Jessica Nalbone, MBA
Degree earned: North Carolina State University, Poole College of Management, MBA, Marketing
Organization: Door to Door Organics
Title: Customer Growth Manager
Tell us about your current job duties, and how you’re working to integrate sustainability into your role.
I am the Customer Growth Manager for Door to Door Organics, an online grocery store based out of Louisville, CO. My role is focused on customer acquisition, retention, and basket size. I am responsible for creating the growth plan for our company, and I work heavily with our product development team to design & execute programs to meet these objectives.
There’s the stiff description of what I do… now let me explain a little more about what it is that we do. As the name Door to Door Organics implies, we are committed to providing only 100% Certified Organic produce to our customers, as well as meats, dairy, pantry items, and most other things you would expect to find in a brick and mortar store. That said, we have very strict and transparent food quality standards that go above and beyond those of a conventional grocery store. We ban things like artificial sweeteners, hormones, antibiotics, and choose to instead promote products with the highest quality ingredients. This gives peace of mind to health and environment-conscious consumers, saving them the hassle of scouring labels.
Our service is 100% online, and this gives us a great advantage over conventional grocers to impact food waste. There are some clear operational advantages, such as stocking enough fresh product to fill our orders, rather than to make in-store displays aesthetically appealing. This allows for greater precision, and also helps our business mitigate shrink (the amount of food waste lost to spoilage and theft) in a way that conventional grocers simply cannot.
What experiences first made you interested in using your career to drive business sustainability?
I think it’s always been an interest, probably first instilled by my older sister who is a brilliant scientist, environmental activist, and leader within her community. She lives at the intersection of idealism and practicality, and is a terrific communicator to non-believers.
It’s hard to pinpoint, but one moment that stands out: attending a lecture by sustainability expert and architect William McDonough on his Cradle to Cradle philosophy. I was absolutely rapt at his description of a manufacturing facility he had recently designed to “act as a tree.” That experience set me on a personal path of exploring books, making connections, and cementing this idea that we are all better, happier, and more effective when planning our spaces with sustainability at the forefront. It also shaped the mindset that sustainability is a bigger picture concept, going beyond what is good for the environment to also encompass human productivity, fulfillment, and happiness.
Give us some examples of how your company uses sustainability to drive innovation, produce results, or improve the way you do business.
Some of the most exciting examples are the ones I’m not able to talk about (yet). I will say that we’re working to help people to not just get groceries more conveniently, but plan meals that meet their needs. If the meal kit phenomenon has shown us anything, it’s that people want to cook in their homes, with some assurance that they will not be bad at it. But what we’re also seeing is that people don’t tend to stick with these services because they’re pricey, the recipes become boring, and they still have to account for the other 18 meals of the week on top of it. What we’re setting out to do is create a “best of show,” a one-stop-shop where people can shop by aisles, lists, ingredients, meals, or any combination, and plan every meal of the week all on their phone while waiting in line at the DMV.
We’re also finding that customers find value in our service in different, sometimes unexpected ways. That’s shaping our view of how we solve their problem. For many, it’s the bristling pace of being a working parent, for others, living in a high-rise, having an illness or disability, or finding fresh food in a food desert. That’s the place where online grocery can solve problems that a brick and mortar store cannot.
We are a certified B-Corp, meaning we meet certain standards pertaining to social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. While our central offices are in CO, we’re also a distributed workforce, meaning we recruit for talent rather than geography, and can work remotely. I love that these types of positions are becoming more commonplace because they offer tremendous benefit to both employee and employer.
What do you love the most about your job? What are the challenges you’ve encountered & overcome in your career?
I began my MBA program knowing I wanted it to be a career changer. I was putting my fine arts education to use as a non-profit director for an orchestra, but wanted to transition to a career in marketing while still seeking a company with a strong mission to serve others. The natural food industry was calling me early-on. As an avid home cook and gardener, I joked that if I didn’t go back to school for business it would have been culinary school. So when I saw an opportunity to work as a Marketing Team Leader with Whole Foods Markets, I made the jump. It was as steep a learning curve as it sounds--classical music to natural grocery--But that first year was one of the most fun and professionally rewarding of my career so far!
In my current role with Door to Door Organics, we’re equal parts tech company and food company, and we’re in a space that’s relatively uncharted. This gives me the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and fearless individuals I’ve ever met, and together we’re challenged with answering the not-yet-solved riddle of online grocery. Of course, there’s a lot of good food to be had along the way too.
What’s your advice for students who are interested in sustainability? How can students combine their sustainability interests with their day-to-day duties?
First and foremost, never starve your curiosity. Attend seminars and workshops, experiment and (whether literally or figuratively) get your hands dirty! Make connections with as many other people as you can. Identify the leaders, movers, and shakers in your community that you admire and ask them to get coffee. If you work at a company where sustainability is further removed from your goals, look for those “easy win” opportunities first. Start with what’s small and achievable, and build from there. Try to teach others the value of sustainability without preaching, and remember that value is defined differently to different people.