Sep 18

UNCG MBA Capstone: Furnishing a Safe Solution

Working in off-campus student housing, Pete Cato ’21 MBA had already collaborated with the Barnabas Network, a Triad furniture bank that gathers new and gently used items for qualified residents on the path to self-sufficiency.

“If our used furniture packages are in good shape, we donate them to Barnabas. Their mission is a huge service to our community,” he says. When he heard that helping that organization was an option for his UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business and Economics MBA Capstone consulting project, Cato jumped at the chance.

The challenge? Barnabas collects more than 1,000 used mattresses each year. Before they can be donated, the state of North Carolina requires they be treated to ensure they do not contain pests, bacteria, or viruses.

“Barnabas wanted to know if it was feasible to heat-treat the mattresses in-house instead of dealing with the logistics and high costs of sending them to be treated off-site,” Cato says. “We learned that North Carolina requires mattresses be heat-treated at 220 degrees for three hours, which comes with a high risk of burning or fouling the mattress. It would also take $30,000 to bring in the heat system, which is a lot for a nonprofit.”

The question then became how to provide value to the client.


“The team delved into a host of factors for our study, including risks, cost, feasibility, permitting, zoning, and much more. They looked at everything with an eye toward cost consideration, safety, and environmental impact,” says Judy Caldwell ’12 MFA, marketing and development manager at the Barnabas Network.

The team found that chemical treatment was another option approved by the state, but Barnabas had shied away from that option because of the risks.

“We found a chemical treatment that is not residual after 15 minutes and then went down the rabbit hole trying to identify any potential pitfalls. We couldn’t find any,” Cato says.

These Bryan School consulting projects are a nonprofit’s dream come true, according to Caldwell, who says Barnabas would embark on another in a heartbeat.

“For our families transitioning out of homelessness, the joy of a fresh start is dimmed when they’re sleeping on the floor. We’re happy our work allows clients to thrive; however, it’s not a full blessing unless the furniture we provide is safeguarded and sanitized, which is more important than ever, as we serve post-COVID Greensboro,” she says.