Gooder Podcast featuring Ciara Dilley
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Those of us outside the walls of Frito-Lay have not necessarily considered the brand aligned with natural foods, environmental stewardship, or considered a small business advocate. But little did we all know, that this mammoth tanker of an organization has been quietly growing a passionate army of stewards ready to take on some of businesses biggest issues including healthy food innovation, food instability, small and women-owned business finance and mentoring, environmental stewardship and so much more. The number of business initiatives PepsiCo and Frito-Lay has been developing to make a positive impact in business and the lives of the most marginalized is staggering.
Join Ciara Dilley, VP of Marketing, Transform Brands and Portfolio Innovation for Frito-Lay North America and I, as we discuss how she is harnessing the resources of a multi-national to affect positive change in the food and beverage industries — starting with the Stacy’s Rise Project and venturing into other initiatives. It turns out that Frito-Lay may be becoming the largest Citizen brand in our category, and they’ve got just the right person to lead the way.
When we support women-owned business – the world will become a better place. – Ciara Dilley
In This Episode We Learn:
- Ciara’s passion for Female Founders and woman-owned business.
- How she uses Frito-Lay strengths of brand, product, and voice to empower and support female founder brands.
- The power of Stacy’s Rise Project and WomenMade initiatives.
- Why Stacy’s Rise Project is bridging the funding gap for female-founded business.
- How Ciara uses stewardship initiatives to grow employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction.
- How the impact of the Frito-Lay initiatives complement and supplement the work being done in the Naturals industry.
About Ciara Dilley:
Ciara Dilley – Vice President of Marketing, Transform Brands and Portfolio Innovation for Frito-Lay North America, leads the company’s ever-evolving and diverse portfolio of Transform Brands – including Stacy’s, SunChips, Smartfood, Popcorners, and Off the Eaten Path. Also overseeing Frito-Lay’s portfolio innovation, Ciara is making it easier than ever for consumers to discover new flavors, ingredients and brands powered by purpose. Ciara also leads our Sustainability agenda, championing our focus on more environmentally friendly packaging solutions.
A seasoned veteran with more than 20 years of industry experience, Ciara’s passion is supporting women, both inside and outside the walls of Frito-Lay. In addition to being personally involved in a number of initiatives that involve coaching and connecting businesswomen, Ciara recently led the launch of WomanMade, a PepsiCo initiative developed to advance female founders in the food and beverage industry through funding and exclusive mentoring opportunities.
Since joining Frito-Lay in February 2019, Ciara has led Stacy’s Rise Project – a flagship grant and mentorship program by the female-founded Stacy’s brand – to flourish as an industry best-in-class initiative, awarding up-and-coming female entrepreneurs with hundreds of thousands of dollars in business grants and providing them with unprecedented access to PepsiCo people and resources to achieve long-term success.
In addition, under Ciara’s leadership, Smartfood popcorn added Smart50 to its lineup – featuring 50 calories or less per cup – and underwent a full brand redesign that involved a complete swipe of its social channels and packaging updates across the entire portfolio.
Prior to joining PepsiCo, Dilley leveraged her experience in communications and innovation to grow major international consumer brands including Diageo, Campbell Soup Company and Kellogg Company.
LinkedIn: Ciara Dilley, https://www.linkedin.com/in/ciara-dilley-305469b/
Media Contact – Frito-Lay Brand Communications: Jen Crichton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Fryc: Okay, welcome to The Gooder Podcast. I am your host Diana Fryc. As partner and CMO of retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry; food, beverage, wellness and fitness. As such, I’ve decided to create The Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights, expertise and to help businesses all around the world become gooder. I’m super excited to introduce my guest today Ciara Dilley, Vice President of Marketing for Frito Lay North America, who leads the company in ever evolving and diverse portfolio of the transform brands including Stacy’s, Sunchips, Smart Foods, PopCorners, and Off The Eaten Path. She also oversees Frito Lay’s portfolio innovation and sustainability agenda. A seasoned veteran with more than 20 years of industry experience, Ciara’s passion is supporting women both inside and outside of the walls of Frito Lay in addition to being personally involved in a number of initiatives that involve coaching and connecting business women. She recently led the launch of women made a PepsiCo initiative developed to advance female founders in the food and beverage industry through funding and exclusive mentoring program.
Welcome, how is Texas today? You are in Texas. Is that correct?
Ciara Dilley: I am Diana, thank you so much for having me. I’m in Dallas. It’s beautifully blue skies and sunny and warm. So where else would you want to be?
Diana Fryc: What’s warm? I guess I would say that’s all relative.
Ciara Dilley: It’s about 80 Fahrenheit, I think. I’m still in Celsius giving you a European roots. It’s about 28 to 30. So I think that’s about 80. It’s beautiful.
Diana Fryc: So 80 is nice. That’s good.
Ciara Dilley: Yeah, not too harsh. Very doable and nice to get out in a boat; it’s lovely.
Diana Fryc: How’s the schooling going? Now your kids are in actual class, is that correct?
Ciara Dilley: Yeah they are. I’ve got two boys Diana; Matthew is nine just turned nine and Noelle is ten, they were packed off to school by mommy this morning and we’re all very happy. Three weeks in mommy in particular, is very happy that everybody is back at school safe and sound, back to the routine.
Diana Fryc: Oh, we don’t have that unfortunately. Our kids are in school or in school from home or wherever. I send my kids off, actually to my husband’s office so that we don’t have Wi-Fi issues. So they actually get to go to school without being in school.
