When she committed to the Eberhardt MBA program in 2012 Rebecca Teichmann could not have predicted that her internship experience would be spent in Modesto, CA on a dairy farm with 3500 cattle! To say the least, it was a bit unexpected, but she believes it was worth every (stinking) minute. The opportunity was created by Brian Fiscalini, fourth-generation General Manager of the Fiscalini family farm, and recent graduate from the Eberhardt MBA program, class of 2012. Brian recognized the opportunity to capture new ideas and talent through an MBA intern from the program. Rebecca’s assignments were focused around the needs of Fiscalini Cheese Company, the family’s artisanal cheese brand. More than once Rebecca jokingly said “they could pay me in cheese.”
Working in a family business environment wasn’t entirely new to Rebecca. In two past experiences prior to pursuing her MBA, she worked in the same company with her brother, Matthew Teichmann ESB ’03: one an internet marketing company and the other Matt’s own consumer products gourmet food company, San Franola Granola. The summer internship with Fiscalini Cheese Company helped Rebecca crystallize her post-MBA career goals in the area of marketing of consumer goods. It also reinforced her desire to return to the East Bay where she plans to launch her post-MBA career.
As the MBA Marketing Intern for the cheese company Rebecca initially spent some time getting familiar with the products and the production processes, dedicating a day in the cheese plant with the master cheese makers learning about the process from start to finish. As most of the cheeses produced by Fiscalini Cheese Company are aged products, “finished” is a relative state. However, she was able to participate in the observation and analysis of new product line extensions into soft (fresh) cheese options, including mozzarellas and spreads, that the company has been producing with the use of new equipment while optimizing shelf life and determining the optimal packaging in terms of quality to maximize sales. And, to Rebecca’s delight, there were numerous opportunities to taste test the product throughout the summer.
In addition to learning about the business from the inside, Rebecca was able to gain valuable insights about industry competitors which helped in her understanding of the market segment and enhanced her ability to give sound marketing recommendations in the delivery of her projects. The primary deliverables that Rebecca was asked to produce through the internship included contributions to logo redesign, a major overhaul of the website, and a refresh of both internal and external marketing collateral key to the company’s sales efforts.
Visiting local competitor Hilmar Cheese with Brian Fiscalini allowed Rebecca to benchmark the Fiscalini product packaging and presentation to a similar local producer. Assisting the Sales & Marketing Manager, Linda Rodriguez, with the company’s participation at Tony’s Fine Foods vendor trade show exposed Rebecca to a broader selection of consumer food products within the industry. She discovered that while the various brands are competing for shelf space, consumer interest, and loyalty, there are also valuable insights to be gained by networking within the consumer products industry.
Another key takeaway from the experience for Rebecca is a bit more universal to any situation, but particularly true in any smaller organization. Because the nature of this particular business is one that operates on a very lean scale, Rebecca realized quickly that projects and assignments weren’t always going to be laid out waiting for her. Instead of waiting for direction or guidance Rebecca tried to anticipate future needs of the Sales & Marketing Manager and proactively address opportunities, for example, to update and enhance the internal sales tools with up to date pricing sheets or re-organize the cheese store, where customers “off the street” might just show up and purchase a piece or even a few pounds of product straight off the shelf.
While she thoroughly enjoyed 10 weeks on the farm and many of the advantages of working in a small company environment, particularly seeing the immediate tangible impact of her contributions, Rebecca is actively pursuing opportunities with consumer products companies in the East Bay and San Francisco. She hopes to combine her pre-MBA experiences and undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies from Gonzaga University with her MBA and summer internship at Fiscalini Cheese Co. into to a marketing role with a larger company with multiple product lines that target a wider range of consumer segments.
For more information about the Fiscalini Cheese Company and the wide variety of aged cheeses, fresh cheeses, and cheese spreads available, please visit the website fiscalinicheese.com