MADISON, WIS. – The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA) will soon begin offering a new mentorship program that is designed to accelerate business growth for DBIA grant recipients.

The alliance’s program features veterans of the dairy industry, who offer advice and support to grant recipients.

The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) serve as operating administrative partners for DBIA. CDR director John Lucey said the mentorship program is fortunate to have experienced industry professionals sharing their insights from past experiences.

 “These mentors include dairy business leaders, Wisconsin master cheesemakers, consultants, quality assurance professionals and product innovators,” Lucey said.

Added WCMA executive director John Umhoefer: “One of the dairy industry’s greatest strengths is its collaborative spirit. With more than 150 collective years of experience, this elite team offers unmatched knowledge to help dairy businesses grow and strengthen their operations for the future.”

DBIA’s five mentors are:

• Randy Krahenbuhl, an inaugural member of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers program when it launched in 1997.  A retired master cheesemaker, Krahenbuhl served as WCMA president from 1992-94 and crafted the Emmentaler that was named the US Champion Cheese in 2005.

• Jim Natzke, a consultant whose decades of experience include food safety, food science, and dairy production and operations. As a consultant, he helps food companies develop business plans, and uses financial data to manage startups and businesses looking to improve efficiencies.

• Mike Matucheski, a master cheesemaker who spent close to 15 years with Sartori, is known for developing some of Wisconsin’s favorite cheeses, per DBIA.

• Brian Riesterer, one of CDR’s earliest employees from 1985-90, has since worked in dairy innovation, including time as a cheesemaker and butter maker.

• Jeff Schwager, former president and chief executive officer at Sartori, said he plans to offer dairy businesses assistance with sales, marketing, operations, logistics and driving growth in revenue and profitability.  

DBIA said its mentors will be available in several formats, such as live or recorded webinars on specific topics, answering frequently asked questions, making referrals to other CDR staff and offering individual guidance as time permits.

Grant recipients interested in the program may access a free webinar on Aug. 1 at 1 pm CT. More information is available through CDR’s website.