Ciara Dilley: Yeah, it’s good to get them on the move. I think it’s good to get them that there’s a reason to get up in the morning, there’s a reason to get dressed, eat a proper breakfast and so I think as they’re finding that routine, we’re all finding it’s good.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. Good. Okay, so I originally reached out to you when I when I personally learned about the Stacy’s Rise Project and you were so kind and generous to agree to give me some time to tell me a little bit more about what you were doing with it. But before I go down the road of Stacy’s project and what you’re doing within PepsiCo, Frito Lay, why don’t you share a little bit more about yourself? How did you get here? And what’s your story?
Ciara Dilley: Yes, as you can probably tell by the very light accent that I still have, and I hail originally from Ireland, and I’ve been in the US for five years now. But before that, I guess I’m the eldest of four girls, which I think it’s important when you hear about my passion for supporting women later on. I think that definitely had an influence on me. My dad is a wonderful man and a very quiet man he learned early on in life; the secret to happiness was to let his girls have the run of the place and give them a voice which he has always encouraged us to have. So grew up in Ireland and I actually studied law at college, but realized early on that it probably wasn’t for me and then I started working for Diageo when I left college in marketing. I didn’t know an awful lot about what marketing was, let me be honest, but I loved Diageo and I loved their brand building focus.
I worked in amazing brands like Guinness, Budweiser, which is a franchise for Smirnoff vodka and Bailey’s great, great friends. And I also worked for Campbell Soup and I headed up marketing for the UK and Ireland. Great company and I got a lot of commercial experience there which is really important. It’s important to understand these big customers like in Europe test for Aldi and Lidl, understand the rules that they have and how to negotiate with them some tough lessons. I then worked for Kellogg that I headed up their European innovation team and that was wonderful job as well because that was all about how do we set the company up for the needs of the future. So healthier breakfast, a big push in Europe around how do we give healthier foods to our children into our schools etc. and Kellogg, we were really driving that heart and we had a big role to play.
And I actually had a team of 10 women that we had a wonderful time and we’re still great friends today. And then we decided, the boys were young and decided it would be a great opportunity to travel, good time to travel and at that time, I had a good friend in PepsiCo, who said, “We’ve got a global innovation role in New York, would you like to come?” And I love doing the European role. So the idea of another multimarket role where you get to work with different countries and cultures, and you learn that you have to listen and seek to understand and where are we different, and where we are similar is something that I love doing. So I did global innovation for the snack side of the business, mainly focusing on Lay’s in my first role in New York, and Pepsi. And then I started to get more and more interested and involved in our healthier snacking growth agenda and leading brands, like some chips globally, and then doing a lot of work with entrepreneurs. And that’s when I started my love for that area and my respect for the world. And then I moved to Frito Lay in Dallas, which is just the most amazing part of our business, because it’s for the majority of our sales and profit happened for the world and it’s an amazing organization, which I’ve talked to you about as we chatted this morning. But a really wonderful team and I’m just so lucky to work on our healthier snacking agenda and what we’re trying to do in that area, as well as you mentioned, innovation and sustainable packaging, and a few other things on the sidelines. It’s been a fun ride. Somebody said to me, a few weeks ago, I did an interview with Dallas magazine and this lady said to me, “Coming from a small town in Ireland, did you ever think you’d end up here in Dallas working with the world’s biggest snack company? I said, “No,” I definitely think that’s what my path would be. But I’m really enjoying it. I consider myself very fortunate.
Diana Fryc: It’s so funny, I’m listening to you; and this might feel a little bit sassy. But isn’t it ironic that even at a multinational at the level of leadership, you are still carrying multiple silos of responsibilities, innovation, transform; you can’t even rise up the chain and shed a few of those things, you’re still collected.
Ciara Dilley: I actually think the higher up you go there, the more stuff you gather and fill up your backpack. I feel like Dora the Explorer with a backpack sometime. Who knows what’s going to come out of the backpack at any given date? Locally I love diversity, I love getting my finger in a lot of pies and I just see like, a lot of the time those pies interact with each other, have a view across them, it actually helps you to get a lot more things done.
Diana Fryc: I also think it helps any business; not just Frito Lay but it helps the business because sometimes what happens when organizations get so big, they become siloed and the one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. There’s conflicting agenda. So I think this, what you’re saying is it allows for there to be continuity between efforts amongst the organization, is that a good way to look at it?
Ciara Dilley: I couldn’t agree more with you. I think that silos drive me crazy, because as you said, it’s so inefficient, they lead to using far too many resources, slow things down and I actually think some of the experience I have from my European role in the global role, where the role there was to bring things together was to show markets that actually, we can all work on one project together and get there quicker and make it better and bigger for everybody. So I also think being Irish, when you come from a small country that doesn’t have a lot of resources, you learn how to be very flexible and very resourceful. And you’re very interested in let’s just get a few things together to make something work. So I have a feeling a combination of those experiences, help me out as I go and try and seek to synergize and bring things together.
Diana Fryc: For sure. Okay, I can see that. Well, you do have this amazing title; vice president, transform brand and portfolio innovation. I know this might seem like a silly question, but for some of them more mid-size, or even smaller brand owners that might be listening, maybe you could talk about how they’re the same and how they’re different maybe and how they interact with each other?
Ciara Dilley: Okay, and then I think it’s the transform brand portfolio, as you mentioned, and it is what we call our healthier snacking brands. Some of the lovely brands like Smart Food popcorn, or now people have veggie chips, or popcorn or their fruit snack. A lot of brands and people don’t even realize Frito has, which is a good thing. So we’re very much the smaller brands in the organization we just don’t stop here, we’re looking to grow. We have so much runway, so much growth potential and I think within that innovation plays a big role within it because a lot of the time the way to grow these brands is by innovating, is by bringing new flavors and new products.
