Dawn Kelley – President & CEO, Barney & Co. California

As president & CEO of Barney & Co. California, maker of Barney Almond Butters and other California almond products, Dawn focuses on expanding Barney’s growth (both domestically and internationally) in the nut butter and almond products categories, while leading the company’s day-to-day business and manufacturing operations.

Dawn has adopted the three bottom line approach of Profit, People, and Purpose, and is using these filters in short-term and long-term planning and strategies. Through vertical integration of processes, Dawn is evolving Barney to consistently be the category leader and most conscientious, quality-focused, best-valued brand on the market. Dawn is simultaneously leading the way through a transition to an organic, fair-trade, sustainable ingredient profile and supply chain (where possible).

Innovation within the almond space is an on-going focus for Dawn and the promise to deliver peanut-free (no cross contamination) almond products to consumers everywhere is at the forefront of this innovation. Dawn joined Barney in 2010 as president & CEO after overseeing the sale of her previous company, United Tote, to Churchill Downs. Dawn served as president of United Tote, a technology company and subsidiary of YouBet.com, a publicly-traded e-commerce company, and previously held senior executive/leadership positions at Orbitz.com and Careerbuilder.com.

Dawn holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Kentucky and currently resides in Maine, where she lives with her husband, three stepchildren, and two dogs.

1. How do you define success?
Being true to your own values and sleeping well at night, with a clear conscience.

2. What is the key to success?
“80% of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen. And by showing up, I also mean not being led by fear, taking on challenges, as well as the day to day.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
When I was growing up, my mom was a successful, working, single mother. She was a good role model for believing, from an early age, I could do and be anything I want. I never thought otherwise. Having said, I’m also pretty conservative financially and have a bit of bag-lady syndrome. I think that keeps me on my toes.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
One of my favorite sayings is “there’s a solution for every problem,” and my mind usually doesn’t shut down until it’s been found. There are obviously situations where you just need to let go. Figuring out those times is key.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
If you mess up, fess up. If you are dealing with good people, it will build trust. Take accountability and own your decisions and actions.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Yoga, reading, hunting through antique and flea markets for special treasures, and doing home improvements. Working with my hands is my form of meditation.

7. What makes a great leader?
A good leader manages by influence vs. authority. Your authority leaves the room when you do; Your influence does not.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Let go of ego and look for opportunities to learn from the best. Then work harder, longer, and faster than you ever have before.


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

Want to read more interviews?

Check out our Archives page!