Entrepreneurial Pair

Cameron Executive Network mentor and Liz Roesel ’07 and CSB alumna Arianne Branch ’17 can add “launched a new business” to their list of accomplishments for 2020, despite the pandemic.

By Lily Pezzullo-Frank

Based in Wilmington, SEA Level Social offers marketing services for school district nutrition departments.

“While this industry may be stereotyped as ‘lunch ladies serving mystery meat,’ that could not be further from the truth,” said Roesel '07 (above right). “We help schools’ nutrition programs educate their communities about what they bring to their district, and in turn, feed more students and fuel them for academic success.”

Roesel and Branch met at the Cameron School of Business through the Cameron Executive Network, a program that pairs CSB students with local business executives who serve as mentors. The two met at a mixer event and were matched as each other’s top choice. From there, the mentor/mentee relationship blossomed into a friendship and, ultimately, a business partnership after Branch graduated. Roesel, who had been establishing a presence in the school nutrition industry for a decade prior, saw immediate potential in Branch.

“Arianne stood out among the crowd by truly understanding what it meant to be a marketer,” she said. Branch credits CEN with providing exposure to some of the critical skills she relies on in her new position, especially the importance of networking.

Though starting a business together felt like a natural progression for the team, doing so at the onset of a global pandemic was not the intention. They quickly adapted to the challenges the school districts faced and began offering creative solutions to unprecedented needs.

“We started creating video content, designing free marketing resources, hosted webinars for the National School Nutrition Association, and host weekly virtual meetups on Facebook Live to combat the fact that we can’t travel to network and generate leads,” Roesel said.

K-12 school nutrition programs lost money – more than $1 billion dollars nationwide – due to schools closing because of the pandemic. (School nutrition programs are not funded like K-12 education – they rely heavily on federal reimbursements based on the number of meals they serve, Roesel explained.)

Funds to support services like SEA Level Social’s are dwindling quickly. In response, the company is currently building a low-cost subscription marketing materials service. SEA stands for “Serve, Engage, Attract,” which is exactly what the duo hopes to do for their clients.

“Just like the CEN, the school nutrition industry is a community of people who just want to help and support one another,” Branch said.

As the company grows, Roesel has already identified students she mentored that she wants to bring into the company fold.

“We can’t wait for the day when we can create internships and job opportunities for fellow CSB alumni while helping school nutrition programs feed more children.”

For more information, visit sealevelsocial.com.

Read more in the Winter 2021 issue of UNCW Magazine