As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Marcoot.
Amy Marcoot, president of Marcoot Jersey Creamery, was born and raised on the Marcoot Jersey Farm in Greenville, Illinois, which her parents, John and Linda Marcoot, owned and operated at the time. Amy attended the University of Illinois where she earned a degree in agriculture and physical education. She then received a Master’s degree in counseling. Once Amy learned that her family may have to sell their family’s farm, she moved back home to continue her family’s heritage in the dairy business.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I grew up on my family’s farm in Greenville, Illinois but once I graduated high school, I decided to attend the University of Illinois. One day after I had earned my degrees, I got a phone call from my parents telling me that they would be selling our farm in a few years. That’s when I decided to move back home where my sister and I worked to build the Marcoot Jersey Creamery. Our farmstead artisan creamery first opened in June 2010. For the last 10 years, we have worked hard to build a business and create excellent products and great experiences.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the best things my mom ever taught me was, “To build a strong team, you have to find exceptional people who think differently than you. You must also learn to hear others’ opinions and work hard to be respectful and kind.” This is a value that I have treasured. When we were first making cheese, my sister Beth and our cheesemaker (and my best friend), Audie Wall, were all working to pasteurize the milk. We had a problem with a piece of equipment and we lost some of the milk. Audie, who is an engineer, immediately said she would figure out the problem and ensure that this didn’t happen again. I, being an overly optimistic person, said, “It’s okay, let’s not cry over spilled milk!” Beth, who tends to be a realist and was calculating the loss as the milk went down the drain, said, “I think I just crapped my pants.” We laugh about that now and appreciate how it describes our personalities, but really, I value how we all see the world differently. I am so thankful for our team!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I have spent time listening to StoryBrand’s podcast where they discuss business, marketing, and leadership. I appreciate what it teaches about leadership especially. There’s always more to learn!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our vision was to make great products, create great experiences, be an excellent platform for agriculture and the dairy industry, and bridge the gap between the farmer and consumer.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
We stand by the quality of product. We want our customers to enjoy each and every one of our products.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We lost quite a bit of business when food service locations shut down. We also lost tourism business when schools shut down. It became necessary to pivot quickly and create new streams of revenue such as curbside pickup for our products including cheese, beef, salmon, ice cream, and Extreme Ice. Our business also started doing local deliveries and we have been providing virtual farm tours for educational purposes. I’m really proud that we were able to turn our annual CheeseFest event, where guests can visit the grounds to taste our cheese and other products, into a drive-thru experience with scenic farm views!
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
One of the main things about a dairy farm is that the cows don’t stop milking when the rest of the world stops! We have had to figure out how to manage inventory differently and again find new revenue streams.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Be kind. One of the things I have said from the beginning is we are all scared, so let’s realize that and be kind to one another. We do our best with this! Obviously, we take this seriously and we want to be careful. The steadiness of a dairy farm creates a rhythm for us, and when we are scared or anxious we try to focus on what we can do, not on what we can’t control.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
More and more people are looking for local food and realize the importance of supporting their local economy. As local farmers, we have taken the responsibility of crafting innovative ideas to help keep our doors open and customers’ fridges stocked with necessary nutrients like calcium, fat, and protein.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think it will create, at least for a time, a culture of people being more cautious and careful. I also think people have had to be less spontaneous. Right now, we’re all just looking forward to having experiences with friends and family again.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Relationships are really important. We will keep in contact with our customers and provide what they need. We might make new cheeses or pivot in other ways to meet our customers’ needs. We will continue to shift our business practices as necessary, including continuing our curbside pickup and grocery delivery, and continue to search for new revenue streams.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Continue to be kind! We need to work together right now. We also need to continue to think outside the box to meet our customers’ needs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken” — Oscar Wilde
We are always evaluating what we can and can’t do. We have limitations and we also have great advantages. When a friend or colleague does something great, we can be happy for them! We can also celebrate when we have successes. Be yourself — that’s the best we can do!
How can our readers further follow your work?
Instagram and Facebook: @marcootjerseycreamery