Mary Baldwin is pleased to announce elite Navy-officer-turned-farm-entrepreneur Caroline Perruci will give a presentation about building self leadership skills and resiliency at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 8 at the Staunton Innovation Hub.
The interactive talk will offer practical insights and techniques for dealing with adversity when constructing or expanding an enterprise.
On one hand, Perucci draws from experiences like training to become a pilot in a highly competitive — and male dominated — Naval program. She went on to become an officer in the elite Seabees force, where her responsibilities included rapidly constructing infrastructure and distributing targeted relief for refugees in war zones.
But the bulk of Perucci’s talk will focus on her decision to leave her prominent Naval career and strike out in a new, more self-affirming direction in 2016.
“I realized I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing,” she said. “And I didn’t want to spend my life working a job I wasn’t passionate about.”
Perucci recalled her childhood interest in farming.
“As a kid I was obsessed with the idea of living on a homestead and being a farmer,” she said. She’d grown up gardening and, when possible, cultivated veggie patches in the Navy. “I kept asking myself: “Why did I give up on that? Maybe this is something I should look into?”
Perucci used Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms to travel and clear her head while trying out the vocation. And she quickly fell in love. The next four years saw her working on sustainable farms in Israel, Brazil, New England, and Vermont.
By 2020 Perucci had learned enough to venture out on her own — and refused to let the pandemic stop her. She negotiated a lease for land with family friends in Marietta, Ohio, and launched Little Muskingum Kettle Farm, which specializes in medicinal and culinary herbs. Perucci now sells handmade tea blends online and in more than a dozen regional brick-and-mortar shops.
“For the first time in my professional life,” she said, “I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”
But getting there wasn’t easy. Perucci often suffered doubts about leaving the safety of an established career tract. Her Smyth Lecture will center around three tools that helped her overcome such fears, cultivate grit, and “successfully navigate a very meandering path to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.”
The event is open to students, staff, and the general public.
“I realized I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing. And I didn’t want to spend my life working a job I wasn’t passionate about. ”
The Smyth Business Lecture was established in 1997, thanks in part to the late MBU Trustee H. Gordon Smyth and his wife Mary Beth Smyth ’47, who passed away last year. The program provides funding to bring regional and national business leaders to campus for public lectures and visits to the classroom.
MBU COVID-19 Policy: All visitors to MBU campuses aged 12 and older must show proof of receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend indoor events. All visitors age 18 and older must also show a valid photo ID. Visitors who cannot display proof of vaccination may alternatively provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event. This may be a rapid test or a PCR and must be validated by a healthcare provider or testing center.