University of Southern California

February 12, 2010 • by Ramona Cappello

Dear Friends of Marshall:

This Valentine's Day, I've been thinking about the human heart. There is the tangible heart, which doctors study and treat and even transplant. It was that sort of heart I had in mind when I founded my company. After losing my father and both grandfathers to heart disease, I started Corazonas Foods, a company that manufactures heart-healthy snacks and educates Americans about heart disease.

But there is another kind of heart, another meaning to the word. That was revealed to me when my mother died. She passed away on Christmas Eve. I was in high school in Bakersfield, California; two of my brothers were attending USC. We didn't send out announcements; it was the holiday season and we expected only local family and friends to attend her service. But the day of her funeral, we walked into the church to find over 50 USC fraternity brothers and their families there. My mother had not attended USC -- they made the long drive from Los Angeles to Bakersfield to be there for my brothers. I decided right then and there that I wanted to go to the school that showed me that kind of heart.

If I made that choice emotionally, it has paid off a hundredfold in the practical world of business. I've always run my businesses with a simple philosophy: I have an appreciation, an understanding, and a passion for my Consumer. I treat everyone I meet as a potential consumer. It was a philosophy I learned from Ralph Carson, my first marketing professor at USC Marshall. My very first class taught me lessons I still use every day: Your product must be of good quality and have a unique selling proposition. You have to understand your brand’s relationship with your Consumer. You need to cherish, respect and yes, even love your brand's connection with your Consumer.

What USC Marshall gave me didn't stop when I graduated. I joke today that I wasted twenty years by not being closely connected to Marshall Partners. The relationships I have with fellow alums now continue to give back to me in ways I never imagined and never sought out. A fellow Marshall Partner helped me hire my key staff and another helped me to position my brand. A Marshall grad helped me even find my office!

This Valentine's Day, I hope your heart is healthy. And I hope your heart is big enough to give to Marshall. It's a gift that will keep on giving.

Fight On!

Ramona Cappello