Just how powerful is branding? National Public Radio recently posted an interesting segment in regards to lard of all things and its lack of popularity due in large part to branding. You can find this podcast as part of their Planet Money feature:
On today’s podcast, we ask — who killed lard? Was it Upton Sinclair? His novel, The Jungle, contained [a] memorable passage about the men who cook lard. Or should we blame William Procter and James Gamble? It was their company which created a new alternative to lard — the “pure and wholesome” Crisco.
One of my colleagues brought the podcast to my attention, being the avid baker that I am. I can’t say I’ve ever used lard in any of my baking but I do know bakers that are strong advocates of the stuff. I’ve gone head to head in pie competitions between friends and lose every time! The winner proudly touts it’s the lard he’s committed to using that creates the best piecrust.
We in admissions enjoy sifting through our applications, noting why each applicant has interest in an MBA, how they foresee themselves utilizing it, and what specifically brought them to apply to the University of St. Thomas. To be honest, one of my favorite parts of my job is reading the essays submitted, where these reasons and explanations are addressed. Each person’s path is unique and interesting, and seeing into this window of sorts is a privilege. “How they’re coming at it” is what interests me most—once we know this, it’s an enjoyable journey with every applicant.
A recent article from Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to finding the right school and the importance of “fit” to an MBA program. We at the University of St. Thomas could not agree more when it comes to fit and finding a niche in a school. Many times culture of the program isn’t necessarily given much weight by an applicant when initially applying. It deserves weight and consideration. As the article points out, finding a culture that one feels passionate about is key. Rod Garcia, senior director of admissions at MIT Sloan School of Management noted it this way: “One’s happiness and how well the school’s offerings match an applicant’s needs should take precedence.”
A highlight for many Minnesota State Fair-lovers is the announcement of new food vendors each summer. A battle of sorts is waged every year as new products are promoted and tested, with a limited amount of accepted applicants. With 576 vendors in line for a spot at the fair, only about five or six rookies are allowed in each year.
One tried and true vendor located near the grandstand of the fairgrounds is that of roasted corn. Would you believe that this stand has a connection to the University of St. Thomas? Brad Ribar dedicated his graduate business thesis to the hope and vision of starting up a sweet corn stand at the fair! That dream came to pass and Ribar continues to succeed—the stand is one of the top-grossing food businesses at one of the nation’s top-grossing state fairs. Not too bad for a guy who worked at the fair as a kid, picking up garbage!
Ribar waited five years before he got approval to sell his corn-on-the-cob in 1985. His idea came to him during a visit to the Wisconsin State Fair. He tried an ear of corn at this fair and “the light bulb went off,” as he said. He knew the key to quality was in the preparation—roasting it. Ribar set out to bring roasted corn to the Minnesota State Fair, honing his strategy during his MBA studies at UST. At first, fair officials weren’t sold. After three years he convinced fair administrators, though it took two more years to find a big enough space for the stand he envisioned. Ribar got a lucky break in locations when a meatloaf purveyor retired, thus giving up prime real estate. Each year, Ribar clears $100,000 in sales, going through 190,000 ears of corn during the 12 day run of the fair.
Learn more about Ribar’s stand by reading the recent Star Tribune article about him. If you’re headed to the fair this weekend, be sure to stop by this stand—the wafting scent of roasting corn will direct you. Happy eating!
Having worked in CSA (community-supported agriculture) for a summer, this type of garden holds a special place in my heart. In 1999, I had the privilege of being part of CSA in St. Joseph, MN and was introduced to the world of organic gardening. The subscribers to Common Ground Garden were dedicated individuals who believed in the importance of farming and produce without pesticides. My eyes were opened to the vast array of vegetables as well as the plethora of cooking options when it came to consuming them. I’m happy to report that this particular community garden has flourished and is still providing delicious organic produce to its members while also donating a portion every week to a local food shelf in St. Cloud.
CSAs are becoming more popular throughout the Twin Cities. In fact, just within the last several years, a revolution of sorts has occurred when it comes to growing and consuming vegetables in this manner. According to a recent article in the Star Tribune, over the past decade, the number of Twin Cities-area residents getting their food through community-supported agriculture has nearly tripled to more than 11,000 people. Twenty years ago, there were two CSA farms. This year there are 81, according to the Land Stewardship Project, which publishes a directory.
