AlumniCollege of BusinessEagle-SpottingUndergraduate Studies

Internship leads to sweet success

Holly Gerber helped build zero-calorie sweetener company from scratch and has won kudos as a top woman executive.

While internships often lead to entry-level jobs for college graduates, for Holly Gerber (’10, Management), hers led to her current role as an award-winning corporate vice president. She simply had to build the operations side of Naplesbased Pyure Brands to get there.

Hired upon graduation as the stevia sweetener company’s first employee, Gerber created the business operations systems from scratch, from quality control and production runs to accounting and human resources systems. She said her classes at FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business provided her with the skills she needed to get the company up and running

“To me, operations is like building a puzzle,” Gerber said. “You want to build the puzzle effectively and efficiently, with as little margin of error as possible, to get the job completed. On any task, it wasn’t like when you work for a large corporate company where they tell you to do steps one through 10 to fix a problem. It was, ‘Let’s get creative and how do we fix this problem with the resources we have?’”

Pyure Brands sales quadruple yearly as demand for the company’s nonbitter, organic and non-GMO products expand in both the retail and wholesale sectors, with the no-calorie sweetener offered in stores nationwide. Gerber said the opportunity FGCU gave her to study abroad helped prepare her for working with Pyure’s suppliers and customers, many of whom are in Asia and Europe.

Gerber was promoted to vice president of operations in May 2014. She won the Top Women in Grocery: Executive Level award in June 2015 from Progressive Grocer, an industry magazine. In 2014, Pyure Brands was ranked 528 on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America

The company now employs 11 people, and all but three are FGCU graduates who also landed their jobs there through college internships. “You come in as an intern, find what you like and kind of build a position for yourself,” Gerber said. “If it wasn’t for FGCU, I never would have found this internship and been able to build a company from the ground up to where we are today.”