Greg O'Neill

MBA '92

Co-owner and Co-founder
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread, & Wine

What do you do professionally?

Along with my life and business partner, Ken Miller, I am co-owner and co-founder of Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread, & Wine and our family of businesses. We have four specialty food and wine shops in Chicago along with two wine bar restaurants. We also have a wholesale cheese business to over 100 restaurants and hotels and an online e-commerce store that ships nationwide.

I have gotten very involved in my industry and my community, having served as the president of the American Cheese Society, which is the largest industry association for cheese in the United States. I also serve on the board of the Specialty Food Association, also the largest industry association of its kind in North America. For those familiar, this is the organization that annually produces the Fancy Food Shows in NYC and San Francisco.

Greg and Ken at storefront

In my role with Pastoral, I serve as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and I also head up procurement/purchasing. My partner serves as CFO, CTO, head of HR, and head of the physical plant. So we are basically ying and yang! View a Citi commercial Pastoral was recently featured in.

Greg and Ken

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I love the variety of things that occur in my day; I get to apply my skills to an industry that fuels my personal passion. As a marketing guy who built brands for a lot of big companies like Colgate-Palmolive, Motorola, and Verizon, it is especially gratifying to build and nurture your own brand. Oh yes, and working with amazing makers of cheese, wine, charcuterie, etc., from some of the most beautiful places on Earth isn’t exactly rough. Business trips are a joy. My global business career actually helped inspire this business so travel has always been central.

Greg and Ken on Gourmet Retailer magazine cover

What is the biggest challenge you face?

As with most small businesses, it always looks easy from the outside in. This industry has a tough P&L and cash flow is always a challenge. We leave big Corporate America to focus on the passions and the subject matter we love, but we still spend way too much time on logistics and HR!

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?

It is really hard to pick a favorite place because our business is all about the producers and the origins of the great products we sell. That said, attending the Slow Food World Cheese festival in Piemonte, Italy was amazing. Our regular visits to Vermont, Wisconsin, and Northern California’s Sonoma, Napa, and Marin re-charge our batteries. The best ever trip was our car trip through the Netherlands, Belgium, Champagne, Burgundy, Isle de France, and Paris was a defining moment and the most magnificent trip.

What is the best professional advice you’ve received?

Two great pieces of advice are quite related. First, at Colgate, the mantra was always “Focus and Prioritize”. Simple and seemingly obvious, but hard to do. The temptations to do a million things are great. Second, another entrepreneur advised me to spend as much time as possible on my Unique Abilities, and while I can and would spend time doing other things, we make our greatest organizational impact doing the things that we do expertly.

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

I always thought I would enjoy and be a successful executive recruiter or executive coach. I enjoy creating solutions by matching talents with needs and opportunities.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Travel is a passion, especially adventure and culinary travel. I am very involved politically and civically and enjoy the social responsibility aspect of our business by volunteering with orgs that match our ethos.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?<

I learned that while a specialty is a great thing, being a strong generalist is critical to being an effective manager. Fuqua does an outstanding job of creating well-rounded managers. My marketing training was instrumental in my being able to assimilate into brand management and convinced me that marketing is not a support function!

Who was your favorite professor?

I was inspired and learned the most from Debu Purohit, who really helped me become the marketing professional that I am proud to be.

What is your favorite Fuqua memory?

Aside from driving across campus at break neck speed to sleep out for hoops season tickets (we won back to back National titles while our class was here), I also remember Friday kegs and how we could all go as a group into town or Chapel Hill and eat and drink our way through the delicious Triangle.

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

I chose to attend Fuqua because I worked at companies that were cut throat and the farthest thing from collaborative. Team Fuqua embodies the credo that one’s success is not mutually exclusive to that of your classmate, and, after Fuqua, to that of your colleague. Giving a leg up and doing a favor without expectation of reciprocation is what I understand Team Fuqua to be. Take that informational interview. Make a call on behalf of a friend of a friend. I think it is all about the seeds you sow. Glad I sowed mine at Fuqua.