Jennifer and Dorothy Dalquist
As discussed in a previous post, being the baker I am, I’m a huge fan of the Bundt pan. When I heard about a talk being given by Dorothy and Jennifer Dalquist of Nordic Ware, I jumped at the chance to take part. On Wednesday, April 27, the American Swedish Institute presented “Before the Bundt: A History of Nordic Ware’s Scandinavian Heritage.” Dorothy Dalquist, co-founder of Nordic Ware, and her granddaughter Jennifer Dalquist, brand manager of Nordic Ware, discussed the history of the company and specifically the æbleskiver pan.
April 5 is national “Fun at Work Day,” but according to an article I spotted in the St. Petersburg Times, many people on the east side of the Twin Cities won’t be celebrating. A study put out by CareerBliss, an online career community, lists Minneapolis at a respectable 15th place out of the 50 largest U.S. cities in its survey of “The Best and Worst Cities to Work,” while St. Paul finished dead last–the “unhappiest” city in the US in which to work!
I don’t know about you, but I was a tad surprised by this. In fact, I went so far as to honestly believe the article switched “happiest” with “unhappiest” by mistake. In general, I don’t know too many unhappy people when it comes to their personal employment. Perhaps I’ve lived a sheltered existence during my eleven years in Minnesota, but this eye-catching headline drew me in.
Having recently purchased my first home in July, I’ve become consumed with decorating this 1956 rambler with time-appropriate materials. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you my once mild interest in mid-century design has exploded into complete addiction. Aside from local vintage shops, you can find me perusing estate sales and Craigslist, always on the hunt for another noteworthy “find.” (Currently, I’m searching for original switch plates for my bedrooms.) My friends knew that this addiction of mine was here to stay once I purchased a delightful 1950s original pink sectional sofa that is now proudly on display in my basement.
Mid-century modern design is popular, and according to many designers it will only become more popular in the next year. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Wikipedia defines mid-century modern as an architectural, interior and product design form that generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture, and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.
While visiting family in North Dakota, my seven year old niece approached me asking if I’d like to purchase Girl Scout cookies. My sister-in-law was quick to point out that the ordering system had changed. While describing the changes, she seemed a tad stressed with the new protocol. She explained that gone are the order forms and waiting for delivery as customers are now able to pay for and receive their cookies on the spot!
According to my sister-in-law, the scouts were asked to “make their best guess” as far as numbers of boxes they expect to sell. My sister-in-law was worried that ultimately their guesses would be too low. She was torn as to what number they should ultimately report. My niece was asked to base her expected number of sales for 2011 on the number of sales she had last year. Wishing to stay on the conservative side, my sister-in-law didn’t wish to over-order and in turn have to purchase the boxes that do not sell. This troublesome dilemma weighed both my niece and sister-in-law. With the goal to sell more than last year, my niece was uncertain what to write for her “ultimate number” of boxes.
The New York Times recently posted an article discussing the “mommy penalty” faced by professional women in today’s workforce. Women MBA’s may wish to pay special attention to this study: “The study found that female MBA’s who have taken off 18 months from their career to raise children suffered a severe income penalty, leaving them earning 41% less on average than male MBA’s. Regarding other female professionals who took 18 months off, the study found female Ph.D.’s earn 33% less than male Ph.D.’s, female lawyers earn 29% less than male lawyers, and female M.D.’s earn 16% less than male doctors.”
Income disparities between the sexes are frustrating. In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as the “mommy penalty.” Certainly there are those women who are making the conscious choice to remain at home with their children or cut hours from their work schedules after having children. Those who decide to remain in the workforce are faced with difficult choices and decisions for the duration of childcare. I don’t begrudge women who choose to leave the corporate world to remain at home with their kids. I detest the income penalty mentioned previously, but ultimately know that it always comes down to a personal choice as to what parents decide for their families and what’s best for their lives.
As an avid baker, I have a special loyalty to the Bundt pan. It holds a special place in my heart being it’s Minnesota-made. I also remain loyal to this baking vessel as I’ve never been disappointed with its adaptability, ease, and production. Today’s post is in honor of National Bundt Day, November 15, and the impact one customer request can have on a business.
Nordic Ware founder H. David Dalquist, invented the Bundt pan in 1950. He did so at the request of Rose Joshua and Fannie Schanfield, members of the Minneapolis chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s service organization. They asked Dalquist to make a pan for bundkuchens, or “gathering cakes.”