So this is just incredible synergy when you’re a smaller brand you’re seeking to grow and innovation can be one of the levers that you pull. So for me the two work very nicely together. Also, I think, I will say that innovation is like having your own little business, it’s like you’re a manager of your own business. Just like if you’re working on your own business, like many of your listeners are a small brand, you have to know everything and I think that makes you a better business person. So I think the skills for growing a small brand, and being an innovation leader are very, very similar.
Diana Fryc: That’s very interesting. I interviewed Janet Lee, who I believe worked indirectly with you, or maybe even directly for you few weeks ago.
Ciara Dilley: I do believe that she’s a wonderful lady. I worked with her in Europe; a lovely lady.
Diana Fryc: She’s pretty great and she has a similar mindset and I’m curious if that’s just more kindred spirits in the business or if you’re influencing, you may not even know I know that and we’ll be talking about this in a little while somehow. But I know that you pride yourself in being able to influence the people that you work with, in the organization and kind of getting people moving in a very powerful and positive direction. So I don’t know if she was swept in with that, or if she already came with that mindset or anything. But I just thought that that mindset was awesome.
Ciara Dilley: Yes. I’m thrilled to hear you talked to Janet. She’s a wonderful lady and I think yes, people who are passionate about small brands and about innovation, tend to have very similar approaches. You have to be entrepreneur, you have to be scrappy, you have to understand all areas of the business, but you can’t just sit in an ivory tower and put lovely brand marketing ideas, you have to know what does the consumer think of that? What is the retailer thinks of it? Can I make it? Can I make it and make money on this? But I think that makes you a better whatever your specialist, it makes you a better marketer; it makes you a better supply chain or a finance expert when you understand the 360 of the business. And it’s interesting, because in both of these areas, I was only joking about this to our bearer team this morning, I highly encourage my team to think of their brands as their own business. And I always say to them, it isn’t your money. When you go to spend, whether it’s marketing money, or when you go to launch a new innovation and pick up your resources from your team do often think would you do this if it was your business? Would you invest this money? Would you pull on this resource if it was your business? And I just think it makes for much, much better business decisions and ultimately, I think the right decision for the brand. So I think that business ownership mindset is incredibly similar for helping stacking more brands as well as for innovators.
Diana Fryc: Okay. Well, so we’re talking innovation here and you mentioned it’s been in, I don’t know if it’s key competency or responsibility. But I see innovation as being an important part of your job history. Is it just something that you’re excited about? Is that part of your DNA? Is that coming up with the big idea of coming up with a products?
Ciara Dilley: It’s so interesting Diana because as I said, at the start, I sort of fell into marketing from law school and then I fell into innovation almost when Ken O’Brien said, we have this kind of innovation for Europe role and probably female role and I went, “I can’t do that. I’ve never specialized innovation before.” But I fell in love with this and I think it’s for two reasons. One is the part you mentioned about innovation is the lifeblood of most consumer facing companies. Consumers want to get excited and engaged with new ideas and new things and innovation can bring that through. And sometimes it’s massive, big breakthrough ideas like a new brand or a whole new platform but also it can also be the simpler things. It can be things that just excite consumers like flavors, or on smart food popcorn. At the moment, we’ve just done a fun Captain Crunch summer berries line, and now we’re doing full seasonal flavors and consumers just love that because it gives a little bit of excitement in what sometimes a dull and boring sector or boring shopping trip. So I think there are many things and there’s many types of innovation that I love to work on. But I do also think that it’s one of those things that if you are 360, business minded, if you’d like to see the whole picture, like we talked about not working in silos, working with different functions, having a holistic business approach. I think it suits me; it fits my skill set because I love how the whole thing comes together. And I also think for small business owners out there, innovation is so critically important for how they grow their business. Most of them will have turned up with an innovative idea. Sure, if you don’t do it a own company, you believe that you’re bringing something new and distinctive to the marketplace.
I do think that the watch at this is, though that there is a danger, you can always use innovation. We always do that with some of our brands. 80% of our sales goes through one format, not multiple. So off the top 80% of our sales is our crisps, we have a lovely profit as well, but much, much smaller. I think you also have to be very choice full as you innovations a small company as to what’s the right pace? What’s the consumer ready for? How much do you need over a certain period of time? Sometimes actually, the growth comes from just focusing on what you do brilliantly in your original product. I think you have to be very strategic about innovation and not get too swept up in the excitement and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons at the right time.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, you can say so much about innovation that I hadn’t really considered; even the mindset, the person that appreciates innovation, or thrives off of innovation is really that person that likes to see the business in a more holistic way. I’m thinking to all the people that I’ve worked with before that have innovation as part of the response. It’s absolutely true. These are the people some of the smartest people ever, not because they have a subject matter expertise here, but because they have the visit, they can see things from 30,000 feet and this is a very great insight I hadn’t even considered.
Ciara Dilley: And you know what’s interesting on that one as well is I’ve worked with, because of innovation, you work with so many different people, often you work with the most blue sky, progressive design, agency thinkers, and then you work with the guy in the factory who’s trying to help you work out; how do we engineer this product? How do we make it happen? And the thing I always find fascinating is that it’s super important to bridge that gap. Sometimes my biggest frustrations are when I’m working with an Uber creative and that’s their job. But if they can see at least a glimpse into how the idea comes to life, all the great thinking in the world will never get it out into the market. So that’s why I think it’s so important to have that mix of people, but also people who are humble enough. And I think great innovators are humble, humble enough to understand my ideas aren’t worth anything that paper, that risk or grown up, unless they can come to life in the marketplace. There is nothing exciting because in between, there’s loads of problem solving and creativity in enabling these things to come to life in the marketplace. So I think that’s why it’s a fun place to work.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, and you get a lot of organizational buy in too when you bring those collective groups together when our team is doing, when we’re involved in innovation workshops and organizations are typically perplexed when we say okay, we’d like somebody from sales represented, somebody from operations represented, we would like all of these everybody that would touch innovation involved. And half the times there are people who aren’t typically involved are a little bit bent out of shape; they don’t understand that’s not my area of expertise and you come out of this workshop after three or four days, and they’re bought in to the innovation. First of all, there’s no need to sell them because they’ve been there through this kind of Genesis process but then a lot of the hurdles that you run into, after you come up with the big idea have already been discussed in the room at the same time. So there’s a cost and time savings, it’s really great way to kind of move something forward actually quickly and cost effectively. But it doesn’t seem so in the moment, particularly if you’re an organization that’s not done it that way before.
