Women's Leadership Network
Packaging & Processing Women's Leadership Network

Emerging Leaders Voices: Ballet to Business

By Lisa Barrieau, Banding Sales Manager – Food, Felins USA, Inc.

Finding one’s career path is never as typical or straight forward as it may seem and I am always quite fascinated to see how people find themselves working in certain positions and industries. I have started to learn that there are many transferable skills in our world, allowing people to cross over into various careers that may not seem as predictable or obvious, but end up being the career match made in heaven!

As the Banding Sales Manager for the Food Industry at Felins, I pinch myself almost daily that this is my job and my career. I have such a passion for the food industry, sustainable packaging and customer relationships and I believe the world of packaging and manufacturing to be one of the most creative and innovative fields in our world today! Only seven years ago, I would have laughed if someone told me that I would end up in business or in packaging as I was incredibly far away from this field at one time.

My start to the packaging industry was quite different from others. As a young girl, I trained and passionately pursued a career in ballet, determining this to be my future. A career as a professional ballet dancer is incredibly unique and rewarding! This career path also has its challenges due to the fact that most dancers work contract to contract, have to have other jobs for supplemental income and as a very physical line of work, it takes a great toll on your body, making it a career that most retire from at a young age. After being fortunate enough to have a successful career as a professional ballet dancer with Milwaukee Ballet, Minnesota Ballet and Atlanta Ballet, I retired from my six-year long career and childhood dream, in hopes of finding a new career path I could be equally passionate about.

I know what you are thinking… how could a ballet dancer find themselves in the packaging industry? Believe it or not, there are a lot of similarities between the performing arts and the packaging industry.

Innovation. Creativity. Passion. Continuous Improvement. Customer Focus.

While dancing, I needed supplemental income by serving in 5 Star, 4 Diamond, James Beard Award Winning Chef restaurants, and it was there that I learned I had a love for customer service, communication and the food industry! While I loved waitressing, I wanted to find a career path that had endless opportunities for growth, so I decided to find a parallel career transition from the service industry as a customer service representative.

My dad, Andrew Barrieau, has always been very supportive of my ballet career, along with my mom, and when I vocalized an interest in a career change, in business, Andrew informed me of a potential temporary CSR position at his sustainable packaging company, Felins USA, Inc. Of course, it wouldn’t be a shoo in and I would need to go through the normal interview process, but I jumped at the opportunity to explore this path. I learned and grew…I applied my waitressing skills and ability to pick up information quickly from ballet toward my new role in the company.

After becoming a full time CSR, I made the decision to go to school for business in order to learn more about my new world in business. With a craving to grow and develop customer relationships, the opportunity arose for me to step into a new role for both myself and Felins. I would be tasked in building the role, managing my own target market, and starting the most amazing journey of my career. Through growing relationships with the food industry and the packaging and manufacturing world through PMMI events, I have learned that there is a great amount of creativity and innovation required.

Looking at a current packaging line, or envisioning a new one, takes imagination, patience and hard work in order to help fulfill the customer’s needs. Artists are incredibly passionate about their creations through their process, technique and presentation and food brands are incredibly passionate about their product, the process, ingredients, sustainability message and their brand. It isn’t just the food industry that demonstrates these parallels, but the packaging industry also exudes these qualities.

 In my role, I am helping the food industry increase their throughput, decrease packaging waste, reduce labor costs and increase sustainability. Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned my career moving from ballet to business, but with the nourishing support of Felins, organizations such as PMMI, and the industry, I have found a career that I love more than ballet! Everything that we touch was once packaged and consumer demands continue to drive and push the way we pack products in every industry. I greatly look forward to seeing how the world of packaging continues to grow and evolve in our ever-changing world and I encourage others to consider a career in this exciting and essential industry.