The cheese industry in America is exploding, said Pat Ford, co-founder of Beehive Cheese Company.
“There are so many new cheeses and flavors being produced,” said Ford, who started the cheese company with his brother-in-law, Tim Welsh. “it is awesome to be a part of it.”
So what do cheese and Weber State University have in common? As it turns out, a lot.
Ford spoke to some 60 WSU students on Thursday as part of the ongoing Nye Lecture Series. Ford, who is an alumnus of WSU, was part of the first technical sales program. The Nye Lecture Series is put on to help students understand the application of their current studies.
“(Students) get to see firsthand execution of what they are studying and how it works in the real world,” said John Hoffman, faculty member of the Master of Business Administration, regarding the lecture.
During his address, Ford spoke of branding, costing, selling, marketing and accounting — principles being taught in the business programs.
“The main message I want to convey to the students of Weber State is that they can do anything they want if they will set their minds to it,” Ford said. “After nearly 20 years in the real estate industry, I was looking for something new, but didn’t know what.”
Ford spoke of an acquaintance once giving him a piece of advice: There are riches in niches. Ford and Welsh took this to heart and went on a search. They visited San Francisco, Chicago and New York to see what was working there so they could bring it to Utah.
Ford explained that he took a huge risk leaving what he knew in real estate and accounting to pursue something new and different. However, he said the skills he learned in sales, marketing, accounting and software development were easy to transfer to a new industry. In 2005, he and Welsh opened the Beehive Cheese Company and have been growing steadily ever since.
Ford is over the sales and marketing of the business, and said that marketing is marketing, whether it is real estate, software or cheese.
“Maybe we could have hit a grand slam with this, but we are getting on first base consistently every time, and that is what we are looking for — slow, steady growth,” Ford said.
Ford said that what they had hoped for — that slow and steady growth — ended up as an understatement. Ford and Welsh set a goal for growth in this year for 35 percent; however, their actual growth over last year is already at 100 percent.
Ford said that one of the biggest problems they deal with in this unique business is a cash flow problem. He explained that milk has to be bought today in order to make the cheese, but the cheese will not be ready for sale for another four to six months.
“We have to be careful to not oversell, and people don’t get their cheese,” Ford said.
Many students attended this lecture and participated in the discussion with Ford. David Taylor, a senior in the accounting department, was one such student.
“The Nye Lecture Series has been beneficial because I have learned what qualifications companies are interested in,” Taylor said. “It is nice to hear from people from the real business world and see what is important to them versus what they tell you is important in the classroom.”
Beehive Cheese Company has been an avid supporter of WSU and has invited students and faculty of the chemistry department out to its location for regular field trips.