[An MBA] put my own experience in context.
Carolina Braunschweig once earned her living as a reporter, living in San Francisco, writing for Thomson Reuters, covering the Silicon Valley culture, its technology and the startup capitalization process. But the companies’ back-of-the-house financial nuts-and-bolts remained impenetrable to her. “It was my first real job; you spent all day with these fresh technology companies and the business aspect was a mystery,” she says.
Meanwhile, Braunschweig, a Miami native, indulged in another San Francisco obsession: the city’s innovative culinary culture. As she enjoyed the city’s diverse foods, she also became intrigued by the business behind them and began to learn more from friends who worked in the fever-hot San Francisco restaurant sector.
One day, after reading a story about a startup jam maker, Braunschweig decided to experiment with making and selling jams herself. “I never made jam, I never sold anything,” she says. She started with strawberry and CMB Sweets was born.
Within a few years, CMB Sweets was selling a line of jams to Whole Foods, Costco and other retailers. “The whole point of it was to understand cash flow,” she explains. Some parts of running a business came easily, but others didn’t. “I was good at selling things and articulating a vision, but bad at supply chain,” Braunschweig says. “It was awesome – and a disaster.”
Eventually, Braunschweig decided to return to her native Miami for an MBA from the Miami Business School. “It put my own experience in context,” she says, adding that it gave her new data-based ways of framing decision-making. “You don’t have to figure everything else (out) for yourself.”
South Florida was a great place for a food entrepreneur and Braunschweig worked for several innovative startups, including Clio, which makes frozen Greek yogurt bars.
Then, family-run Schuman Cheese came calling and hired Braunschweig as its national sales director. The Fairfield, New Jersey company, founded more than 70 years ago, began by importing Italian cheese, expanded into cheese-making and branched into making a line of cheese crisps, named Whisps.
Braunschweig is still Miami-based, working from home part of the time and traveling around the country interfacing with retailers the rest of the time. She’s often introducing them to Whisps, which contain just one ingredient: cheese. South Florida shoppers can find the crispy, shelf-stable snack in Publix, Milam’s Market and Costco.
“The world of startup brands is my universe,” Braunschweig says. She loves the job and the closeness of the family-owned company. “This is like being a startup with all the infrastructure and capital resources and experience to really succeed.”