Ciara Dilley: Exactly, and another thought that comes to mind I hear you talk about that is there’s also a lot of opportunity for co-creation with retail partners because that’s finding more and more that retailers are saying us to bring the innovation sooner. Let us see it sooner. Let us get input into what you’re developing what you’re really on, because there is nothing worse than us getting to a finished product and you rocking up to a target or Publix or Walmart going, they’re like really? And we’ve wasted all this time and resource. And so I think particularly for small businesses, I think if you’ve got some great partners maybe more than the natural challenge etc. I have heard so much from the retailer saying get us involved earlier we would like to be your support, your insight into your eyes and ears as to how to make this happen. So I think that’s an important angle as well.
Diana Fryc: So kind of moving a little bit down more that path then now specifically at Frito Lay, is there something in the Frito Lay environment that is different and more exciting than what you came from? Is it the size of the organization that allows you to just have more opportunities?
Ciara Dilley: You know what I never benefited at it from everywhere I’ve worked in the past.
Frito is an incredibly large and successful organization. But it is the most humble place I’ve ever worked. People there splash every single bag of chips that we sell, and they feel personally engaged in the winds and the responsibility they have to the organization, to their shareholders, to employees and to their own colleagues and families. It is truly like a family business where people really believe in what the organization is trying to do and they take very seriously the role that they play in making it happen, which is wonderful. So what that brings is an incredibly agile way of working and incredibly hungry, incredibly humble, and a real spark a real sort of, if you come up with a good idea, and you want to make it happen, you can make it happen. Sometimes early challenges with too many good ideas and it’s like, how do you focus? How do you prioritize, but it is an organization that can do, make it happen, we can make a difference. And that’s not just; of course, it’s very much about the sales of the products and how much we sell and how much profit. But there is a beautiful side to that. But it’s very much around the people, the employees, the shareholders and the community. It’s an organization I mentioned at the start, I’m based in Dallas and the work that the teams do in Dallas and the community in Dallas, and then our teams all over the US and our own communities. Just incredible, it just blows my mind, the goodwill of the people in the company. So there is a special magic about the place that really inspires me and makes me want to do more and do better every day.
Diana Fryc: Well, I’m like listening to all of this, you’ve got your innovation background, you’re in this kind of humble, we can do it, we can make an impact organization and then we see things like Stacy’s Project and women made kind of pop up out of that organization. A re these the kinds of initiatives that you envisioned or are they the types of ways that you guys are making an impact beyond the product beyond the shareholder?
Ciara Dilley: Absolutely, unlike their oodles of them. We’ve a PepsiCo foundation that does amazing work with a food for good team that focuses on underprivileged families and particularly supporting children across America. Amazing, amazing initiatives and these ones to the woman made in the rise are very much around our diversity agenda and they’ve come very much from a desire, almost a multi-faceted desire Diana. One was to really work at how do we recruit and retain more women into our organization? It’s a challenge. I think every company globally has no more so in the US at the moment. But we also wanted to make sure that how do we as an organization, support women in the community. And then finally, we realized that more and more consumers are saying to us, we want you as a company and as a brand to show up and have a voice and have a statement. We trust some of the more established institutions as waned over many years and we believe you should use your voice for some good. So as you look at those three areas of society, our community and our internal employees and of our brands, these two initiatives came up and they’re very intertwined woman made is very much around how do we stand as an organization and bring together as many of the initiatives we can that support the economic empowerment of women, particularly focused on small business owners. And we have a number of initiatives, corporately, through procurement, through suppliers, through communities where we do that and woman made us how we show up just with one voice to make the noise, make more and more noise for these women. And then Stacy’s Rise is very similar, but it’s done with a brand lens. So it’s very much Stacy Wallace. Stacey Madison was a funder, she was an amazing woman. She’s still involved in the brand to this day. She’s super bright of the work on the program and it’s very much about how do we as a brand that sells in supermarkets every day across America? How do we use our brands and our product and our voice to support female founders? So there is a lot of integration between the two.
Diana Fryc: It seems like they work together from the quick research that I’ve done out there, that kind of feed into each other quite naturally and it’s intentional that way, correct?
Ciara Dilley: Totally. The reason there are two programs and somewhat divided up to this; one is woman made is more bringing together our broader corporate initiatives, which a brand couldn’t really do, because if we were doing for example, we might have a government policy that we’re working with to support more female business owners that would naturally fit with a brand for example.
Versus the seasons brands can do more on the ground. But the theory behind it, a lot of our partners are common. So we work with a wonderful company called Hello Alice. And Hello Alice supports the hosts, the woman made information resources on their online platform. But they also are our key source for when we run our rise competition every year helping us to adjudicate, helping us find the funders, helping us and devise the right resources and programs, etc. So there are a lot of synergies going on between the two.
