Reimagining Wealth Building and Financial Health
A Nonprofit Pursuing an End to Violence
Developing Care Models for Diverse Communities
Valley Natural Foods is a co-op located in Burnsville, Minnesota that is committed to making eating responsibly – and truly locally – easy. They have been committed to healthy choices since their founding in 1977 and are celebrating 40 years of creating a healthy community. Valley Natural Foods are experts at the sustainable practices and conscious, inspirational and educational programs it takes for shoppers, member-owners and food growers and providers in the community to eat and live well together. 11,000 + members strong, Valley Natural Foods invites its member-owners and shoppers alike to connect to themselves, each other and their community to get that sense of fulfillment that comes from finding a place to belong.
Valley Natural Foods’ staff of buyers uphold criteria for product selection that reflects their cooperative values – non-genetically engineered ingredients, no artificial flavoring or coloring, adherence to fair trade principles, freshness and no highly refined ingredients. They always select products locally, when available, particularly meat and produce. In their deli, all coffee is locally roasted, organic, shade-grown and fair trade. Many of the cheeses provided are local and cooks use as much organic ingredients as possible.
Valley Natural Foods works closely with the community to educate on healthy choices. They are one of Midwest Food Connection’s (MFC) sponsoring co-ops. MFC is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the newest methods to educate young children from a variety of area schools about quality food and sustainable agriculture. Since 2001, Valley Natural Foods has worked with schools in the area to inspire kids in the community to eat well. They also provide a community garden space that provides hands-on education to the community. In 2016, the garden housed over 50 different varieties of herbs and vegetables, more than 25 medicinal plants and herbs and over 25 native plants to act as pollinators. All materials come from area salvage products, creating a unique education and communal space. They also collaborate with customers in a variety of ways to give back to the community and collect food donations year round.
As a co-op, Valley Natural Foods is trusted for living up to ethical values based on the following principles:
Valley Natural Foods’ mission is a healthy community and its values are F.R.E.S.H.
F – Family
R – Relationships
E – Education
S – Sustainability
H – Health
Valley Natural Foods’ Operating Vision to support its Mission:
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the CEO/GM will lead all management activities and operations of Valley Natural Foods. The CEO/GM will use a respectful, constructive and collaborative style to help drive the organization to continue to achieve operational efficiencies, revenue and profitability goals.
The CEO/GM is responsible for providing G.R.E.A.T. (Greet, Respond, Engage, Acknowledge, Thank) customer service to both internal and external customers while maintaining a safe and hazard free work environment. Valley Natural Foods’ goal is zero employee accidents. Daily duties include providing prompt, friendly and knowledgeable service to internal and external customers, guiding the business using VNF’s Mission and Values. Additionally, the CEO/GM is responsible for the overall growth and performance of all VNF-owned businesses, establishing and maintaining excellent relationships with the Board of Directors, staff at all levels, community-based partners and public representatives.
The primary responsibilities for the CEO/GM include:
Business Leadership and Communication
Marketing and Membership
Operations, Systems, Safety and Compliance
The successful candidate will have experience leading in a complex environment and will have a background of managing an organization by thinking strategically, yet keeping a keen eye on operations, employee satisfaction and customer relations. This individual must have a track record of building strong mutually beneficial relationships and achieving results through empowering people. She or he will possess a bachelor’s degree in business and/or 15 years of related field experience, ideally in retail, grocery/co-ops, natural foods or a related industry. MBA in Business or a related field a plus.
Other qualifications include:
The compensation for this position is highly competitive and consists of a base salary, management bonus opportunity and comprehensive benefits program.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Bob Schoenbaum, Principal
Mary Peterson, Vice President
In the professional arena, Carolyn Smallwood is an expert bobber and weaver. Throughout her career she moved seamlessly through the finance, business, and nonprofit worlds. Early in her career she worked as a flight attendant and a business banker. She even opened her own fitness boutique in Lakeville. Through it all, she has been tough. If corporate America were a boxing ring, Carolyn would likely hold a record for TKOs.
“I grew up with four boys, so I could take a punch,” says Carolyn. “I never gave up.”
Not when she had to drop out of college temporarily, not when she came up against a boss early in her career who refused to show her any respect, and not when she went back to school to get a degree in finance marketing shortly after having her first child.
Carolyn recently sat down with a small group of young nonprofit professionals for YNPN Twin Cities‘ Leadership Breakfast series and shared what she’s learned about leadership over the course of her career.
Along her professional journey she worked as a senior executive for ADC, The Broadband Company and served as the executive director of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council. After that, she shifted into the nonprofit sector—first as the vice president for sales and marketing at Twin Cities Rise!, and most recently as the CEO of Way to Grow, where she has helped build up the organization’s early education programs for the past 13 years.
The art of the pivot
After graduating from high school, Carolyn packed her bags for Atlanta. Even though she grew up in a small town outside of Detroit, Carolyn returned to Georgia every summer to visit. So when it came time for college, Atlanta made sense. With ambitions to become a fashion designer, she started working toward a degree in fashion merchandising. But a couple of years into her plan, Carolyn’s life shifted unexpectedly.
It began with a call from her mom. Carolyn’s dad was sick. With four brothers still at home, Carolyn’s mom needed help. Just before her 20th birthday, Carolyn dropped out of college, packed up her bags, and made the long trek back to Michigan.
“I was disappointed because I liked where I was at and I didn’t want to come home,” Carolyn says. “But I had a goal in mind.”
