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Some members of Gompei’s Goat Cheese Team: Top row: Gabrielle Acquista 2023, Nat Mohn 2022, Ali Gannon 2022, Ethan Wilke 2023. Bottom row: MC Shea 2023, Rachael Mair 2021, Spencer McClellan 2022, Chris Guerrette 2022, Kaustubh Pandit 2022.

Like many other organizations, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Gompei’s Goat Cheese Team was forced to adjust their business practices in the face of COVID-19. The thriving goat cheese company, which began in 2013 as a major qualifying project, historically maintained Worcester businesses as their primary customers. But as COVID-19 forced storefront closings throughout the city, the goat cheese student-run team faced the challenge of keeping the company afloat.

In partnership with Westfield Farms of Hubbardston, Massachusetts, which produces several flavors of goat cheese, students manage the innovation, finance, operations, marketing and sales of Gompei’s Goat Cheese. Applying theory and practice learned at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the goat cheese team gains valuable hands-on business experience, notoriety for WPI’s entrepreneurial and innovative student body, and a sizable financial profit-which they donate to the institute in support of global project scholarships.

Team members recently explained how their education and experience helped them successfully pivot Gompei’s business practices in the face of COVID-19. “The common trait of WPI students is being adaptable to the situation at hand,” says chief executive officer Zoe Januszewsk, Class of 2022. “This meant that all GGC team members were able to look at the situation as a problem solving opportunity. I was so happy to see that members of GGC were able to face the unprecedented challenges and innovate to create solutions to the roadblocks we faced.”

“It feels as though we were given the perfect opportunity to prove that we, as a company run by WPI students, have the ability to succeed despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says chief innovation officer Ali Gannon, Class of 2022.

Chief Marketing Officer Rachael Mair, Class of 2021, added that problem-solving and group work experience gained at Worcester helped students to view the COVID-19 pandemic as a challenge the team could face together. Mair says, “The team-based project work infused in the WPI curriculum gave GGC team members the skills needed to effectively work as a group and tackle the challenges head on.”

The team successfully shifted their marketing and selling efforts from external outreach to the Worcester community, building partnerships with campus based organizations and connecting with students and parents through social media and creative virtual events. For example, the goat cheese team hosted cooking nights and trivia nights via zoom as a way to connect with customers. And because they could no longer conduct in-person sales calls, the team shifted their sales effort to campus by creating fundraising events in equal partnership with Greek Life organizations. 

The team also developed a monthly Gompei’s Goat Cheese newsletter as a way to keep connected with customers. Lastly, a major change occurred when the team added virtual team bonding nights to their schedules. “Our team prides itself on being a “family” and as it became difficult to bond as a team via Zoom, we began holding virtual team bonding nights to ensure we remained connected to each other,” added Mair.

As the local retail industry begins to reopen, the Gompei’s Goat Cheese sales team is reconnecting with Worcester businesses. Visit www.gompei.com for more information on the products.

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