Magazine / People

Women’s College grad markets American agricultural products overseas

Lori Garcia McGehee

Women's College alumna Lori Garcia McGehee got her start in international marketing at the U.S. Potato Board. Photo: Courtesy of Lori Garcia McGehee

There’s a saying in marketing that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. That works if you’re selling something that has sizzle. But when it’s your job to promote more sedate commodities like potatoes, honey and wool, the hurdles become a little bigger. Unless you’re Lori Garcia-McGehee (BBA ’95).

A single parent, Garcia-McGehee worked part time at the United States Potato Board in Denver for several years. When her son started school, the tater traders offered her full-time work in the international marketing department. To maximize the opportunity, Garcia-McGehee enrolled in the business administration program at DU’s Women’s College.

“As soon as I graduated, the potato board made me the manager of international marketing. I graduated in August 1995; in September I was on an airplane to South Korea,” she says. “I oversaw a $5 million marketing budget and nine Asian countries.”

Four years later, Garcia-McGehee started her own consulting company, Millennium Marketing/Communications, and since then has helped trade groups sell honey, wool, mohair and ginseng internationally. Part supermom, part international woman of mystery, Garcia-McGehee smoothes out the details that make the deals happen.

If a client needs a letter of credit, or help with a wire transfer that doesn’t go smoothly, Garcia-McGehee is the one they call for handholding. If she recommends that a client hire an in-country representative, she’ll fly overseas to help select the best person for the job. Likewise, if one of her clients is courting a potential buyer, she’ll head to Asia or Europe to educate the buyer one-on-one about the product.

But more often, her role involves big-picture strategizing. “I’m that person who pushes [my clients] a little,” Garcia-McGehee says. “I keep track of what they’re doing and develop performance measures for them.” She commissions research to determine which countries offer the greatest sales opportunities, then helps her clients understand the cultural nuances, production challenges and trade barriers that will affect their products’ positioning there.

It seems to come naturally to her. Though she went on to earn an MBA at Regis University, she’s never had any formal training in international relations.

“I’ve always had a fascination for other cultures and languages, and I’ve always made friends with people from different cultures,” she says. “It’s kind of innate.”

And that, she says, is the most important aspect of her job. “It’s about trust — that’s so valuable to people,” she says. No matter what their culture is.


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