Summer Internship Reflections with Imperfect: Sara Brown (MBA ’20)

Within the business world, there are endless career opportunities, which makes choosing a career path a daunting task. As an undergraduate with limited career path exposure, I was overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start applying for full-time positions; I might as well have thrown a dart at a board with potential companies and positions to determine where I would start my career.  Ultimately, I landed in position at Bloomberg San Francisco office in a financial service training program where I was paid to continue learning.

At Bloomberg, I interacted with clients across a wide range of industries, and through my client interactions, I started to explore investment opportunities within the realm of environmental and social governance (ESG).  The more I learned about ESG investing, the more I became passionate about working for a company with a mission to be both sustainable and profitable. I was determined to find out how I could pursue this interest.

While living in San Francisco, I learned about numerous inefficiencies in our current food system.  Many companies were focusing their mission on solving food industry challenges while minimizing their impact on the environment. With my growing passion for ESG and curiosity for improving our food system, I started to test different products or services and even reach out to company founders to learn more. It was during my initial exploration that I discovered about Imperfect Foods. Imperfect reduces waste at the farm level by sourcing food that may go to waste, allowing customers to customize their product selection, and delivering the items weekly at a 30 to 50 percent discount to traditional retailers. I love Imperfect’s mission and aspired to eventually work for a company with such an emphasis on impact but decided to pursue my MBA at Vanderbilt before diving into the food industry.

I started at Owen with the intent to focus on the intersection of sustainability and business. While I had this career aspiration, I did not have experience or expertise in the food space. At Owen, I looked for organizations that focused on sustainability and social enterprise, which led me to the Turner Family Center and Net Impact.

Through these two organizations, I collaborated with classmates and community members to host a series of social enterprise and industry focused panels on campus, completed a social enterprise consulting project in Quito, Ecuador with Project Pyramid, joined the Emerging Impact Leaders Fellowship, and organized an Impact Week for Owen students. These experiences helped me develop my leadership skills and gain a better understanding of social enterprise, which prepared me for my internship at Imperfect Foods.

At Imperfect, I worked on theProduce Line Extension Team to determine what additional grocery items should become weekly options for customers. I conducted numerous consumer insight studies gaging customer interest in new food categories and supported Imperfect’s operations as they launched their first refrigerated products in a test market. After working at Imperfect this summer, I feel even more certain about a career path in the world of sustainable business and/or social enterprises. I found the work to be challenging, but extremely rewarding and look forward to working for a company that alters the way we think about the evolving food system.

As I reflect on my summer experience and first year at Owen, I feel extremely grateful for the TFC and Net Imperfect. These clubs provided me with a platform to develop my leadership skills and better understand social enterprises. I look forward to connecting with many of you as we explore additional ways for the Owen community to get involved with Net Impact, the TFC, and the broader Nashville community.