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Indiana University Bloomington

Center for Brand Leadership

Kelley Advantage

The Center for Brand Leadership is a close-knit group of top MBA students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners who share a wealth of industry knowledge and contacts.

Growing a New Passion

James Neff MBA'10

James Neff

“There is no way to work for Scotts and not be into lawn and gardening. It definitely grows on you.”

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James Neff went from memorizing lines of music to memorizing accounting. As a professional singer for four years after graduating from IU’s Jacobs School of Music, he took a unique path to another one of IU’s most prestigious schools—the Kelley School of Business.

A passion for marketing grew from Neff’s experience as a performer. His singing success depended on his ability to market himself as a brand to companies and theatres. When he decided to make the career change to marketing, Neff knew he had skills that would aid in the transition. He returned to his alma mater to get his MBA, enrolling in courses like accounting and finance for the first time.

Part of my journey through the MBA program was recognizing those transferable skills and being able to turn them into this new career,” Neff says. “It also speaks of the ability of the faculty of the Consumer Marketing Academy to be able to take someone with a nontraditional background and give them the experience to make them successful in brand management.”

Neff faced the challenge of “catching up” to his peers who had backgrounds in banking, sales, and marketing, but he quickly found his place in the business world. At graduation, his classmates voted him the Distinguished Public Speaker. “That award was really cool because it recognized my past as a performer but also demonstrated my transition into business,” Neff says.

He interned at Scotts Miracle-Gro and was later offered a full-time position as assistant brand manager. The company’s entrepreneurial spirit is what Neff appreciates most. He says it ties into his background as a performer, where he was an entrepreneur in a competitive environment. “That motivating spirit really interested me in Scotts,” Neff says. “If I saw an opportunity within the company and wanted to develop it, I could grab it and go.”

Neff never had much of a green thumb before joining Scotts, but like his transition into business, he caught on quickly. Gardening has developed into a new hobby. “There is no way to work for Scotts and not be into lawn and gardening,” he says with a laugh. “It definitely grows on you.”

Published April 11, 2011