As senior vice president of marketing at Clearwater-based Monin Gourmet Flavorings, Stasha Johnston has one of the coolest food industry jobs that don’t require a degree in culinary arts. Kind of like a real-life Willy Wonka, she gets to sample and evaluate new flavors the company’s food scientists are constantly coming up with, and her feedback helps determine which ones move into mass production.
She’s quite literally a tastemaker.
“I get to taste a lot of new aren't quite on shelves yet,” Johnston says. “It’s one of the perks of the job.”
Johnston has been with Monin for nearly a decade. Before that she worked in Chicago for Crown Imports LLC, a beverage company with brands including beers such as Corona and Modelo.
“Then my husband got transferred to Florida, and I knew Monin was based here, so I started making phone calls,” she says, adding that the company’s sterling reputation is well known throughout the food and beverage industry. “Monin is that brand that’s behind all the bars, a key ingredient in the restaurant world. It’s kind of the golden child of brands — people want to work here. They know about the culture, about the product quality and the spirit that’s infused into the brand.”
Johnston had an unusual childhood, to put it mildly, but one she says led her to be adaptable and mature beyond her years. As the daughter of Marv Foley, a professional baseball player, coach and manager who spent time with the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies during a nearly 35-year career, she often wouldn’t see her father for months on end, and every summer the family would temporarily relocate to whatever city, and sometimes country, in which her father was based.
“Whether it was Australia or the Dominican Republic, Chicago or Rochester, New York, we were always somewhere different for the summer, which was super cool when you’re growing up,” Johnston recalls, adding she would sometimes be allowed to shag fly balls in the outfield before games. She even got to play catch with Cubs legend Sammy Sosa.
But it wasn’t all summer fun. When she was old enough, Johnston was put to work selling tickets and doing other jobs as needed on game days.
“It sucks that my dad wasn't around a lot, but there were so many other benefits that I reaped because of his job,” she says. “I mean, I've been involved in some sort of like business since I was about 11 or 12, whether they had me working in the front office or doing some sort of task, I learned the value of hard work pretty fast.”
City of residence: Tampa
Years in the area: 10 recently, 30 total
Marital status/children: Married/two daughters
Alma mater/degree: Purdue University/M.A., communication; DePaul University/M.B.A.; University of Florida/bachelor's degree
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Hybrid
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? Not the weirdest, but the coolest — I get to try new flavors all the time and help determine what flavors move into production.
What’s your top tip for being productive? At the end of the day, outline your deliverables for the next day, prioritizing by impending deadline and urgency.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Event planning
What’s your favorite off-hours activity? Cooking, baking, making charcuterie
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? I would love to travel to Greece, Fiji and the Maldives. I'll get there one day when the time is right.
What's your favorite podcast? "Marketing Over Coffee," "WorkLife with Adam Grant" and "How I Built This"
At what percentage on your phone to you start to get low battery anxiety? Nine percent
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Waze, Amazon, Uber
What books are you reading now? Positive Intelligence
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? Queen
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Anne Hathaway
Where is your happy place? Watching a movie with the kids or a date night with my husband
Describe yourself in three words: Outgoing, honest, driven
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Both of my parents have been the key mentors for me in my personal life and for my career.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? My dad was a professional baseball player/manager so he was gone eight to 10 months every year (on the road) as I was growing up. He hated being away from his family, but he did it because that was how he supported us. From his side, he taught me about hard work, humility and how complacency and giving up are unacceptable. My mom, as you can imagine, was a stay-at-home mom who basically became a single mom for most of my childhood. She is incredible and has taught me kindness, accountability, time management and perseverance. She was a beacon of independence and I am positive that I learned that trait from her. Throughout my life, she ingrained in me the importance of quality over quantity and it's something that is on repeat in my head all the time that has shaped me into the marketer, manager and leader that I am today. What's also cool is that, as a mother of two of my own now, I realize how much my mom also taught me about motherhood, which of course is a priceless set of lessons.