Diana Fryc: Great, I just like that. I know when I reached out to you specifically; it was about Stacy’s Project and when we were talking, I was giving you this like, not so secret mission was not just to raise the visibility and give a platform to just women but that I had a particular interest to raise the awareness of women of color biopic, LGBTQ and disabled women leaders, who are mostly not visible, particularly in CPG conversations. But then also, I hate to pick on it because I work in this very specific part, but in the naturals industry or the better free categories, they’re mostly invisible. And so when I saw Stacy’s Project, I was excited. I was just excited about that it existed and that it was coming from ‘the bad guys’ as the naturals industry sometimes pits these. We lump all the multinationals as ‘the bad guys’ because it’s the way it works in business. But it was just so exciting for me and I thought, okay, I just want to learn more about it, and why you are particularly excited about that?
Ciara Dilley: Yes, I think you’ve hit on a few interesting points down, but let me touch on them and then bring them together. The statistic that is out there at the moment that I think we might be almost at 3% now of VC funding going to small businesses owned by women is just horrifying. It’s horrifying. Every time I say it, I still have to stop myself because I’m so horrified. In the US in 2020 it’s disgraceful. And I use that word purposefully. And the fact that offered 2.2% goes to women of color is even more horrifying, and particularly when you look at what’s happening in society at the moment. So there is a very real tension that we are putting front and foremost at the heart of this program. This isn’t about doing a nice brand program to make us feel good. This is about that tension frustrates and horrifies and angers us as a company and as a team and we want to make a difference. I think that the other element, which I’ve commuted to the party a bit, like you talked about is the area of hide that then shows up in the natural industry, particularly in food and beverage. And this was something that, again, so important when we get involved in these programs as large organizations to seek to learn and be humble enough to know that was we may not have all the data we must understand as best as we can to ensure that when we show up, we’re bringing the budget right initiative.
So I got more and more engaged in what was going on in the natural industry, it did surprise me like you, Diana, because I think in some ways from the outside, you would have this view that the naturals industry would be much better at this area, because it’s more progressive. And isn’t it more on the coasts, and isn’t it more open to societal issues and challenges. And as you see, when you look under the hood, that’s not necessarily the case. And one of the interesting groups I’ve come in contact with, and again, we’re trying to leave or working with is a group of the Jedi collaborative. They’ve been set up by an amazing group of people, men and women who are incredibly engaged in changing the face of the naturals industry and making it more diverse and more inclusive.
And I’m very lucky to be on that foundation, that partner and group as we seek to do that, because that is a very important agenda. And then that actually translates very nicely into one of the criteria we have, as we choose our participants in the rise program and woman made is that they are contributing to society in a positive way. By the way, that’s easy to find with women, because all women, all the businesses we come into contact with, they’re doing it, they’re just amazing. And almost they’re doing that even realizing they’re doing it because they just know it’s the right thing to do. So I think that angle is super interested, the more we can support these female businesses, the more goods they will do and the more they will change the face not only of the naturals industry, but indeed of how businesses show up today because they all have things like sustainability giving back and diversity at the heart of what they do. So I think that we’re learning more about how all of these things come together. How horrifying the stats are, but yet how with supporting and leading into the right areas we can make a difference.
Diana Fryc: The Jedi collaborative are they involved in the potluck. There’s a potluck.
Ciara Dilley: A potluck is another initiative knows. So I think it’s an independent issue set up by a group of experts from a particular university because some of my own colleagues are involved. And we’ve been sharing it out with particular, our employees of color are saying this is a great resource, get involved here as well.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, and if we were to say like, I mean, I think you’ve touched on a number of things within the Stacy’s rise. Would you guys call it the rise project internally now?
Ciara Dilley: Yeah, Stacy’s rise.
Diana Fryc: Is there like the ones stated mission that Stacy’s is about, we talked about a number of initiatives. But what’s like the single stated goal of it?
Ciara Dilley: Our focus is very much on supporting female founders to grow their businesses. That’s very much our heart. And we do it in three ways. We do it through mentorship, we do it through financial support, and we do it through provision of expert advice. Because through our years of working in this space, and with these groups, and with these women, we’ve learned from them, they are the three areas that are one most important, but two are often the hardest to gain access to.
Diana Fryc: For sure. Do you have a secret goal or a secret wish of the program? I know there’s the state of business. But does Ciara have a specific, I hope this happens, or I hope it has this kind of impact.
Ciara Dilley: Yes, I mean, there’s two for me. One is I passionately believe that by supporting more women to grow their businesses and become economically empowered, our society, our communities, the world would be a better place. And I’ve learned a lot from the amazing Melinda Gates has written the most wonderful book, which is all based around that theory. But women are empowered, they can change the world and they do. So that’s mine, I truly believe in that at every step we take, I think is in towards that goal is super important. The other area where the secret goal is around how we engage and excite our internal teams around this initiative because we talk a lot nowadays about recruitment and retention of the best people, we talk a lot about how hard it is to get the younger generation, we talk a lot about how people want more from their jobs. And in particular, they seek more purpose. That’s what makes them loyal nowadays, and that makes them stay and indeed, that makes them deliver the best work of their lives.
So I really believe having seen how we use and harness our employees, as part of the program that excites them, engages them. They’re so proud, they’re so proud to bring their knowledge and expertise. They’re so proud that their company is doing this. It makes them feel part of something bigger when they’re sitting there scratching their heads going, how do I make a difference? Like these big societal problems, they feel so big and so daunting, how can I show up and if I can use initiatives like this to give them an opportunity to do this type of work and make a change, it’s amazing them, and you should see what our teams putting above and beyond the ask every single time to support these women. They become so personally engaged with the women and their businesses and their stories. I have stories with people as we design packaging who have introduced them to Kroger buyers, who have introduced them to Amazon, who have gone out into stores with these women for days on end to help them understand the retail environment. Every time I ask somebody, I’ve got a female founder, she’s having a problem in this area. Yes, yes, yes. Our people say yes all the time. So that’s the secondary that I personally believe will have just a massively positive impact on our company and our employees.
