Jane Miller - When Big CPG Meets Passion Brand: Building a strong team starts with trust and compassion

July 27, 2020

The world of food and beverage is filled with darling passion brands. They’re fun, nimble and innovative. It’s no wonder that so many people want to work for them. Sometimes the expertise, working in a Big Brand, can cloud the objectivity of an incoming employee and overly-excite the leadership of these smaller brands. So, just how can you best avoid a bad fit and create powerful transitions?

In this episode Jane shares advice on how to best prepare for these changes and opportunities, leaning on her own experience of transitioning from running billion-dollar brand families to becoming CEO of beloved naturals brand.

If you’re a founder/owner/leader of a smaller brand - you will learn:

  • How to honestly assess your brand's leadership needs
  • Strategic hiring tips to help manage your and your new team members expectations during transition and growth
  • How hiring for key strategic roles for your company, is a lot like dating

If you’re considering taking on a leadership role at a smaller brand - you will learn:

  • How your experience can be a liability as much as an asset
  • That compassion and empathy are valuable tools for successful growth and transition
  • How to evaluate your own potential for learning and flexibility in order to become a powerful resource for your new business partner

About Jane Miller:

Jane Miller is the founder of a career advice website,, and the author of Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success). Jane is a food industry executive with experience ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Currently the CEO of Lily's Sweets, she has previously held several CEO positions in the natural products industry, including Charter Baking Company (Rudi's Organic Bakery)

Prior to Charter, Jane had twenty-five years of experience in large consumer product companies. She was part of an executive team that brought Hostess out of bankruptcy. She worked for HJHeinz as the Chief Growth Officer and then the President of the UK & Ireland Division. She ran the Western division of Bestfoods Baking (now Bimbo Bakeries). The first fourteen years of her career were at PepsiCo, where she rose to be the President of the Central division of Frito-Lay.

Jane serves as a board member at the University of Colorado's Leeds Business School, Watson Institute and Eldorado Springs Artesian Water.  Jane is passionate about mentoring the next generation of leaders. She has a Russian Studies degree from Knox College in Galesburg (Pivotal to her landing her first job at Frito-Lay - I hope we have time to cover that...), IL and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She lives in Boulder, CO with her dog, Bella, and three horses (Gracie, Prince, and Lucky).


Show Resources:

Lily's Sweets - Lily's Sweets creates no sugar added chocolate for baking and snacking. Founded on the principles of better-for-you foods, and imagined by someone who wasn't willing to sacrifice her favorite treat that is non-GMO and gluten-free ingredients harvested through Fair Trade practices, and ensure every product is botanically sweetened—meaning no refined or processed sugars. - Yum!

Jane Knows - Jane Knows was born out of the idea that the business world can be difficult to navigate and the choices can seem insurmountable. To be blunter, it can really suck. Politics, unwritten rules, mean people—it is all out there. But that is just the external stuff. What happens when you do things to sabotage yourself? Self-sabotage happens a lot and many times you don’t even know you are doing it…until it is too late! So after thirty years in business, making lots of mistakes and then rebounding, I decided it was time to help the next generation of leaders avoid the School of Hard Knocks. Let’s face it: life throws obstacles at us all the time, shouldn’t there be a way to know how to deal with the obstacles based on someone else’s experience?

Sleep Your Way to the Top - Jane's story of a small-town Illinois girl who made it to the top is a sassy, substantial read, headlined with myths (Size Doesn't Matter/You Can Sleep Your Way to the Top); punctuated by devilish text boxes ("let's walk out now and get drunk on morning martinis"); and containing end of chapter Mirror Mirrors to help 20-somethings (ANYONE) on their way to their individual tops. Sleep Your Way to the Top is the go-to guide for grads, pre-grads and new execs, showing us where it's easy to get tripped up, who might trick us and how to make it past the pitfalls on our way to the corner office.

Who Moved My Cheese - A timeless business classic, Who Moved My Cheese? uses a simple parable to reveal profound truths about dealing with change so that you can enjoy less stress and more success in your work and in your life.

Episode Sponsor - Retail Voodoo:

A creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing, and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness, and fitness industry. If your naturals brand is in need of positioning, package design, or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at