Ken Sadowsky has been hailed as a “kingmaker” and “beverage whisperer” by Forbes magazine for his track record in backing winners in the beverage industry.
It was a degree in history from Tulane University that helped pave the road to his success.
Sadowsky, a member of the School of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council since 2000, was back on campus last month sharing his story with more than 800 Tulane undergraduates at Career Wave 2014. A charismatic speaker, he peppered his talk with jokes and entertaining accounts of his days at Tulane.
“Being at Tulane and immersed in New Orleans culture gave me an education that went beyond the classroom,” says Sadowsky. “New Orleans is a great city to be a sponge.”
Sadowsky and others at the Feb. 8 event extolled the virtues of a liberal arts degree that prepares students with communication, problem solving and critical thinking skills that will allow them to adapt to any career.
“That was the biggest takeaway for me,” says Max Oberlander, a junior majoring in political science with a coordinate major in social policy and minor in Spanish. “It made me feel better about where I’m at and where I’m headed.”
Oberlander said he was impressed by the alumni at the event who emphasized the importance of hard work and advised students find a career they love. “Pursuing what you’re interested in does translate to a job,” Oberlander says.
Sadowsky spoke on the industry executive panel at Career Wave. After college, Sadowsky worked for California Cooler, a start-up wine cooler company. In 1987, he started working for Atlas Distributing, his family’s beverage distribution company. He created the non-alcoholic beverage distribution unit the next year, garnering $50,000 in sales. In 2007, sales reached $16 million.
During his career, Sadowsky has been director of Energy Brands, makers of GLACÉAU vitaminwater and smartwater. He is now a consultant and advisor to both beverage entrepreneurs and established companies, notably Verlinvest, a Brussels-based investment fund created by one of the founding families of Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Career Wave 2014 also featured a “rising stars” panel of recent alumni.
One rising star is Chelsea Zesch, a 2013 Tulane graduate in Spanish and Chinese Studies, who took an internship at advertising juggernaut Grey Group immediately upon graduation. After several weeks, she accepted a full-time position as an assistant account executive on the national T.J. Maxx account.
Zesch said her liberal arts degree taught her problem solving and critical thinking, which helped her get a job.
“Employers are not going to hire a bad writer or someone who can’t think on their feet,” she says. She learned technical skills, such as accounting, and gained production experience on the job.
And networking is crucial, says Zesch and other panelists, especially using the Tulane alumni network.
“It’s amazing how many successful Tulane alums are out there,” Zesch says “and how many are willing to help Tulane students.”
Career Wave 2014 was put on by Newcomb-Tulane College and sponsored by Tulane parents Lisa and Cory Rapkin, with additional help from Jeffrey and Susan Zimmer.