Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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Risk takers, value makers
Venita Fields '88
Joseph Levy '47
David Weinstein '00
Betty Chow '88
Doug Cook '98
Julia Stamberger '02 and Pam Jelaca '00
Cheryl Mayberry McKissack '89

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Julia Stamberger '02 and Pam Volpe Jelaca '00
Julia Stamberger '02 (left) and Pam Volpe Jelaca '00  Photo © Nathan Mandell

Risk takers, value makers

With GoPicnic venture, Stamberger and Jelaca provide a quality update to the box lunch

Some see entrepreneurship as a way out of the corporate race — a means to control their destinies. For others, entrepreneurship seems less of a choice and more of a genetic predisposition to create and build their own enterprises.

Julia Stamberger '02, who began her first business before she could drive or vote, places herself squarely in the latter category.

At age 11, she observed kids at her Oklahoma junior high school peddling gum-filled suckers to classmates. Stamberger then sweet-talked her father into driving her across town to a discount warehouse so she could buy her product at a lower rate and undercut the competition.

"I seem to have very little risk aversion for [starting businesses]," Stamberger says. "You have to have so much confidence for this line of work or you would just get pummeled."

Stamberger's latest venture, with fellow Kellogg School grad Pam Volpe Jelaca '00, is GoPicnic, a line of shelf-stable, good-for-you boxed meals aimed at travelers and others who can't get to a restaurant or a kitchen. It's a concept Stamberger first honed during her previous position with United Airlines, where she helped the air carrier carve out a for-purchase meal option when declining fortunes forced it and other airlines to axe free onboard meals.

Stamberger quickly realized the economy of creating meals that would not go bad after a single day or week. She found higher-quality, natural ingredients often make for a product with a longer shelf life than food loaded with additives and high fructose corn syrup. That's particularly true when today's state-of-the-art vacuum packaging processes are employed.

"If you dumb down your ingredients they won't last as long," she says.

Together Stamberger and Jelaca scour specialty food shows for natural and organic products and packaging to preserve them. One box, dubbed "GoFish," is loaded with an albacore tuna steak, whole grain pasta and bean salad, hummus, baked pita chips and more.

As the alums have pursued their venture, the Kellogg School and its Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice have provided support and entrepreneurial advice. One Kellogg department even became a customer when it purchased meals for an event. Says Stamberger, a graduate of the One-Year MBA Program: "Though I was only at school for a short time, an ongoing relationship with professors has been invaluable."

The year-old company has already had success selling its products to major airlines, and soon plans to target hotels, coffee shops and corporate clients after test marketing is complete.

These days Jelaca, who places herself more in the "entrepreneur by choice" category, is becoming hooked on this new career: "I'd be hard-pressed to go back to corporate life," she says. "I've never had a better time. It's amazing being in control of our destinies."

— Kari Richardson
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