This is the second post in a series highlighting the ways students utilize Boston University’s many resources to cater the Gastronomy program to fit their own unique interests and needs. Read the first post here.
by Debra Zides
As a Gastronomy student who has grown up in a world very far from the foodies, I continually get asked the question, “Deb, what do you do with a Gastronomy degree?” During my time here at Boston University, I have developed two speeches that answer the question. My first answer ties back to why I entered the degree program in the first place – I wanted to turn my interest in starting up a small, artisanal tequila business into a reality. My second answer…well that is the story for this blog. I am going to tell you how I gained an appreciation for the current challenges and issues in our Food System, and how I am in the process of undertaking steps to solve one small problem leveraging technology to make the world a little better than when I found it. In short, how I am developing a capability that will allow households to circumvent “big” agribusiness, bringing decisive information to the people.
In my first course, we got into a debate regarding food labeling. Fellow students were frustrated that the information displayed on the current Nutrition Label was insufficient for people to make informed decisions about their purchases. With my background in Information Technology (IT), I said why not just circumvent the static food label and create an App leveraging the power of the internet? My peers laughed it off, saying no one would be interested or use it. They saw futility. I saw opportunity. At a minimum, the opportunity to examine a solution in more depth and bring it to the attention of the savvy entrepreneurs in the country.
I crossed Commonwealth Ave and engaged students and academic leaders in the Boston University Questrom School of Business entrepreneur incubator, “The BUzz Lab”. With the help of those business savvy and App savvy individuals, I am now in the process of bringing my vision to life. I have been exposed to all facets of entrepreneurship – developing a business plan, creating a minimum viable product (MVP) – aka a pseudo-prototype to prove out my business hypothesis, gathering Beta testers, networking, pitching the concept to mentors and investors, and finally, this semester, a Directed Study specifically dedicated to moving the plan steps closer to reality.
The most critical orientation into the entrepreneur world was the BUzz “Startup Bootcamp.” In a single day, I was exposed to presentations from experts in starting up new ventures. And while I am still a long way from turning my idea into an actual business opportunity, I feel I am very prepared. Being an entrepreneur takes passion, dedication, and the ability to continue to see value where others do not.
So, to all my fellow Gastro’s out there, I challenge you to not only cull the expert knowledge from our curriculum, but see how your personal interest area can be framed into an opportunity to make the world a better place. Sure, its great to learn about food history, understand how the senses and our environment create our tastes. But what are you going to do with the knowledge? How are you going to operationalize your studies into actions that impact our society? If you are struggling with that question as I did, consider collecting some Entrepreneur experience while here at school. Then, when you are ready, you will not only have knowledge about the food system issues and challenges, but you will also have a business toolkit to be able to take your ideas from papers into reality.
Debra is in her fifth semester of the Gastronomy program. She comes to the program with twenty years honorable military service, an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering, a masters in Organizational Management, a masters in Military Operations, and coursework at the Harvard Extension School. Follow the progress of her app on twitter @hellomynula.