March 28, 2017
Noel Leuzarder, a 2011 MBA graduate of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When deciding her career path prior to earning her undergraduate degree at Centenary University in Hackettstown, New Jersey, the New Jersey native knew marketing was the perfect function to foster both her creative and entrepreneurial sides.
Formerly working for Crossmark and Novartis Consumer Health, Leuzarder lives in White Plains, New York, and is the Associate Manager of Shopper Marketing for Walmart, Inc. and Sam’s Club at PepsiCo. But that’s just one hat. This marketing expert is also the co-owner of a successful, small, innovative business – Light & Sweet Coffee Candle Co.
In 2016, Light & Sweet Coffee Candle Co. was one of 20 “Young and Innovative” companies selected to participate in the 2016 New York Coffee Festival and featured as a must-have product of 2016 in Women’s Day and in Buzzfeed’s “Buy Me That.”
Read her Q&A below to learn more about her life in the MBA program, PepsiCo and as a flourishing small business owner.
- After earning your undergraduate degree in marketing, why did you decide to earn your MBA at WVU?
- Describe your PepsiCo role as Associate Manager of Shopper Marketing for Walmart Inc. and Sam’s Club.
- What is it you love most about the marketing field and specifically your job at PepsiCo?
- What inspired you to start the Light & Sweet Coffee Candle Company? How did you come up with that idea?
- What makes your business so unique?
I knew it was necessary. I knew the trends were that companies, in order to promote above certain levels, needed you to have a MBA. I also knew that people who have gone and worked while working part-time on a MBA, and it’s very difficult. Since I wanted to be able to focus on my career the moment I started, I knew that if I split myself, it would be a lot more difficult. So, the program was a perfect fit. B&E was a perfect fit. I loved the area. I loved Morgantown, and it just worked. To be able to start and finish within 14 months, it was ideal.
I’m responsible for our carbonated soft drinks business here at PepsiCo, which consists of Mountain Dew portfolio, Pepsi portfolio and a portfolio we call House of Brands, which is a joint venture between us, DPSG and our Mist Twist portfolio. It’s really an exciting role. For these brands, any programs that we run from January to December each year, it is my responsibility to identify what programs will be most impactful and help us to meet both the customer of Walmart and Sam’s Club objectives and our objectives, and then to develop innovative ways to execute these in-store. So, it’s really about taking what we do as a brand team and then translating that to the store so that we’re focused on our shoppers. It’s about the shoppers at Walmart and Sam’s, what’s the best communication, and what’s the best program to get them to engage in our products.
For me, it’s the creativity. You really have the opportunity to think outside the box, try different technologies and program activations that haven’t been tried before. It’s a lot of test-and-learn with the understanding that sometimes you’re going to fail and sometimes you’re going to succeed. You get to be super creative in how you execute, but you also have to be creative in building the actual creative. It’s developing these marketing creative and key visuals from scratch that then allow us to lift and shift that throughout the program in Walmart and Sam’s Club.
I’ve always been motivated to start something from scratch, specifically a business. As an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to work with a number of small businesses in developing business plans and marketing plans and helping businesses grow from scratch. My father is an entrepreneur. So, having that influence and being able to experiment with it in my undergraduate degree, I just knew at some point I wanted to own my own business.
My younger sister and I were chatting about how we would like open a business together, kind of for the relational aspect of it as well. We were at the Barnes and Noble in Morgantown, and we were talking about how much we love coffee. They had candles in one of their sections and we thought, ‘Oh my goodness, imagine if there was something that was a coffee candle.’ It just kind of clicked. We looked at each other and were like, ‘Wait, we’ve never seen coffee candles.’
We started looking them up and we noticed people were making coffee scented candles, but they weren’t making coffee scented candles that looked and smelled like types of coffee. They all were your standard mason jars with a coffee bean integration, but it wasn’t actually something I think I’d buy. So, we decided to teach ourselves how to make candles. It took about three months to get it right. And we launched with the hopes that other people might be interested in it and, my goodness, it took off.
It’s a quarter turn on existing products. It’s something relatable. It feeds into a passion. Coffee is no longer just about your caffeine kick in the morning. Coffee is about the experience, and people savor that experience. When they can’t get that experience, a lot of times, it’s very disappointing. We’re tapping into nostalgia, and we’re creating a product that in a sense already exists, but we’re doing it differently than other people have done it before. That’s really where the catch is.