NASHVILLE, Ga. — Lisa Overman had no food retailing experience at all when she started working in the marketing department at Harvey's about 4½ years ago.
So when the 70-store chain, based here, recently launched a loyalty-card program, she found that being enrolled in the St. Joseph's University Executive Master's in Food Marketing program really helped.
“Putting in that loyalty program was by far the most challenging thing I have done since I have been here,” she said. “That's where the St. Joseph's program has been very helpful. It gave me the ability to talk to other students and professors.
“It's so much more than a school in that anytime you have a question, you can send someone an email, whether it is a classmate or a professor, and they pick up the phone and they call you back.”
Overman, director of advertising and brand marketing at Harvey's, has been enrolled at St. Joseph's for about a year and a half. She is about halfway through the MBA program, which involves a series of two-day classes offered through the Haub School of Business at the Philadelphia-based university.
Students can take classes, which often involve extensive at-home preparation and follow-up reports, whenever they have time. Overman typically flies up from Georgia once a month or so on a Thursday, attends the classes on Friday and Saturday, and flies back on Sunday.
“There have been a lot of real-life experiences that I can bring back and apply in my job,” she said. “It has put me into a better place for understanding the food marketing perspective. I have a marketing background, but to have something that is so special as St. Joe's is important to me, and my company recognizes that it is important.”
Overman became interested in the St. Joseph's program after Rick Anicetti, the chief executive officer at Harvey's parent chain, Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion, spoke about a presentation he had conducted during an executive forum at the school.
She joined Harvey's after an earlier career in hospital marketing. While helping a friend who was a member of the Harvey's founding family prepare a cookbook for the chain, her marketing skills were noticed by executives there, and they brought her on as their first true marketing specialist. Previously, marketing and advertising had largely been handled by individual departments at Harvey's.
“I think the advantage St. Joe's offers is that no matter what your background, you become much more well-versed about the food industry overall,” she said. “You learn so much from your colleagues. I have been able to bring just as much back home with me from what my classmates have shared, and that has had a big impact.”
She said she also learned a lot from a recent international studies course in Dublin, Ireland, in which students toured local stores and met with local industry executives.
“It was very fulfilling to me, because [Harvey's and Food Lion parent] Delhaize is such an international company, and I would love to learn more about that side of our business,” Overman said.
One of the stores she visited in Ireland was an independently owned SuperValu location, which had recently introduced a loyalty-card program.
“I was very interested in the owner's perspective,” Overman said, “although it is very different over in Europe. There, customers very much want to have a card, and are very accustomed to having that benefit, so they don't have any of the pushback that we experienced.”
After about three years of planning, Harvey's introduced its first loyalty-card program in April.
Overman also pointed out that she received a lot of support in the loyalty-card introduction from Food Lion, in addition to what she learned through the coursework at St. Joseph's and the Ireland trip.
But, she said, it's good to have that new network of contacts she has developed through the school for additional perspective.
TITLE: Director of Advertising and Brand Marketing, Harvey's
EDUCATION: Executive Master's in Food Marketing, St. Joseph's University