KFBS Founder Series - Becca Wright UNC MBA 21'
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Becca Wright and Piedmont Pennies Becca Wright was born and raised in North Carolina and attended UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad and studied Health Policy & Management in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She went to Deloitte Consulting after graduation in Washington, DC, and worked with federal and commercial clients helping solve their human capital and strategy needs. In her free time, she loves playing with her dog, learning golf, cooking, and grabbing drinks with friends. The UNC MBA 21' grad is also the owner of Piedmont Pennies, a snack company that builds community through good food. Pennies are handcrafted cheese crackers based on Becca's Grandbetty's recipe and are baked fresh in Charlotte, NC with local ingredients. Piedmont Pennies prioritizes its employees by paying fair and living wages, investing in its community by selling wholesale to local retailers, and donating to local nonprofits to support causes important to our Penny Pals. You can currently find Pennies online at PiedmontPennies.com and in 100+ retailers across 7 states. You'll see Becca sign with the signature "Stay Cheesin!".
Q&A with Becca Wright EVC: What qualities do you encompass that you think help foster an entrepreneurial spirit?
B.W: That's a good question. I would say curiosity, empathy, and a bias for action. I am curious about lots of things, which make challenges seem more like learning opportunities to gain knowledge and power, rather than obstacles. I am empathetic, I invest in relationships and connections that build mutualistic relationships and strong bonds with others who lift me up while I support him/her accomplish his/her goals. Lastly, I have a bias for action. I have a low risk-tolerance (because risks are more so opportunities in my mind), and I know that at the end of the day, I have one life, so I better get moving on the things I want to do!
EVC: What is a favorite KFBS memory?
BW: Oh there are several! Penny pinching (prepping the crackers) with my MBA classmates at Blue Dogwood Public Market at 9pm on a weeknight during COVID... it was the only way we could see each other and catch up, and they were so supportive of the venture early on. Also, handing out Pennies at beach week and celebrating graduation with my classmates. And finally, finishing Cami's finance exam, the last exam of Mod 1's week of finals, late at night and celebrating with my class outside McColl.
EVC: Why did you choose Kenan Flagler Business School and how has your education help to prepare you to run a business?
BW: I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School because of the community. The Carolina Way is to care for both your pursuits and those of your classmates' and support one another in accomplishing those goals, because together we are better. I felt that community at the Carolina Women in Business Conference as a prospective student, and I knew immediately this school would become a part of me and my story, not just a place to spend 2 years.
EVC: What about the UNC culture helped you get where you are today?
BW: The 2nd years counseled me in entrepreneurship and taught me a lot about the VC space through the VCIC competition and interview preparation. Faculty used relevant case studies to prove entrepreneurial lessons and best practices, such as Atul's Intro to Entrepreneurship and Shawn Munday's Entrepreneurship through Acquisition. And lastly, the administration plugged Piedmont Pennies at events and purchased them for their own gatherings, while also connecting me to alumni in the food and beverage space to help my company stay connected and thriving even after graduation.
EVC: What is your founder journey? Did you plan on becoming an entrepreneur when you came to KFBS?
BW: I never had an answer for what my dream job would be, because my dream job wasn't created yet! I came to Kenan-Flagler thinking I'd pursue technology, the likely move after years in Consulting, but after a summer internship at Facebook and several Entrepreneurship courses, I knew entrepreneurship is where I belonged.
EVC: What UNC/KFBS resources do you think could be helpful for students to utilize if they were interested in starting their own venture? BW: Take all the entrepreneurship courses you can. Plug into Launch Chapel Hill, the 1789 Venture Lab, CUBE, and Raleigh HQ. Speak with second years and recent grads in the space to build connections and seek advice. Start your venture during the program to take advantage of all the great resources at UNC and the free time you have as a student!
EVC: Were there any extracurriculars (competitions, clubs, etc.) that you recommend students participate in?
BW: VCIC for venture capital exposure. Carolina Startup Fellows internship through EVC Club if you need funding to start or work at a startup. EVC trek in the fall to visit recent grads and founders in entrepreneurship with Carolina ties.
EVC: Were there any classes or professors at KFBS that you found to be particularly helpful in starting or growing your career?
BW: Shawn Munday - ETA, Private Equity (Don't be scared of these courses, trust me, just try them). Atul Nerkar - Intro to Entrepreneurship. Ted Zoller - ELab. John Hand - Corporate Finance. Patrick Vernon - VCIC Fellows. Sharon Cannon - Communications.
EVC: How are you currently funding your business, and can you tell us a little about your financing strategy over the next 6-12 months? BW: We have bootstrapped since day 1 (Aug 2020). Won an NC IDEA SEED grant in the fall 2021, for $50,000 to help with expansion into our new kitchen and marketing. We are applying for debt capital to continue our growth and in house production to expand sales across the country.
EVC: Aside from securing capital, what are the top 3 challenges you and your business face today or in the future? BW: Hiring, strategic growth, supply chain EVC: What is next for your business?
BW: Helping the world Stay Cheesin' through new products and flavors :D
EVC: What is the best piece of advice you have personally received regarding your business and how have you acted on it?
BW: "GET IN THE KITCHEN!" Jill Willet gave me that advice during the Adams Apprenticeship program when I told her I wanted to start Pennies, but was afraid. She meant, roll up your sleeves, get to work, and stop worrying about the what ifs! She was right.
EVC: What other advice would you give someone who is considering starting their own business?
BW: It is normal to feel anxious about starting a new venture. It is normal to doubt yourself. That is how we've been raised in a society that prioritizes the scientific and academic approach to development... Have all the answers, THEN start... But... That's not the case in startup world. You need to get moving before you have all of the answers. Your startup cannot evolve into something great unless it is born in the first place, so get started, get to work, and watch your startup grow.
In what ways can we support your business? BW: Join us on the journey by following @piedmontpennies on social media, ordering online at PiedmontPennies.com, and purchasing from a Penny Partner retailer like Carolina Inn, Weaver Street Market, Sally Mack store, and South Unlimited in Meadowmont. As always, reach out if I can help you in any way! Stay Cheesin! -Becca Check Piedmont Pennies out on: