ACS Is Your Best Networking Opportunity of the Year
Volume 137, No. 5, Friday, July 272012
Perhaps you are a new cheese maker, the son or daughter of a cheese maker, or a new employee at a cheese plant. Your journey and quest for cheese knowledge can get a real boost if you attend the American Cheese Society Convention in Raleigh, NC, this year.
Going to ACS is the single best opportunity for cheese makers to interact with the retailers and distributors who will ultimately become so critical to your business. ACS is the largest gathering of these two groups of service providers for the artisan cheese maker, combined with the largest and most diverse group of cheese makers every year.
Get your networking plan in place....
1. Offer to help with the Contest and Judging. (A bit late for this year but definitely an option for future years). Make sure that you get connected this year with members of that committee and offer your services. Their most basic need is labor; there are just so many tasks that require the presence of a caring and thoughtful person.
The contest and judging committee has become very proficient at putting on a wonderful contest that is built by a small but competently skilled team of workers. Receiving and delivering cheese to the Festival of Cheese Team who will prepare them for the big event requires hands and precise organization (like all ACS activities). Becoming part of this elite team is a long-term investment in the future of the ACS organization. Being a regular on this team is valuable to everyone involved in cheese, but especially to those small cheese makers who want their cheese judged.
If you are a new cheese maker you could present your line-up of cheeses. However, in subsequent years when your cheeses are known, it is the new hot item that matters.
Part of networking is being in the right place at the right time. Offering to assist in the setup of the Festival of Cheese will expose you to the largest selection of cheese assembled in the USA. This selection is reviewed by some of the most caring and knowledgeable individuals involved in cheese in the world. These experts are solicited for their experience to lead teams of volunteers in the preparation of cheese for the Festival.
Signing up to help is a chance to work with and meet real celebrities in the cheese world. Who knows? You might end up working in their cheese shop or they may be selling your cheese because you had the chance to tell your story. Don’t underestimate how interesting what you do is to others in the organization.
2. Get signed up for tours. You can never visit too many cheese plants and you can never listen to too many cheese makers. That chance conversation with a cheese maker may be the next new idea, the answer to a common problem or just a new friendship.
Getting to know people is one of the great benefits of being part of this organization. It’s not just who you meet at the tour destination, it’s also the wonderful people you meet on the bus. You have the rest of your life to spend time with the people you work with every day. Split up and maximize your time in Raleigh.
3. Meet the Cheesemaker. This is the single most important event for cheese makers new and old. Here are a few tips on how I see you getting the most benefit from Meet the Cheesemakers: a. Don’t bring all your cheeses. This is the one opportunity you get to “impress” a distributor or cheesemonger. b. If you are a new cheese maker you could present your line-up of cheeses. However, in subsequent years when your cheeses are known, it is the new hot item that matters. c. Be prepared to talk. This event will attract distributors, cheesemongers, press, other cheese makers and enthusiasts. This event has grown and is one of my favorite activities at ACS.
4. Sessions: education, education, education. You can’t get too much. If you are sending staff to this event, make sure they provide a report on the sessions they attended. You want to know that they went and that they are able to articulate what they learn. It’s a good discipline for us all. Plane flights and airport waits are a great time to write these notes. Be sure to share these notes with staff members who did not go to ACS.
5. The Festival of Cheese: the biggest assembly of fine cheese on display for paying guests. Be there. Listen to what others are saying about your cheese and take pride in having your photograph taken alongside your cheese. Being accessible as a producer can help greatly in selling your cheese. It’s the cheese business, it’s a people business, and it’s your future!
6. Networking suppliers: Vendors come to this show to express their support for what you do and promote what they have to sell. Engage them, ask for information and don’t be afraid to ask them how they can help your business.
7. Make sure you have a full schedule of private meetings and activities set up for the greatest cheese show on earth.
See you in Raleigh. NM
Neville McNaughton, president of Cheez Sorce, St. Louis, MO, has
many years of experience manufacturing dairy products in both New
Zealand and US. He has been a judge at several cheese competitions.
Neville will be writing a regular column in Cheese Reporter and will
take any questions regarding cheese manufacture. You can reach him
at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column is graciously sponsored by Hypred USA