Aleisha Cabaniol Gibbons '97 is the creator and co-owner of Berkshire Organics Market & Delivery Service based in Dalton, Mass. The company grew from a small home delivery business of 35 weekly customers to a year-round weekly delivery customer base of nearly ten times that size. Today, Berkshire Organics Market features over 5,000 local, organic and non-GMO groceries in addition to fruits, veggies, and farm-fresh eggs and local bread. The Market was named a Top 12 Grocer in North America by the Organic Consumer's Association for leading the natural food industry by working with manufacturers and local producers to transition to non-GMO ingredients and by advocating for GMO labeling.
This young entrepreneur told us about her Berkshire days, how her time under the Mountain influenced her career decision-making, and what kind of advice she might share with today's students, below.
What are your fondest memories of Berkshire?
Having grown up on the Berkshire campus since the age of six, I have so many fond memories of my time at Berkshire School. It seemed like such a safe and happy place to live, and it was. When I became a student, it felt like a whole new world. It opened my eyes to all different types of people and opportunities.
My fondest memories often took place on the track and in the classroom. It may sound strange to some, but I really enjoyed having my father (longtime English teacher and track coach Ronn Cabaniol) as a coach and teacher. The day my dad performed the short poem "Buffalo Bill" by e.e. cummings in American Literature, I was blown away. Seeing your parent do what they enjoy and are passionate about it is an experience many young adults may not appreciate, but it had a lasting impact on me.
What are the most important life lessons that you learned as a student?
One of the most important life lessons I experienced was that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve anything. I learned this my junior year after I broke my ankle on the cross country course. I was devastated by this injury because I had trained all summer and wanted to be the best runner on the team. Being on crutches made me feel isolated and sorry for myself. But fortunately, something inside of me clicked, and I decided to put all of my energy and efforts into academics and rehabilitation. I took that downtime to turn inward and to really reset my priorities and goals. What started off as a disappointing accident turned into my best year at Berkshire.
Can you tell us about your career and hobbies, and why you are passionate about them?
Finding your passion can take many twists and turns. Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I went straight from college into law school. But after the first year, I realized that wasn't what I wanted to do. I felt a bit lost at that point, so I decided to try teaching because I saw how much my dad enjoyed it. Then I decided to move and get married but wasn't able to find a job teaching again right away, so I took some office jobs. Those were great learning experiences, but I quickly learned I did not want to work in a cubicle. It was during that time I realized that there was a need to help people have greater access to local and organic food in our area, so I decided to take a big risk and start my own business. I had debt and many outside forces whispering in my ear that the odds were against me, but I was determined to pursue my idea. This spring will mark my tenth year as co-owner of Berkshire Organics Market and Delivery Service.
How did Berkshire help you shape and pursue your goals? I gained a lot of confidence at Berkshire. I found if I worked hard, I could achieve things I didn't realize were possible. The teachers at Berkshire were, and I'm certain still are, incredibly dedicated to what they do. They truly were always great examples for me during my time there.
What advice would you give to today's students?
Set your goals, but then take each day at a time. I remember feeling like sophomore year lasted forever. Looking back on it now though, I realize that it was a short blip of time. I let myself get down that year, but I was fortunate to realize that it's really important to stay involved and find the positive things around you. If something isn't going well in one area of your life, you can discover something else. Try not to judge and think about outward appearances so much. Worry less, try your best, and just keep believing that everything will work out in the end.