The seeds of success: Benjamin VandenWymelenberg
Ben VandenWymelenberg graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of science in architecture—but not before hitting on something big.
While procrastinating on a project during his senior year, VandenWymelenberg struck gold with an idea and rushed to the workshop to produce his first wooden phone case. A few months later his company, Woodchuck, was up and running, producing sustainably sourced, handcrafted wood products, which have grown to include cases and skins for tablets, laptops, and phones, plus journals and more.
During his first year in business, VandenWymelenberg had a deal with Target for a line of products in 1,800 stores, plus distribution via BestBuy.com and more than 800 specialty stores.
In addition, the company plants one tree for every product sold. To date, Woodchuck has reforested more than 1.5 million trees and created over 50 jobs.
As an alumnus, VandenWymelenberg stays connected by supporting students through internships, hiring, and the U’s Community Engagement Scholars Program, and by serving as a speaker and featured entrepreneur at U of M events. And his strong entrepreneurial vision, creative drive, and robust connection to the U recently earned him the 2017 U40 Alumni Leader Award.