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Lisa Qu, a Northwestern neuroscience graduate student, recounts her NEXT experience with the co-founder of Blaze Pizza. Lisa is interested in exploring careers in science communication and/or consumer research.

I participated in the NEXTernship program at Blaze Pizza headquarters in Pasadena, California.  It was there I met and spent the day with Elise Wetzel, my alumni host and co-founder of Blaze. Blaze is a rapidly growing fast casual pizza chain with locations nationwide, including Chicago and Evanston, and a perfect place to learn more about the process of starting and growing a restaurant business.

I spent the first half of my morning talking with Elise, who gave me insight into her career path and the intricacies of running a company like Blaze. It was great to hear a personal account of how her entrepreneurial experiences led to her current position. During this time, I also got to meet the Senior Marketing Manager, Jerry Shen, who explained his role in managing Blaze’s brand and marketing strategy.

Later, I sat in on a brand marketing meeting, in which both Elise and Jerry presented Blaze’s mission, marketing principles, and guidelines to managers for new locations. This was a great way to see how the plans designed at headquarters were disseminated through the various locations, and it gave me a glimpse into how a large company maintains a consistent brand even across individualized stores.

My experience at Blaze allowed me to learn about the different roles within a growing restaurant business. As a graduate student in neuroscience looking to explore options outside of academia, this was a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of a completely different industry. I made a great connection with a Northwestern alumna, and I had a fascinating look into an exciting and successful company.