Executives from Giant Food Store gave students direction on the Road to Success last week at the Road to Success Banquet on Friday, February 20, in the Kehr Union Ballroom. The event was sponsored by the Bloomsburg chapters of the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM) and of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).
The first-time event attracted 50 attendees to hear business advice offered by the category merchandiser and the vice president of finance from the Giant in Carlisle, Pa. Also taking the microphone was Dr. Mark Tapsak of the science department, who headed up the BU BioFuel project. Tapsak has recruited SIFE to assist in a growing branch of the project—producing soap from glycerin by-product from the biofuel.
With the help of students, mostly from the chemistry major, the B5 minibus on campus now runs on fryer oil from eating establishments on campus. The process replaces 3.2% of Bloomsburg’s diesel use, but Tapsak has plans to keep evolving the process. Harry’s Bar and Grill and Rose Marie’s, restaurants in the town of Bloomsburg, are also donating leftover oil for the bus, and Tapsak hopes to have the entire fleet of campus diesel guzzlers switched to biofuel in coming years.
Following Tapsak’s presentation was Kyle Kirkpatrick, Bloomsburg grad in 2000 and currently the category manager for Giant. Despite the banquet’s theme, he explained that the success at the end of the road might not be of utmost importance. “It’s more about the journey, not the destination,” he told students.
Kirkpatrick’s career began at Giant when the age of 16 as a shelf stocker at the store in Bloomsburg, and then he worked his way up throughout the last eight years to brand management. “I had no idea it would lead me to where I am today,” said Kirkpatrick.
When he considered earning his MBA, he encountered a roadblock; he just didn’t have enough experience to that point. Still, it turned out to be a fortunate disappointment. “I got lucky by sticking with Giant. A position came open in Carlisle and I moved there and moved my way up from there.” Kirkpatrick now serves at the helm of the store’s brand management for beverages, implementing category tactics and assortment.
“One thing I learned is that marketing is what people want to buy rather than making people buy what you want to make,” he explained to the audience of business-focused students.
Kirkpatrick said that the main thing they can take advantage of before leaving Bloomsburg is making connections. “Networking is a lot of what is done in the business world,” he said.
Unlike Kirkpatrick, who worked his way from the lowest prong at Giant, Brian Morgan took up several full-time jobs throughout his time at Southern Illinois University with a variety of companies.
Upon graduation, employers were intrigued by Morgan’s unique resume, resulting from his late decision to enter the accounting degree. He had taken up the major when he realized partway through college that he wasn’t going to cut it as a professional football player. “Most people wait until their 40s to have their mid-life crisis. I had mine in college,” he said.
To make up for lost time, Morgan had to take on a heavy workload in the classroom, as well as a variety of full-time jobs. Even though employers were fascinated by his unorthodox resume these experience provided him, he never made the final cut. Morgan would ask what factor led to their decision; “Some of them mentioned that I wasn’t involved in groups like this,” he told the audience.
Rejected by the big-name accounting firms, Morgan was hired for a low salary at a local Pepsi bottling company with the reputation of “wearing people out.”
“The owner was this ogre who owned everything. He was a big, big deal in the area, and it turned out to be the best thing for me,” said Morgan.
Morgan had the opportunity to learn about the business from the ground up, as he got to work very closely with the manager on several projects. “He really appreciated the fact that I was a technical person, but I wasn’t a technocrat. He liked the fact that I would usually try to figure out how to get stuff done and not try to figure out excuses about why I couldn’t get stuff done.” Morgan was eventually promoted to information technology manager
“If I would have gotten the job that I wanted with the big CPA firms, there is no way I would have gotten that type of hands-on business experience,” said Morgan. “That turned out to be a blessing in disguise.” Morgan currently serves as the vice president of finance and is pursuing his masters in leadership and business from Duquesne University.
President of SAM, Matthew Fox, was pleased with their first Road to Success Banquet, particularly with the speakers. “I think they inspired our BU Students by showing that success is definitely possible,” said Fox, “that what you have experienced can be an asset whether you think it is or not, and that you can do what you put your mind to.”
Although 80 people purchased tickets, only 50 were present at the banquet. Fox added that, “More participation by the audience [during the question-and-answer portion] would have been fantastic, but I still believe the event was a success.”
The money raised will be split between the two sponsoring organizations. Fox said that SAM intends to use the funds toward pizza nights for SAM members, other sponsor activities, and national competitions. SAM public relations officer Andrea Fake suggests that funds may also be used for community service efforts focusing on either children or elderly in the area.
Giant provided refreshments, and door prizes were donated by Bloomin Bagels, Dunkin Donuts, Ready Go Burrito and Steph’s Subs.
Fox says that plans are already in the works for next year’s banquet. “I hope for this to be an annual event that is well attended and that people look forward to attending year after year.”
The president of SIFE was not available for comments.