Women-owned. Sustainable dairy farmers. Artisans with attitude. Just a few of the reasons we love Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
While Point Reyes produced its first wheels of Original Blue in August of 2000, the Giacomini family farming history dates back over 100 years. This rich heritage is carried on today by Jill, Lynn, and Diana—the Giacomini sisters behind Point Reyes Cheese.
We had the opportunity to chat with Jill Giacomini Basch, co-owner and chief marketing officer of Point Reyes. We learn more about the family business, the artisan cheese industry, and Jill’s advice on building thriving working relationships.
Hometown: Point Reyes, CA
Current city: Oakland, CA
Alma Mater: University of the Pacific
Degree: BS in Business Administration
Currently reading: Think Again by Adam Grant
Currently watching: Better Call Saul
Favorite food to make: Risotto (or anything Italian really)
Favorite food to eat: Cheese of course!
Tell us a little about your background! What personal or professional experiences led you to the entrepreneurial world of cheese?!
My background pre-cheese included a) being born and raised on a dairy farm and b) working in marketing and advertising for about 10 years, primarily in tech.
Point Reyes is 100% family-owned by 3 sisters! What makes working with family so special? Any challenges?
As sisters, we share a passion for the core of our company—the dairy farm where we grew up. Together we are committed to sustainable practices that care for our environment, the animals and the health of our business, so that the farm can continue to thrive for generations to come. I think this keeps us unified on the direction we want to take the company as well as the culture we want to embody for our employees and our brand. Of course there are challenges working with family, but nothing that a good glass of wine (and some cheese) can’t fix at the end of the day.
Not only are you co-owner, but you are the CMO of Point Reyes. What is the most rewarding aspect of that role?
We’ve been building our brand for 22 years now—to see it grow and represent our core values surrounding sustainability, employee happiness and cheese quality—that just makes all the hard work worthwhile.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This might be controversial, but for entrepreneurs that love what they do, I don’t think a balance exists. My business and personal lives are so intertwined that success for me means that I have reached a level of work/life integration that doesn’t sacrifice any part of who I am.
What does wellness mean to you?
From a physical perspective, wellness means eating healthy, exercising daily and getting enough sleep (constantly working on the third!). From a more mental perspective it means surrounding myself with positive, open-minded and kind people that allow me to grow and definitely make me laugh.
What are some challenges in your industry? Have you had to adjust your business model due to COVID?
There are so many challenges in our industry right now—labor issues and inflation seriously affecting our cost of goods to name a few. We have done a good job of minimizing how these challenges trickle down to our customers, but price increases are an unfortunate consequence of the altered business environment since the pandemic. We absolutely adjusted our strategic plan in 2020, and fortunately the changes have been really positive for the long-term health of the company.
What would someone find surprising about your industry?
The artisan cheese community in the US is really tight! We may be competitors in the retail cheese case, but there is a strong bond of respect and adoration felt between the people behind the products. As a matter of fact, we get together every summer at our annual trade conference (the American Cheese Society) and affectionately refer to it as Cheese Camp: where old friends catch up and new friendships are made. It really is one of the best weeks of the year.
What’s one piece of advice that has helped you the most in your professional career?
Listen (first) and learn. I’m a believer that good employees become great employees only if you set the right example. For me that includes giving my team the benefit of my time, attention and respect—the result is usually that I end up learning as much (or more) from them as they do from me.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I continue to be inspired by my parents. My mom passed away in 2012, but my dad is 85 and still at the farm most days (when he’s not traveling). Their farmer’s work ethic together with the shared belief that good business relies on the strength of relationships (old and new), are guide posts for my sisters and me. The friendships we’ve built through the years in this business have been instrumental to the growth of our company, but also the icing on the cake for us personally.
If you had to pick, what is your favorite Point Reyes cheese?
I get asked this question all the time and my answer is the same—asking me to pick a favorite cheese is like asking me to pick a favorite child (I have three by the way)… it just depends on the day!