It’s not easy making it to the top—just ask the high-powered CEOs of big food brands like Stacy’s Pita Chips, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and the Campbell Soup Company. What do they all have in common? For one, they’re female; but they’re also all smart as hell and incredibly determined. Whether you’re looking to start your own business or to simply be inspired by some you-go-girl gumption, here’s the best advice from the top women in food.
"Early in my career, I was very results-driven and efficient. I had a mentor tell me, ‘Denise, people see you coming! You need to invest time to build your relationships.’ This feedback helped me realize that leadership is about influencing and inspiring people. Networking is working. Achieving results is a given, but your relationships take you the rest of the way."
—Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company
"Nerds make great entrepreneurs and leaders, and science fiction is the best business training. Remember, it was Yoda who said, ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’"
—Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
"Women are viewed as more emotional in the workplace by both women and men, which is often considered a negative. But I believe that strong leaders can achieve great results by showing authentic vulnerability. Combined with transparency, vulnerability creates a shared sense of urgency for the team. It creates the ‘why’ for why things matter."
—Amy Prosenjak, president of A to Z Wineworks, Oregon’s largest wine producer
"Be prepared to be knocked down—multiple times! When we purchased our first 50-foot oven, it took six months to close the deal. The oven was loaded on the truck, then some other company came in and purchased it right out from under us! Boy, did I cry about that oven. But eventually I realized that if I was going to make it in this business, I better use the energy spent crying toward moving forward."
—Stacy Madison, founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips
"I always say that ‘No’ is just the first step to getting a ‘Yes.’ Luckily, as an actor, I’ve been dealing with rejection my entire life. If you believe in your idea, you need to follow through and remember that for all the ‘No’s, it only takes one ‘Yes.’"
—Sarah Michelle Gellar, chief creative officer and cofounder of Foodstirs
"Partnerships have enhanced my business life. For the past 20 years, my cofounder, Peggy Smith, and I have grown our Cowgirl Creamery cheese business into a successful, profitable, and fun business with an amazing team of both male and female collaborative managers. But women do seem to be more capable than men of sharing power."
—Sue Conley, cofounder of Cowgirl Creamery