What did you go to school for?
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I majored in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication and minored in African-American studies. I changed my major several times from Biology (I originally wanted to be an orthodontist!) to Journalism. When I realized that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, I switched to communications since I felt that strong communication skills were a necessary tool regardless of the industry. I also have an MBA from Arizona State University, which I got while working full-time.
What were you doing before work before starting your company?
My first job out of school was at Philip Morris as a Territory Sales Manager, where I was responsible for selling their portfolio of products across inner city grocery and convenience stores. The job was definitely not glamorous, but it gave me a great foundation of sales training and an intro into the consumer packaged goods space. The idea of selling tobacco products wore on my conscience, and I wasn’t as passionate about sales anymore, so I moved to FedEx.
At FedEx, I worked on supply chain solutions for enterprise customers. While there, I quickly realized that, while I did love CPG, I needed to work on a brand that I admired. I joined Coca-Cola in 2008 and ended up holding a variety of roles, most recently as the Director of National Sales for their Venturing and Emerging Brands division.
Where did you first get the idea for Partake Foods?
I have a four year old daughter, Vivienne, and right around her first birthday, she had a very severe allergic reaction to corn. After that, we learned that she’s allergic to tree nuts, eggs, corn, and bananas. I was frustrated with the lack of snack and meal options that met her dietary restrictions, my nutritional standards, and still tasted good.
As I complained about this, Vivienne’s nanny, Martha (who now has a small equity stake in the company) pushed me to do something about it and start a company dedicated to making delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly products.