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Learning to Innovate in any Industry

Bianca Deslouches (MMM '19) talks about her new role as director of innovation strategy at Daily Harvest, and how she applies the lessons learned in Northwestern Engineering's MMM program on a daily basis.

When Bianca Deslouches (MMM '19) was a student at Northwestern, her project work ranged from the world of esports to building medical devices in the colorectal surgery space — and she came up with solutions applicable to each of those fields.

"That capacity to learn, be open, and almost be a tourist in a new problem space is a strength," she said. "MMM gave me the confidence that no matter the industry, no matter how many subject matter experts are at the table, I still have something to bring."

Today, Deslouches is bringing that confidence to Daily Harvest, where she is director of innovation strategy and works to make it easier for Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. She started in December 2020, and what attracted her was the chance to impact a company already built on innovation.

Daily Harvest launched nationally in 2016 as a food delivery service that helps you stock your pantry with clean delicious food that’s highly concentrated in fruits and vegetables and is ready to enjoy in minutes. The company announced a Series B funding round of $43 million in 2017, and was named one of the "World's Most Innovative Companies"​ by Fast Company the following year. Its investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners, VMG Partners, M13, and prominent celebrities such as Bobby Flay and Serena Williams.

Today, Daily Harvest has expanded to more than 85 items across 10 collections.

"I was drawn to Daily Harvest because of the way the company is disrupting how people nourish themselves," Deslouches said.

Health and wellness has always been a personal passion, and during her time in MMM, Deslouches served as the vice president of personal development and wellness on the Kellogg Student Association. When Deslouches considered that interest along with the realities of COVID-19, which shuttered restaurants and food distribution centers across the country for months, Daily Harvest seemed like the perfect destination for her.

"The disruptions seen across the larger food system and throughout supply chains during the pandemic just highlighted and punctuated the problems that already existed," Deslouches said, "so it felt like a good time to join an organization that’s not only setting out to fix the system long-term, but one that’s already making an impact." 

Being able to have an impact on an organization is a skill Deslouches learned in MMM. By teaching students skills in both design innovation and business management, the program prepares students to solve complex challenges in any industry.

"MMM is applicable no matter where I go," she said. "It's a framework for thinking. It's a new toolbox to choose from when addressing problems. It gives me confidence that no matter the problem, I can find a tool that will help me unlock the next step of understanding."

Prior to Daily Harvest, Deslouches was the senior manager of innovation at Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), where she oversaw the product pipeline for the company's "Beyond Beer" product portfolio that includes hard seltzers and flavored malt beverages. Her goal was to increase the portfolio's overall profitability, which meant she worked closely with colleagues on the company's brand and insights teams to identify high-growth opportunity areas rooted in market trends and consumer tensions.

Her job at ABInBev was her first after MMM. Early on, Deslouches presented directly to the company's chief marketing officer and vice president of innovation, and her role gave her visibility across the company. Interacting with and learning from so many different people is a skill she honed in MMM, she said.

"I built a bit of muscle memory on how to make space for all different types of opinions at the table," Deslouches said. "The way we built teams during my time in MMM, we were always optimizing for diversity, which is pretty awesome."

Deslouches is excited to leverage that muscle memory and skill set she learned in MMM at Daily Harvest. It's still early, but she will be able to build upon her MMM experience in her current role — and any role she takes on afterward.

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