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Social Enterprise News

September 8, 2005

Sowing Her Wild Oats

Summer internship profile, by Beth Robinowitz '07, Bottom Line.

Laura Haverland '06 has always liked food. She had planned on becoming a chef, until 24 hours in the kitchen of a top Los Angeles restaurant drove her into a career of non-profit fundraising instead. Perhaps it was the aroma of the great NY restaurants, for once at Columbia she began to revisit her prior interest. Instead of cooking food, this time she hoped to cook up marketing campaigns. For her summer internship she set out to find a marketing job in the natural foods industry. The problem was the nascent industry seemed to have never heard of interns from business schools. She needed to create her own opportunity. Fortunately, through a personal connection, she was able to set up an informational interview with the VP of Marketing for the supermarket chain, Wild Oats Markets. During the interview, the VP took to the idea of having an intern, musing, "Intern, huh? We could use an intern." A week later, the HR Director of Marketing called with a job offer for their marketing department in Boulder, CO.

I interviewed Haverland about her experience:

Q: Day to Day what did you do?
A: I worked for the VP of Marketing and two Marketing Managers. Half of my time was spent on the private label business and half on Wild Oats and Henry's markets. I did a lot of summarizing research that had been done on brands and strategizing which way to go. For the private labels, I'd do research on particular products: what kind was on the market, how it was priced and taste the new products.

Q. What surprised you the most about the company?
A. How well they function with their marketing department of only 5 people for such a large company. Wild Oats is going through a transitional time, they hadn't focused on marketing, but now marketing is going to drive the strategy of the company.

Q. Did Columbia's first year curriculum prepare you for the internship?
A. Yes, definitely. One surprise was that no job was rocket science, there was nothing I had to work hard to figure out. The discipline and tools of the core prepared me.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you did?
A. One day we had a celebrity chef, Rick Bayliss, who has restaurants in Chicago, do a cooking show at the flagship store in Boulder. It was a fun PR day.

Q. What was the worst thing you had to do?
A. Some days I had to run reports and reports and reports on sales especially for the private label business. It's a necessary evil that they need up to date sales information

Q. What was the culture of the company like? Free wheat grass shots?
A. There was definitely a closet full of free products. There was always food around. It was definitely a fun culture, working in Boulder set it apart. People really understand the work life balance there: early to rise early to bed kind of culture. And the culture of the company was very balanced. Marketing is a pretty core function and people were certainly there at 7:00 in the morning, but people were not there after 7:00 PM.

Q. How environmentally progressive did you find the job environment?
A. Well, in most ways it sort of seemed like a regular office. In other ways, it didn't. They would bring in lunches once a week, in biodegradable "corn-tainers" and every time you'd go for milk there was organic milk in the fridge and the sugar was raw sugar. Things you'd notice versus Merrill Lynch, but in so many ways it was a regular officeƒ

They did have yoga every Wednesday at lunch.

Q: Pay?
A: I would have had enough leftover to travel, except that I was paying rent in both NY and Boulder.

Q. Do you want to go back?
A. I would definitely consider it. And I think they would have me back. They kept asking if I really had to go back for my second year of school.

Q. If another Columbia student wanted to work there would you tell them to run away or make some wild oatmeal?
A. Wild oatmeal.

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