There I sat, eyes fixed on my desktop, slumped under the weight of embarrassment.
My friend Lauren sat tall a few seats away, smiling widely at her mom across the room.
It was 1st grade career day and my dad was about to reveal my secret shame: His job was to make dog food.
While Lauren’s mom stood poised and pretty in her Izzy’s restaurant apron, wowing her young audience with stories of interesting customers and good food, my dad handed out small plastic bags of strong-smelling dog vitamins.
I remember the heavy conflict in my 6-year-old heart: I was deeply proud of my dad – but I wished his job was as glamorous and entertaining as waitress.
This memory, distant yet defined, is where my passion for family business began.
As the sixth generation of The F.L. Emmert Company, I’ve known business as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I understood a company’s impact on a family’s quality of life: We were directly affected, for better or worse, by what happened – or didn’t happen – at the office each day.
Visiting my dad at work as a 16-year-old, I noticed my great-great-great grandfathers’ yellowed photographs on the conference room walls. Who were these mysterious historical characters? How did they keep the business alive more than a century when so many others failed or sold out?
When I became an employee a decade later, these characters went from mysterious to familiar. I learned who they were. I understood how and why they did what they did. I began to appreciate and admire the unique legacy that lives inside a multi-generational family business.
These grandfathers of mine are long gone, yet I feel like I work with them and for them every day. My job title is Brand Manager but my real job is to carry the Emmert legacy far beyond anything these men dared dream.
I’m often asked whether I always wanted to work for the family business.
“No!” I answer quickly. I thought I’d be a television news anchor. Or a writer. Or a Washington lobbyist. Never did I aspire to work for the company that made smelly dog vitamins.
But now that I’m here, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
And I look forward to the day I’ll stand in front of my daughter’s class on career day, handing out the same small sample bags that embarrassed me so long ago. But this time I’ll stand poised and proud, just like Lauren’s mom, confident that making dog food is the coolest job around.
Whisk & Wag Creator and Brand Manager