Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I am a serial entrepreneur who is changing the way we produce food through development of environmentally responsible products for controlling pests as alternatives to toxic chemicals. This is my life's work; I wanted to do this since I was young (influenced by growing up on a beautiful 40 acres in southern CT).
How would you define your professional mission?
Marrone Bio Innovations strives to lead the movement to a sustainable world through the discovery, development, production and promotion of effective and environmentally responsible biological products for pest management and plant health.
What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
Bringing this company back from the brink and having 6 quarters of high growth, after a debilitating, very expensive investigation and restatement resulting in the arrest of our former COO/Sr. VP of Sales.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
At my former company, I got the first ever organic product for garden disease control (such as mildews on roses) in Wal-Mart stores and after that all the big boxes started carrying organic garden products.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
After getting a BS and PhD in Entomology from Cornell & NC State I was hired by Monsanto Co. to start a new unit seeking new ways to control pests without toxic chemicals. After 7 years I was recruited by Novo Nordisk to start up a company (named Entotech) in Davis, CA to find natural solutions to control pests. After we were sold to our largest competitor I started AgraQuest, and almost took it public. I started Marrone Bio in 2006 and took it public in 2013.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
We have a fantastic, aligned team of employees who believe in the mission and vision of the company and are truly dedicated to making this company a success. We have rebuilt out of a previous debacle a great culture.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?
I led the way for biological products to move from being small niche products to the mainstream. Showing that biological products, when integrated into crop production systems, can provide better yields and quality than chemical-only programs. Created a path for new entrepreneurs to start companies in this industry.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
It is my life. I will not stop until we get a natural/biological weed killer (herbicide) as an alternative to Roundup (glyphosate) and that can help organic farmers more cost effectively grow their crops and transition more acres to organic production.
Who are your role models?
My mother and father. They both encouraged me to follow my passion and they taught us to be independent thinkers. They both had utmost respect for the environment, love of nature and they lived sustainably. My father taught me business and the politics of business as an Italian Catholic (a minority then!), which prepared me for the challenges of a women in business.
What does success look like to you?
Making organic farming less expensive and transitioning more acres to organic. Becoming a billion-dollar enterprise. As they do with chemicals, mainstream conventional farmers, without question, see biologicals as value added tools.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Gardening is my off-work passion. My neighbors, age 8 and 5, have adopted me as their surrogate grandma so they make sure I focus on playing with them instead of working every minute.
What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?
This is the best exciting time to be in ag-tech. There is a lot of investor money available and there are many resources to help you start a company. But even if you did not yet want to be an entrepreneur, there a thousands of jobs in companies along the continuum from farm to fork.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
Get out of the lab and become a manager.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
Find a company that is flexible about work hours, job duties, leave policies.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I have been in business more than 30 years and as a women in business and founder/CEO I have experienced everything. I hope I can give back to younger women entrepreneurs who may benefit from what I have gone through.