Magazine Feature / People

Better backpack launches alum’s career

Students, commuters and anyone else who has ever used a backpack knows how difficult it is to keep things organized while on the go. University of Denver graduate Ian Ivarson realized there’s a better way.

He created the “Ivar System”—soft shelves that keep books, papers and other necessities separate and easily accessible. By keeping the contents from sinking to the bottom, the shelves distribute weight more evenly across the wearer’s back and shoulders. Ivarson came up with the concept in 1998 while attending high school in California.

Ivarson studied at the Daniels College of Business at DU and was a member of the Pioneers swimming and diving team. As a student, Ivarson interned at, a retailer that now carries his product.

At DU, Ivarson says Margret Korzus, associate dean of admissions, most inspired him. They met during his Hyde interview for admission, where Ivarson showed Korzus his backpack prototype.

“I was impressed by the clever design,” says Korzus. “However, what impressed me most about Ian was his sincerity and integrity.”

He graduated from DU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration finance and then went to work building his company, Ivarson USA LLC. He created the one-person operation with his savings and help from his family.

Ivarson had hoped to manufacture the product in the U.S., but the high production costs caused him to look to Vietnam, where the backpack is manufactured in a unionized workshop under humane conditions.

“The product has been received remarkably well,” says Ivarson, who noted it had received press coverage in California in the Marin Independent Journal and in family-oriented publications. Stories about the backpack will appear in September issues of Family Circle and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

Future plans include a child’s backpack, a slightly larger version and newer models of the current design, including one with wheels.

More than 25 retail locations, including the DU Bookstore, carry the Ivar backpack. It is available in black, blue and red and is priced at $49.95. For more information, visit

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