Diana Fryc: I wish I could be like a more intimately involved in that, like the energy inside of me like it’s probably a lot of you too. Like you just exude this passion and it’s really easy to just be like okay, whatever you want. Just call me. I wanted to say something about this and we talked about this in our prep call. I don’t have this necessarily in my notes and so I wonder if you can answer this. Something that struck me is so powerful about being at Frito Lay you choosing to be at a multinational versus going to say a founder owner startup and doing the same work there and what I’m hearing from you saying is these employees here internally want to be passionate about what they’re doing but here they are at Frito, I’m just going to say here they are at Frito Lay, the rest of the world is seeing Frito Lay who’ve never worked there, they just see Frito lays a multinational.
And there was something very specific that you said. And I don’t know if you’d remember it about why you’re at Frito Lay versus somewhere else. Maybe you could articulate that a little bit more.
Ciara Dilley: I can remember it. No problem, Diana, because I think I say it every second day of my life when I’m talking to people, because I use that story to try and encourage and excite others within the company that you could make a massive difference, despite, or because you work for such a big corporate. So, it comes back to the story I tell them, I’ve heard it so many times as I was doing a talk one time for our global supply chain. And I was telling them this entrepreneurship work that we do, we have in addition to female focus, we also have a greenhouse accelerator program that helps small businesses in the startup space, the natural food barrier. I was telling them about all these programs. And they said what you said, is the question was posed to me which there was, why do you stay in a big organization like this, you’re obviously interested in healthier eating, you’re interested in entrepreneurial work. And I had a moment of realization standing there, and I went, you know why I stay? Because I can make more of a difference in a large company like this with all the resources I have, and the support I have from senior leadership from rolling lip worth, our CEO, to Steven Williams, or CEO and Frito, lay, every single one of them say yes, every time I ask them, can I do this? Can we try this? Can we lead in here? Can we spend more money every single time, so the resources I have at my disposal to harness are incredible.
I could never do what I do in a smaller startup world. And I think it’s not about we do this and they do this, I think harmonization of us, the startup world does all these amazing things. We do something different, but also driven by a similar desire. Look at the magic we can have when we come together. So I just got myself lucky every day that I have been wonderful resources, these people, these finances, this expert knowledge that can help to fuel these smaller founders and help them grow their businesses. And I always say, when women rise, we all rise not about women and men. It’s about us all together.
Diana Fryc: Absolutely. And as you know, one of the things that I I’m hoping to accomplish, by raising visibility of women and kind of getting our voices out there a little bit more women leaders, is the natural industry. Our superpower is education and innovation. And we know we can make the most amazing healthy foods on the planet. However, we’ve created a culture where financially we leave a lot of people out of the mix. And what I love hearing about the efforts that are happening at these multinationals is, you guys are building the bridge kind of backwards. So the naturals industry is over here. I think they’re starting to hear it, they’re slowly moving this way, how many $7 Kombucha do we need. And on this end, we’re moving people from fried foods, to baked foods to whatever healthy ingredients to functional like, as we come together, we’re working to help all of these families, most of them, families of color, who don’t have education, are not marketed to because nobody’s paying attention to them if they’re a particular financial space. So I love to hear that, okay, there’s an organization granted, it’s the Titanic or it’s a huge vessel. And so the turning takes longer, but the resources there, and it’s fantastic. I love it.
Ciara Dilley: Diana, and we’ve already talked a few times now, because I love what you’re saying, because that’s exactly one of the Jedi mind tricks we have is that, and again, it was probably six to nine months into the role where I realized, oh, goodness, hang on a second here now, we can affect massive change. And I truly mean that in how Americans snack. Now we can choose to take that in a certain direction or not. For a long time, I think Diana, there was a concern with organizations like ours and having worked in other CPGs are still the same, that it was very hard to do the mainstream, snacking, drinking breakfast whenever and the healthier. And I think, no, it’s actually all part of a journey. And it’s so incumbent on us to make sure that we’re meeting consumers here and now but also helping guide them into the future. And I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t gone to Expo west for many years and seeing amazing innovations but incredibly costly innovations but maybe if you lived in Cali and you could afford that drink, like your juice all day long, but I know we definitely couldn’t. And what I think is so exciting is how we can start to make healthier snacking more accessible to millions and millions of Americans and make it more available and more, from a cost perspective, make it more accessible.
And I think I’ve told you before one of our fastest growing customers is Dollar General. And there’s an amazing insights leads there called Angela. Angela is one of the brightest women I’ve ever worked with. And Angela talks about her shoppers intimately, and she knows them intimately. And she is as engaged in the healthier snacking agenda as our whole foods, but her angle is my shoppers want to eat better, because they can’t afford to be unwell. While the shoppers in whole foods may be saying, I need more kale juice, because I know that kale is really good for me, the shopper in Dollar General is going, I can’t afford to be unwell, particularly in this country. So both have needs for healthier living and healthier snacking. And I think we can help bridge that gap. And it’s the onus is on us. So I’m proud, I’m proud to say, we can do that. But I also take that super seriously Diana, like I take that opportunity and how fast we can get there very seriously, because the faster I can get more accessible, more affordable, healthier snacks into Dollar General, the more goods that we are doing, and the more we are helping, it’s not in a think manner at all. It’s not like we’re setting ourselves up to save the world with what we do, we’re very on the grind, we’re very humbled. But at the same time, there is, as you said, an enormous opportunity in front of us and we can take the lead on that.
