Use Your Noodle: An Interview with Food Executive Carolyn Vinnicombe

Here’s some food for thought! Carolyn Vinnicombe is the head of Sales and Marketing at Bright People Foods, where she and her team develop, market, and manufacture their two brands, Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods and Mike’s Mighty Good. Their mission is to bring delicious, nourishing food to everyone, no matter how busy they are.

Bright People Foods is a family business, and growing up, good food was all around. Carolyn would spend her summers in the kitchen developing recipes with her mom and working in the manufacturing plant with the products to help her family as the business grew. She studied business and history at Penn, and had traditional internship and work experiences in both banking and government. Carolyn always knew that she wanted her work to have a positive direct impact on her community and the world. Her early work experiences showed her that small business was the best possible way to make this impact. Knowing this, she left her job and applied to an open role in her growing family business. She started at the company focusing on production and quality management and soon grew to managing national sales and marketing.

Since Bright People Foods is a startup, her job involves a little bit of everything. She spends equal time flying cross-country to corporate meetings, creating new ways to tell the company’s story, and cooking up amazing recipes new product with her team. She’s a self-proclaimed morning person, and uses the quiet morning hours to develop strategy and think about the big picture of the company. She feels that the core of her role is characterized by storytelling through the conversations and relationships that she builds with her customers and clients. As a company, they focus on creating new spins on American staples, so one of her favorite aspects of the job is seeing large-scale adoption of the products in stores. Food brings people together, so she loves being a part of an industry where she’s able to build community and relationships.

Having been intimately connected to small companies her whole life, Carolyn’s advice for young women considering experiences in startups is simple: believe in the mission fully and commit yourself to it. Carolyn explains, “Startups are amazing and give you the power to directly impact your customers, but they are also a challenging environment to work in. You have to be willing to do every type of task that comes your way, and thus you really need to believe in the big picture vision. If you believe in the long-term mission and have a plan, it is an empowering environment to work in.”  The best piece of advice she ever received was to be humble, as you learn much more when you become comfortable with saying you don’t know something. Carolyn loves to schedule biweekly learning calls where she talks with people with deeper experience in her field or those who work in fields outside of her own. Having open, honest conversations is one of the best ways to stay engaged in the community.

Outside of work, Carolyn loves to get outdoors by hiking, rowing, paddle boarding, and spending time with her dog, who is the official mascot of Bright People Foods. And of course, she loves to cook!

Contributor: Megha Keshav

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