A Chat With..Brian F. Wagner, Food Packaging Division

Name: Brian F. Wagner


Job title: Entrepreneur, Visionary, Strategist, Packaging Professional


Company: Wags Ventures, LLC


IFT Division(s) to which you belong: Food Packaging Division; IFT Cactus Section


How did you go about finding your current job?

After leaving my consultancy after 16 years, I went on sabbatical and built a personal mission and strategy, and focused on partnering with some of the most prominent innovators, people and companies I enjoy working with to bring their unconventional solutions to my clients. In addition, I continue to work with my consulting colleagues across the packaging value chain, coach and mentor, and serve on various boards.


What is your favorite perk and worst pitfall of your current job?

My favorite perk after 30+ years in the packaging profession, is sincerely helping individuals and organizations to grow and solve problems, and choosing who I want to work with – and being paid for the value I bring. Pitfalls…if I don’t bring real value, there will be no new work.


What’s the craziest experience you’ve had on the job so far?

Leading an innovation workshop for a new client, in a somewhat unfamiliar category, feeling the pressure to meet and exceed expectations – finishing the week realizing that I can apply my past experience, while stretching myself to grow in new directions. A crazy feeling of relief, satisfaction and enthusiasm about the future.


What do you wish people knew about your current job?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but is not as risky as many might think. My parents taught me hard work, integrity and honesty…Building a strategy, plan, and simple roadmap for success, being flexible enough to stray from the plan, learning to monetize the value of what I deliver and taking a sincere interest in helpings others, makes it almost easy.


How did you make your first dollar?

Mowing lawns and shoveling snow, growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. I still love Buffalo, the people and culture there — but love living and working from Scottsdale, AZ.


Why did you join an IFT Division?

In 2008, my professor, friend and eventual business partner, Dr. Mike Richmond, recommended I meet some folks in the Food Packaging Division. The connections in many cases became lifelong friends, mentors, advisors and connectors. The Food Packaging Division helped me to differentiate the majority of Packaging Professionals who joined more common, broad-based associations.


What is the best career advice you have gotten?

When I interviewed with Sara Lee Corp many years ago, the HR Director pointed out that I had jumped around a lot in my career (at that stage to 5 or 6 employers)….he said that was fine, but what one lesson did I learn from my parents, and one from each job. So, there are many. As I mentioned, from my parents, honesty, integrity and hard work. From my internship at IBM, “the best way isn’t always the right way.” General Foods and the Entenmann Bakery brothers, resourcefulness and an entrepreneurial spirit – just do it. Burger King, in an entrepreneurial foodservice, franchisee world, you can try often and fail fast – vs taking forever to test things. Carton Craft, “make haste, slowly.” Multisorb Technologies, the value of holistic design for modified atmosphere food packaging, understanding the food, packaging, processing and more. Sara Lee Bakery, realizing that while Sara Lee was the corporate brand, we were only a small division, challenged by few resources. Kellogg’s, the value of consumer insights and branding, specifically for packaging. PTIS…the value of being the owner, being resourceful and delivering value every day to clients.


It is impossible to separate one’s career from their personal life, so I recommend working to stay in balance, body-mind-spirit…Giving back is a major priority of mine…put others first, and never expect anything in return. Pay it forward is all I ask of others. That said, it is so humbling and gratifying to have had others reach back out to help me, unselfishly, throughout my journey. The students and professionals I coach and mentor, provide great satisfaction. In 2009, my daughter and I co-founded the ARK Angel Network in order to help youth through education, in Jamaica and the US. My church is a core part of my life. Family is everything…my wife, kids, their spouses, two grandkids, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc…wow, what a great ride so far!


What is your favorite food?

Spanakopita – thanks to my eldest sister Susan. (I am one of 6 kids, by the way)


What’s your favorite recipe?

Water, hops, barley = beer.


You can connect with Brian in IFT’s online community, IFT Connect, on LinkedIn, Twitter, or email him at brian@brianwagner.me. Brian would also recommend checking out these additional websites: www.arkangelnetwork.org and www.themightyshed.com


Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).

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