And one of the other things we’re doing from a sustainable packaging perspective which sits on my team, that’s a massive opportunity as well, if we can lead the industry in bringing sustainable packaging to our snacking category, that’s massive. And we know it’s up to us to do it because we’re the biggest, we take it super seriously. It’s massive behind our agenda and we have a team of warriors internally who do everything they can night and day to make that happen. Because if we can move the industry, wow, just watch what happens in the change that can come. Really big opportunities in our size and our resource, but doing it in a very humble way.
Diana Fryc: Well, you talked about the health component. And I always get emotional when I think of those like to hear something like we need to eat healthier, because we can’t afford to get ill is one side makes me furious on the other side makes me very sad. But to have that visible, so that everybody can hear it, I think is really important as we’re going. If we’re working on helping everybody become healthy, let’s be clear on who everybody is. But when you’re talking about health, let’s talk about COVID and implications on business and households right now. You talked a little about Stacy’s Rise project to small business, innovative products, innovative brands, what sort of functional impact or financial constraints are you seeing on these business owners right now? And are you seeing it impacting businesses of color more than non?
Ciara Dilley: Yes, I mean, what a year, and it’s almost hard. I sort of Diana don’t even know the words to describe this year, because I also think it’s a very personal journey, depending on how people have been impacted financially, personally, health wise, etcetera. So I just think it’s so important that we acknowledge the year has been very challenging, and yet very different for everybody as they try and navigate through it. From what we’ve learned from the work that we’ve been doing, we’ve had to pivot the rise program very fast, because we realized through our partners on Hello Alice, that more business owners and women in particular, were being disproportionately impacted. It’s hard to run a small business, particularly when you’re small skin, you’re already getting up and running. And all of a sudden, it’s even harder to access production facilities and can’t talk to a buyer, nobody’s talking to you, you can’t meet people in person. A lot of the things that were fundamental to growing a small business all of a sudden stopped and they didn’t have the backup, they didn’t have the financial security, or the scale to rely on that for a few months.
So we realized very quickly they needed cash and we increased the events that we were giving. We went from five vendors to 15 which in itself may not seem huge, but referrals was obviously a big jump in the program. And we also increased the focus on our online resources for woman made and rise through Hello Alice so that we were getting more and more information out there, but the resources that were available to help carry through. What we also did then, we always, always have had on Stacy’s a focus on diversity. So we have clear criteria that X percent of our finalists must be women of color, that they must be from diverse backgrounds, etc. and how they decide to show up is very important to us.
But through the racial conversations and challenges that we’ve seen over the summer period, which are, as we all know, nothing new, they’ve just been exponentially highlighted, because of all of the things that have happened, we decided we needed to do more there. So we added another 15 grants for black female founders, we found the most amazing group of women, oh, they’re amazing and their brands and their products are amazing. And what we’ve done there is we’ve tailored the program and another amazing partner, we just find all these super good partners. So Cameka Smith is the owner of and the Boss Network. And she has an organization that focuses specifically on black female founders. So Cameka is going to run all the mentoring for those 15 that she understands better than anybody the challenges and needs of the black female founder. So there are a few examples of I guess, how we show not knowing how challenging it’s been and how we’re trying to lean in and do even more.
The other thing I’d say we’ve done is we’ve pivoted quite a bit the content series. So we do a webinar series, which is linked to our expertise angle that I mentioned, and we’ve been clear on that this year, a lot of it is focused on the channels that are up and running. So for example, e-commerce, e-commerce is doing brilliantly at the moment, the penetration of online shopping has just gone, exponentially grown with US, which is actually quite behind other markets globally. And we’ve been helping and supporting the women to improve their e-commerce and visibility, their websites, their click throughs, their understanding of how you use Amazon or Instacart where relevant etcetera, and they’ve seen huge growth in that area of their business. So we’ve tried to make sure we tailor the program to meet the challenges that they’re having at the moment. And in our little way, just hopefully help them to keep the lights on over these difficult few months.
Diana Fryc: I love that because as you and I have discussed, and so many people are discussing, this is not just you and I being brilliant together. But there’s people across the world that are talking about this. Black women, Latino women, native first tribe women, just people with disabilities, I think as another group of people that aren’t really beyond invisible right now. They’re not feeling heard. They’re not feeling supported. And I know that for you, and is it for Frito Lay as well, I mean, it feels like it from what you’re saying like this is something that you can do. This is how you can help. And it’s important to you to support families and businesses, by innovation, business support, maybe talk about that for a second.
Ciara Dilley: Yeah, I mean, it’s hugely important, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that even in today’s society, women still bear the disproportion amount of the juices within whether it be within a traditional family setup of 2.2 kids. So whatever, whether it be caring for elderly parents, and helping in your community, it’s just fact it’s not an emotional thing. It’s just fact and women tend to bear more of those responsibilities even today. So when you then go into the situation, you and I started talking about it, but quarantine and no schools and not being able to access LGB relations, or in minority communities or communities that are socially and economically deprived, the impact is so much greater. And these women, every group you just missed and more have had to bear the brunt of that even more. And that’s something we are on the programs and also as a company incredibly aware of. So a lot of our foundation money has been channeled into those areas and a lot of our foundation money has been channeled into those communities, and particularly into supporting women in those communities who we know need that support even more than ever.
So it’s a double down. It’s also double down for us on our employee group. We are incredibly conscious of the role that women play within our employees, and how they also need disproportionate support at the moment. So I’m going to give you one small example of an amazing initiative. We have a lot of senior women in our sales organization which we’re beyond proud of. And we call them our regional vice presidents, they look after Salesforce, thousands of people and they brought in a number of key initiatives to support the women on their teams. Whether it be double jobbing, whether it be double job sharing, whether it be taking some time out, whether it be changing your hours but not just leaving it to you to flex but actually saying, okay, so from the hours of 10 to four, you’re not going to work because you go to work early morning and late evening whatever works for you. We will make sure your backfield, we will make sure there’s somebody there to help you out. So it’s not just nice words like but of course we support flexible working, of course you can do what you want, but it’s actually putting resources in the right places to support it, because we highly valued the female population, our sales teams, and we don’t want to lose that over this time.
