal-care team for several years before deciding to start his own venture. "I'd always been a closet entrepreneur," said Pearson, whose mother and father both ran businesses when he was a child.

After a rough couple years of gathering funding, Pearson said that Union Packaging had eight years of steady growth -- right up until the financial crisis hit. In late 2008, he had to lay off 30 of his employees. He remembers it as the most painful day of his life, but thanks his leadership experience in the military for preparing him to take "quick, decisive, but painful action." Pearson's always had a passion for serving three different groups: the "underclass," children, and startup entrepreneurs. To that end, he donates time to various nonprofits, such as St. Christopher's Foundation for Children and the Big Picture Alliance, and he mentors young entrepreneurs throughout the Philadelphia area.