Alumna Ann Daw ’76 met with students in NYC to share her experience and offer career advice
The Augustinian tradition stays at the core for Ann Giragosian Daw ’76, who has spent her career as a change agent in marketing and branding.
“The importance of community and service have remained with me from my time at Merrimack,” says Daw, who spent 10 years as president of the Specialty Food Association in New York City.
As a senior she won the award for outstanding service to the Merrimack College community. She was captain of the women’s basketball team; a member of Alpha Iota Delta, the international honor society in the decision sciences and information systems, and Epsilon Delta Society, the math club; and had been honored for her tutoring work both on campus and in a children’s center off campus.
A magna cum laude graduate majoring in mathematics and minoring in computer science, she received an M.B.A. from Boston University and decided her career was in marketing.
“I think my ability to challenge paradigms also came from my experience at Merrimack,” Daw says. “We were in an era of change then, and there were endless possibilities. You just had to imagine it and feel that you could make a difference.”
After 26 years with General Foods, Kraft Foods, and Philip Morris, she became president in 2006 of what was known as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. She rebranded it as the Specialty Food Association to create an authoritative voice for the industry and its members.
“I transformed an association predominantly about one service (fancy food shows) into a dynamic organization that serves members 365 days a year with a staff inspired to constantly innovate,” Daw says. Membership grew 30 percent to 3,300 as the specialty food industry grew from $35 billion to $109 billion. The organization’s reserves rose five-fold to $50 million, and she formed an investment committee for the board of directors. She also created the Specialty Food Foundation, with a mission to break the cycle of hunger and improve food recovery.
Daw’s marketing career began with General Foods as an assistant product manager working on Good Seasons Salad Dressing. She moved to operations, becoming new business development manager and marketing director in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“I was leading new product development for a shelf-stable meals business and designing them with all natural ingredients. This was before ‘all natural’ was a common desire among consumers,” she says.
She moved to Philip Morris International in strategic planning and became vice president of marketing and sales for its Asia Pacific region. Based in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2001, she grew sales volume 44 percent, revenue 47 percent. Kraft Foods International then recruited her to lead its business and marketing development as senior vice president.
“Currently I am looking at board opportunities where my diversity of experiences can be of value and at CEO roles where I can take a company to its next level of success,” she says.
She shared her experiences with a group of Girard School marketing and management students during their visit to New York City in the spring semester.
“I have been so impressed by their maturity and accomplishments and their sincerity in wanting to make a difference in this world,” Daw says. “Whenever Merrimack calls, I am happy to answer and willing to help in whatever way I can.”