NIB Career Q&A: Jeff Barry, Founder & President, Boston Organics (Speed Networking VIP 2014)

Jeff Barry We are so excited that Jeff Barry, Founder and President, Boston Organics is joining us as a VIP for our 7th annual Speed Networking evening on June 25th, 2014. We caught up with him to ask him a few questions and find out more about his journey as an impact professional.

How do you introduce yourself at a networking event (your personal elevator pitch)?
Hi, I’m Jeff Barry, the founder and President of Boston Organics. Boston Organics delivers fresh, organic produce and groceries to households and office break rooms throughout the Boston area.

What inspired you to pursue a career with positive social or environmental impact?
I had always wanted to combine my interests in small business and environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Growing up, my dad had his own small, family business, I was in the Peace Corps, I went to graduate school (Tufts) to study environmental economics and business. Also growing up in the 80s, socially responsible companies like Ben and Jerry’s and Tom’s Of Maine were becoming mainstream. They demonstrated that you could combine business and social responsibility. My experience in the Peace Corps further instilled that and it also made me realize that I as well as many of us in the US have an opportunity (and obligation) to make a living in a way that also benefits society/world. For various reasons, the country I served in, Comoros Islands, lacked the infrastructure to allow businesses to function without great challenges, and many people lived in poverty and could only focus on meeting their basic needs.

What’s the most interesting/most fun/most challenging aspect of your job?
Many rewarding aspects to the job: seeing our network of farms thrive/grow over the years; getting testimonials from happy customers who tell us how we directly help them live a more healthy lifestyle; seeing staff/employees/business grow.
Most fun: Food is fun and exciting. Always having access to great produce and learning new ways to prepare basic items.
Most interesting/challenging – So many challenges that are all very interesting…

  • Running a business that tries to be socially responsible, we are constantly reflecting and making sure we are doing the right thing. Becoming a certified B Corporation has been very helpful in providing guidance.
  • Quality control – working with produce, especially when it is organic and local is a constant never ending challenge.
  • Company culture – creating/maintaining a positive and healthy company culture takes constant work. As company and staff grows, it becomes that much more important.

What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
Philosophically, I would say go for it. Don’t be complacent. Figure out a way to follow your passion and try to make sure that whatever you are doing can be used as a building block. As a mission driven company, some of the most compelling job applicants are those that have demonstrated at some level a commitment to environmental sustainability (senior thesis, work-study, internship, volunteer work, etc).
On a practical level – gaining experience in the functional skills is always important. If it’s an office job you’re looking for, having experience in an office environment is helpful. Joining groups/organizations like Net Impact and Sustainable Business Network of Massachussets (SBN Mass) are great for networking.

What’s the best networking tip you’ve ever been given?
I don’t practice it enough, but when I have, it’s been very effective…. ASK. If you’re interested in meeting with someone or looking for advice, ask.

Places for Speed Networking 2014 are going fast! Sign up today and join us on June 25th to meet an amazing line up of VIPs and make connections with fellow Net Impact members – you never know where it could lead.

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