As soon as she moved back to town she found a job as a full-time clerk for the City of Detroit. She started making money while she helped out around the house. In the back of her mind, though, she kept thinking about her parents’ reminder to finish her education. The week after she landed her new job, she also applied to Wayne State University in Michigan.
“There are always going to be life circumstances. Your career is built on highs and lows, zigs and zags. You have to stay focused on your core beliefs.”
Within weeks, Carolyn enrolled in school and resumed college classes, even though it meant walking two miles to the bus stop every morning to make sure she made it to her lectures and job on time.
“I just kept moving and got busy,” says Carolyn. “I took it as an opportunity because I knew I couldn’t think about [what happened] anymore. That was the past. This was the now.”
Lead wherever you are
For five years, Carolyn took to the skies as a flight attendant. That was back in the day when passengers could still smoke on planes and crews served real meals on actual china. Carolyn never showed up to work without a starched shirt and always dressed to the nines for her shifts.
One day, Carolyn arrived for a morning flight. The captain walked in, his eyes obscured by sunglasses. She quickly realized he drank too much the night before and shouldn’t fly. But with 238 passengers on board and ready to take off, she was running out of options fast.
“In that time pilots were like gods,” says Carolyn. “But all I knew was I had the responsibility of the safety of those folks on that plane, for myself, and the crew. I made up my mind that plane was not going to move.”
She brought the pilot a cup of coffee and whispered two options into his ear: either she called another pilot to take his place, or the crew called a mechanical to give the pilot enough time to get in shape to fly. Sure, she felt scared, but she knew she had to do whatever she could to protect the passengers on her plane. That made it easier to stop worrying about what the pilot’s reaction might be and instead put one foot in front of the other to correct the problem.
“You’ve got to be able to figure out where you can lead no matter where you are.”
Partnerships through style
When Carolyn needed a meeting with the mayor of Minneapolis, she skipped the phone and went straight for her car. For her, networking is all about showing up at strategic places to connect with others. Early in her career she took that advice to the extreme, challenging herself to attend one evening business meeting or event each week for a year.
“Every day you walk out of your front door, you’re building up a brand. The things that come out of your mouth and the way you treat people, you’re building a brand,” says Carolyn. “If you want to build strategic partnerships, you need to determine what kind of brand you want to build.”
To do that, Carolyn defined her core values so she could show up authentically every day. For her that meant being kind, honest, and thoughtful; working hard and picking up new skills quickly; listening to others to lead a group better; and always taking the high road, even when others went low. Beyond that, she says you’ve got to figure out one last thing: your quirk. In other words, where do you come through in all of those values? Is it your hairstyle? A signature dish you cook? Or a family ring you’re never seen without? While other professionals may hold the same overarching values as you, it’s that personal style that sets you apart.
Carolyn’s quirk might be her laugh or obsession with shoes, but likely it’s her pens. Her top desk drawer at work is filled with crazy writing utensils. Her current fixation is a red snakeskin pen that hasn’t left her hand for seven months. And don’t even think about accidentally walking away with one of her prized possessions, either. Do that, and this CEO is coming for you.
Breakfast of Champions: Carolyn Smallwood Photo Gallery
May 6, 2017
This month, support an empowered community of Muslim women.
Your supper money supports Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood through Empowerment. Its mission is to amplify the voice and power of Muslim women through leadership development, community engagement, and philanthropy. We train and equip women with the necessary skills to engage and participate in civil life, become part of the solution-creating decision making process, and improve society as a whole.
Reviving Sistehood asks its allies to help support its mission by inviting Muslim women to their spaces, to stand in solidarity, and to understand the Muslim woman’s narrative through her own voice.
You’ll feast on…
We welcome anyone who self-identifies as female.
For more information click below.
Metamorphosis, an urban, boutique design-build firm, is looking for a Junior Project Designer, specializing in client selections for residential projects.
This role is perfect for someone with excellent customer service skills, a proven track record of creating beautiful spaces (for yourself or others), and a desire to learn. Duties will include working with clients directly, assisting them in the selection of all project finishes, as well as ordering and managing delivery logistics for all selections. Applicant must appreciate a nontraditional working environment with a group of do-good, high performers. Sense of humor is key.
Successful applicant will work under direct supervision of Owner, within a small project team.
Applicant must have:
Desired, but not required:
This position may require some evening or weekend appointments, depending on client availability. Role could be PT or FT, depending on additional duties successful applicant may take on. Room for growth.
Array of benefits offered (extent depends on PT or FT), including paid vacation, cell phone reimbursement, paid mileage, and short term disability insurance. Unfortunately, health insurance is not offered at this time.
Ability to think critically, act ethically, and speak knowledgeably far outweighs any educational degree. Nontraditional, design-types encouraged to apply.
Please send your resume to [email protected].
Pollen helps people break down barriers to build better connected communities. Founded in a belief that connecting is about more than exchanging business cards, we share the stories behind individuals, turn opportunities into realities, and champion getting off the couch to learn about the world.
Becoming a Pollenite is as simple as signing up for our newsletter. By doing so, you’ll be among the first to get the latest issue of Pollen, full of content that tells the stories behind incredible individuals, special opportunities from our community, and access to Pollen events.
On March 28, 2017, Pollenites came together to push a sincere conversation about why we deserve more than to fall back into “business as usual” after life comes crashing into us. To prepare for the future of work, we must construct a new architecture where every rung of scaffolding is reinforced to protect and support all women from the aftershocks of their gender implications.
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Last Updated: June 1, 2015
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