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In Good Company

Farbers, Where Are They Now: Lalu Beré

Each summer, REDF hosts MBA students from across the country that are passionate about the power of business to transform lives, communities, and our economy. These interns, known as Farber Fellows, are matched with a REDF grantee and work directly with the employment social enterprise staff on a project to support the business and its employees’ long-term success.

To date, we’ve hosted over 180 Farber Summer Fellows who continue to leave their mark on the business, social, and public sectors. This fall, we’ll be checking in with a few of our alumni to see where they are now and what lessons from their work with employment social enterprises they take with them.

Today, we’re checking with Lalu Beré, Farber Class of 2018 and Kellogg School of Management alum. Read on to hear how Lalu leveraged her time with Goodwill of Central Texas into a career change that has her leading brand strategy and marketing for a mission-driven tech startup.

What kind of work do you do today?

I lead brand strategy, marketing, and partner engagement for Fork Farms, a mission-first agriculture tech startup. Our work seeks to address food insecurity and deepen individual relationships with fresh food through hydroponic technology. We partner with schools, hunger relief organizations, healthcare systems, and others to inspire and empower all people to grow fresh food, nourish their communities, and heal the planet.

What drew you to that work?

First and foremost, I joined Fork Farms to return to full-time impact work. I spent two years after my MBA working in consumer packaged goods brand management, which was an incredible opportunity for marketing training. I felt it was time for me to take those skills and apply them in a setting where my work was more deeply connected to creating systemic change and addressing issues that matter to me: racial justice, equitable economic prosperity, and climate change.

Second, I had spent my entire career to date working for large, reputable institutions, both nonprofit and for-profit. Going to Fork Farms gave me the opportunity to work for a high-growth social enterprise startup. I knew the business problems I would face there would stretch me professionally in ways that I could not get in a more established environment.

Why did you decide to apply for and join the Farber program?

I wanted to do a social impact internship during my MBA that would continue to build my skills. I knew I wanted to work for an organization that was data-driven and outcomes-oriented, while still centering impact above all else. The Farber program was a perfect fit. After doing more research, I was also attracted to the backgrounds of REDF’s team and was excited to work with folks who had many talents that I could learn from.

What project did you work on during your Farber summer?

I worked with Goodwill Central Texas to develop a new brand position and marketing strategy for the organization’s staffing business (Goodwill Staffing Group, or GSG). The organization needed a plan to reach more companies in need of its services and to reach potential temporary employees, all in service of growing revenue and improving the business unit’s ROI. Through over 20 interviews, a survey of current customers, and extensive market research, I compiled a brand position rooted in insights and provided a ranked list of tactics for the team to implement. GCT’s leadership took the recommendation and launched a new brand for the staffing business the following year.

How did working with a social enterprise inform your view on the role that business can play in social impact?

It was very humbling to sit in a social enterprise that was working through the challenges that are inherent in running a double-bottom-line enterprise. GSG’s leadership had the difficult task of weighing business needs alongside the difference they were able to make in people’s lives by helping them find employment. Given the steep barriers many individuals are striving to overcome, it sometimes takes more than rotation through the program to be successful. Seeing that up close helped me understand how business tradeoffs are even more visceral and complex in a social enterprise. It also enforced to me that running a social enterprise requires high levels of discipline and operational leadership to ensure the organization is able to achieve its mission. To me, that’s why REDF is so important. The combination of funding and technical assistance is critical to support social enterprises that are resource constrained and trying to achieve multiple big goals at once.

Any lessons learned from your Farber summer that you carry with you in your work today?

My project was my first true work in marketing and sparked my career switch into marketing full-time. It was serendipitous that I got the project I did and it definitely set me on a course for the role I’m in today. I learned a lot about marketing that summer, having to advance my knowledge fast to be able to make recommendations. It was invaluable time spent for my current work.

What’s your favorite memory from your Farber summer?

I had so many great memories meeting up with my Farber class! We really clicked as a group and it was a great opportunity to build my network of like-minded, impact-oriented professionals. More importantly, we became friends and had a lot of fun together. Our trips were always filled with lots of laughs and thoughtful discussion. The best of all was bringing the house down with my Farber peer Sara Marcus, doing karaoke to a Black Eyed Peas song at a fine Bay Area establishment.

What advice do you have for future Farber Summer Fellows?

Take advantage of opportunities to connect with REDF staff and your class. It’s easy to feel like you are on an island with your project, especially if you are the only one in your city. Set up video calls and make the most of your time traveling to the office. It can be helpful to advance pieces of your project and to build relationships that will last beyond the summer.

Applications for the 2023 Farber Summer Fellow cohort will open in December – learn more about the program, its alumni, and how to apply.

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