Mike Rakes

Graduation Year: 2006

Major(s): Accounting, Minor: Music

Current Position: Founder & CEO, Philia Foods


Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.

I founded a business in 2012 called Philia Foods.  We handcraft cheese spreads and currently sell them in about 65 stores in Minnesota, as well as a handful of Farmers Markets.  The company currently consists of me and a couple part time employees.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?

I started in public accounting at Ernst & Young in 2006, then made a switch to non-profit finance and accounting in 2009 at the University of Minnesota.  I received my MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Carlson School of Management in 2013, and during that program I started my business.  I was still working full time and going to school while starting the business, but it worked out great because it allowed me to get through the toughest financial part of the business early on.  I always had a passion for food and an interest in running my own business, so eventually things just lined up and I decided it was time to take a leap of faith.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?

Go in to every experience with an open mind.  I never imagined I'd be doing what I'm doing now when I started in finance and audit.  I never truly loved the finance and accounting work that I did to start my career, but it has proven extremely valuable in running my own business. Had I not stuck it out for 5-6 years, I wouldn't be able to handle all the finances of Philia Foods.

What skills are important in your field?

Honestly, this will sound cliche, but you cannot be afraid of hard work, and you have to go into every situation with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.  Even if you have no idea what you're doing, energy and enthusiasm (especially in the early stages of a career) go a long way towards differentiating you from other employees and/or business.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?

I co-founded Johnnie Blend with my roommate in 2002, and looking back it was extremely entrepreneurial in nature.  Starting something from scratch and growing it to a level where there is genuine interest and fans parallels what I'm doing now in many ways.  I also was an RA and the student coordinator of all the CAs in the resource center.  Jobs with leadership opportunities always help prepare you for opportunities to lead later in life.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?

The best part about running Philia Foods is knowing that I'm in control of my own destiny.  The business may become wildly successful, or it may fail, but either way I really enjoy being totally responsible for either success or failure.  I rarely work less than 70-80 hours a week, but when it is on your own creation, much of it doesn't even feel like work.

(Fall 2014)