So it gladdens my heart when I see some of the things that the team are doing going above and beyond, to make sure that we’re supporting the women in our team and in our organization. And I think that pays back because when you see your organizations helping you like that, then it inspires women like me to go, well then how do I bring that into the community? How do we lean in and get that support into the community as well? So there’s a lot of great initiatives going on both ways.
Diana Fryc: Well, our time is always almost up. I want to be sensitive of your time, but there are three last questions, I’d like to ask you that aside from can we go have a drink?
Ciara Dilley: I know, I know very soon, hopefully very soon.
Diana Fryc: You’ve shared so much fun facts about Frito Lay that I think people outside of Frito Lay probably aren’t aware of but I always like to ask our guests if there’s some sort of interesting historical factoid or something that somebody could share, did you know this about Frito Lay or about a specific product, or about the anything that you’d like to share with people that could just be a fun bow on your Frito Lay conversation.
Ciara Dilley: Yeah, I want to take it to PepsiCo fact, because when you asked me this question, we thought about it, I thought, there’s a lady who was the CEO or previous CEO, PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, and her story is fascinating. And I just think it’s a lovely story in light of what we’re talking about this morning and supporting women. So she was born in India, she had one sister, her mom never worked because that wasn’t a dumb thing. But her mother encouraged her and her sister hugely and Indra made her way in the US. And she always used to tell us the story of her first interview, I think she had to borrow a shoe. She went to a secondhand store to buy a shoes. And the shoes, the trousers didn’t only stop to her ankles. And that wasn’t involved in those days. It might be now, but it’s not then. And she didn’t get the job interview. And she tells the story of how the next, she said to her Professor college, put the suit on. And I thought this is what Westerners did. And he said to her, “Wear what you’re comfortable in.” And she wore a sari for her next interview, she got the job. And I just think it’s a lovely reminder of this idea of being yourself and being your authentic self. We talk about that in very lofty tones these days. It means that’s a lovely reminder.
And the other one she tells all the time is, as she grew older, her mother came to live with her and help her raise her daughters. And the day she got appointed CEO for Pepsi, she came running home, probably chauffeur driven home when you become the CEO, but anyway, she came home and her mom was there making the dinner. And she said, “Mom, I’ve got some great news.” And her mother was like, “We’ve no milk, no milk, I don’t care what your great news is, go get the milk, and then come back and tell me.” She said, “I did have to go get the milk. And then I came back and told her mom, I’ve just been made CEO of Pepsi.” And her mom said, “Well, that’s great, but in this house, you’re a mother, a daughter and a wife. And then you’re the CEO.” I just know those little anecdotes about and real women and the things that you face into and no matter how successful you are, there’s still a grounding there. And I think it’s so important Diana that people often get caught up in roles and titles and at the end of the day, I always think of it as I’m just a woman going through what every other woman is going through, trials and tribulations etcetera. And if I can show as human as I can, I hope that that will help other women feel, you can do the same.
Diana Fryc: Yes. I love it. How are you keeping yourself sane and centered these days?
Ciara Dilley: I have two crazy little boys. Maybe they’re the ones keeping me sane and centered and keeping up with them, that’s probably a big part of it. I think the other piece for me is them. Just engaging in areas that stimulate me, I mean, I found a lot more interesting people to read about I have to say Glennon Doyle. I don’t know if you read her amazing, Untamed book. Oh my goodness, Diana, you would fall in love with this. It’s just the most afforded for so many people this year, she published earlier in the year just before COVID. And it’s a remarkable book. It’s a remarkable book for women. But it’s also a remarkable book for men. I just would encourage everybody in anybody to read it. It’s one of those books that you never want to close, but at the same time, you could open every time and read a page and you get something from it. So Glennon Doyle Untamed, I follow her now and Instagram and she’s an incredibly positive influence I feel and I also love Trevor Noah, so I watched the daily show every night and I just think he’s a great guy.
My kids love him, like kids have this book, which we got them around the time of everything erupting, and the racial unrest and trying to explain to them as Irish kids growing up in the US what this means and what we all have to do. And we’ve got this book all about heroes, men and women who are heroes, and Trevor’s in the book, as a hero from South Africa, who had a challenging upbringing and look where he is today. So the boys sometimes, Trevor veers off a little bit on the language, so we have to sort of beat for that. But I love to watch Trevor every so often. So yeah, you find your people, you find your influences, and then you try and just get the balance right. And above and beyond just realize how incredibly fortunate we are to be safe and healthy, and able to do the things that you and I have just talked about in the last hour or so, that’s what keeps me going.
Diana Fryc: Tell me, Ciara, how do you want people to connect with you if they’re interested in talking about any of these initiatives further? Is LinkedIn the best way?
Ciara Dilley: It is, I love LinkedIn, I use it a lot. I’ve used it for years and years. And I’m using it even more at the moment to start wonderful conversations with people. So if anybody wants to join our rally cry part of our team become one of our warriors, we’re always trying to integrate and connect and just build our tribe to help more and more women.
Diana Fryc: Well, thank you so much for your time today. Ciara, I expressed yesterday, my absolute emotional, I tried to impact emotionally a little bit. It’s hard to translate. But I’m really great that I got to have this time with you. I look forward to our future conversations. And I hope you had fun.
Ciara Dilley: Thank you so much Diana, I’m really honored and humbled to be able to come along and I appreciate you giving the time to this amazing program to the amazing people who work on it and in particular to sort of getting the story of our female founders out there. And we always have so much fun when you and I talk.