Blog : Green Collar Careers: Julie Cole, Vice President of Merchandising at Favorite Foods

By Theresa | Mar 31, 2014 | in

Favorite Foods of Somersworth, N.H. is a leading regional food distributor. Largely serving local restaurants, Favorite Foods provides everything from groceries to paper and chemicals for their customers. Vice President of Merchandising Julie Cole, 41, believes that her company does a lot more than distribution.

“What sets Favorite Foods apart is our commitment to the success our customers,” she said. “By integrating sustainability into our business, we’ve added an additional layer of value and support for everyone we do business with.”

Theresa Conn (TC): What do you like most about your job?
Julie Cole (JC): Well, there’s a lot to like. I would say my favorite thing is the impact I can have at a daily basis at Favorite Foods.

I interact with so many different people every day: customers, restaurant managers, manufacturers and our own internal staff. Each interaction is an opportunity to help someone.

Take, for example, our “Spotlight” series; we do promotional work for our customers. Every two weeks, we choose a local restaurant to highlight through radio, online and print marketing. I love using my advertising skills to help out our clients.

TC: Where did you go to college? Does your college education help with your current job? What skills from college prepared you for the work you do now?
JC: I graduated from the University of West Georgia with a marketing degree. I moved to New Hampshire after graduation, started out in the software industry, then landed my job at Favorite Foods. I’ve been here for 10 years.

My college education absolutely helps me with my current job. Having a background in financials or administration can also be beneficial for someone looking for a job.

The most important skill I learned in college was discipline. I paid for roughly 90 percent of my education. I had to be organized. I had to do well, and focus. Being able to focus and persevere got me through school. Those skills have transferred to my job, too.

TC: What do you look for in an employee in this field?
JC: The ability to communicate is key. You have to be able to understand the needs of our company and our clients. Listening can be more important than talking.

We try to find good communicators. After that, we’re looking for people who are organized; things can get crazy and chaotic here, and we have to stay on top of things. Communication and organization skills are key.

Of course, there are a lot of specific industry-focused skills that we need in our employees, but those can be taught on the job. Being an organized “people” person is something that can’t be taught.

TC: What made you integrate sustainability into your business?
JC: For us, it’s part of our philosophy. Being kind to the environment is vital for us as a food distributor; food availability and quality are absolutely dependent on the health of the planet. But going green was also a good business move. Using biodiesel and solar panels saves us money and makes our operations more efficient.

In the Seacoast region, it’s especially important to embrace the green movement. Our customers pay attention to these things, and our priority is to serve our customers.

TC: What are you most proud of in your business as relates to sustainability?
JC: I’m most proud of our “Local Shift” project. Two years ago, we put together a sustainability initiative at Favorite Foods.

So often in business, people talk about being green and local. People like the way it sounds. When push comes to shove, though, businesses pull back from these ideologies because of money concerns. I was getting frustrated.

I realized that I can’t make people change their minds without walking the walk. So, we started our “Local Shift” campaign. We did sustainability audits on every vendor that we did business with.

We considered several questions while doing these audits. Are they local? Do they share our philosophies? Are they doing their best to become more sustainable? We made some changes and started working with different vendors who had similar goals to ours.

It made us very aware of how sustainability can be integrated into our business. We weren’t just talking about it, we were making a change; we still are reviewing and analyzing our partnerships on a daily basis. We want to do what’s best for our business and for the environment.

Favorite Foods is a green-certified business in the Green Alliance. For more info on Acorn, visit http://www.favoritefoods.com. To learn more about the Green Alliance, go to http://www.greenalliance.biz.

Theresa Conn is a senior Environmental Conservation and Sustainability major at UNH and a writer for the Green Alliance.