DBIA Launches New Mentorship Program for Grant Recipients

Posted By: Grace Atherton WCMA News,

Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA) grant recipients can sign up now to accelerate their business growth with the help of highly experienced dairy industry veterans through DBIA’s new, free mentorship program. Complete details are available at cdr.wisc.edu/dbia-mentors 

“One of the dairy industry’s greatest strengths is its collaborative spirit. With more than 150 collective years of experience, this elite team offers unmatched knowledge to help dairy businesses grow and strengthen their operations for the future,” said John Umhoefer, Executive Director of Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), which administers DBIA programming in partnership with the Center for Dairy Research (CDR).  

“We are very fortunate to have these mentors who can share their insights from past experiences.  These mentors include dairy business leaders, Wisconsin Master Cheese Makers, consultants, quality assurance professionals and product innovators,” said CDR Director John Lucey.  

As part of DBIA's technical assistance offerings, CDR has hired five mentors who are now available to offer advice and support to DBIA grant recipients:  

  • Randy Krahenbuhl was one of four members of the inaugural class of Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers when the program began in 1997. He holds a Master certification in Fontina, Gouda, and Swiss cheeses, and he crafted the Emmentaler that became the U.S. Champion Cheese in 2005. He has served on numerous industry boards, including serving as President of WCMA from 1992-1994. He recently retired after 48 years as a cheesemaker.  

  • Jim Natzke has both a formal education and decades of experience in food science and dairy business operations. He has technical expertise in food safety and production efficiency. More recently, his focus has been on helping to develop business plans and using financial data to manage start-up and turn-around situations in food companies.  

  • Mike Matucheski is an award-winning Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker with master certifications in a wide variety of cheeses. Mike started cheesemaking in 1993 and is perhaps best known for showcasing his expertise and passion in developing some of Wisconsin’s favorite cheeses.  

  • Brian Riesterer grew up on a dairy farm in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, and worked in a cheese factory in high school. He was one of CDR’s early employees from 1985-1990, running industry trials and assisting researchers and graduate students. Since then, Brian has had a long career in the dairy industry. His work experience includes cheesemaker and buttermaker as well as many years driving dairy innovation.

  • Jeff Schwager has a proven track record of revenue and profitability growth. Jeff has held leadership positions with a number of companies and has always driven sustained growth during his career. He is keen to help others do the same with their businesses and can offer assistance with sales, marketing, operations, and logistics, as well as supporting companies in driving growth in revenue and/or profitability.

Currently, DBIA mentorship is limited to companies who have previously received a Dairy Business Builder or Dairy Industry Impact grant from DBIA. Mentorship assistance may be offered in several formats, including live or recorded webinars focusing on specific topics, FAQs and other documentation, referrals to other CDR staff, and individual guidance as mentors' time permits.

Interested participants can learn more about the program and meet the mentors during a free webinar hosted by DBIA staff on Thursday, August 1 at 1:00 p.m. (CT). Webinar registration is open now at cdr.wisc.edu/dbia-mentors 

Since its inception as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the DBIA has awarded 213 grants totaling more than $16.5 million to dairy businesses in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The program is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and also offers technical assistance and education to dairy farmers and processors in the region.